Persistent or Pest? How your greatest assets can become your greatest weakness

A wise man once told me ‘your greatest assets in life can also be your greatest weakness.’ Wait a minute that was actually me that said that after battling with a series of setbacks.  I was taught at an early age to build on your strengths and leverage them with every opportunity.  What I didn’t know then, and something I still battle with today, is that like all things in life, strengths are best used as a situation demands.  One size doesn’t fit all and not every situation demands petal to the metal, I’m going to run through brick walls mentality.  Maybe that’s why my dating life was nonexistent.  Like so many things in my life, I never grasped the concept of,

patience is a virtue and it will never hurt you.

To the contrary, I truly believed you approach every situation (sports, school or dating) with all the energy and passion you could muster, no 2nd chances so give it everything you got.

One of my greatest virtues has always been my persistence, my refusal to give up when everything suggests I should.  I would not trade this virtue for anything for without it my life would surely not have been as colorful as it has been.  Almost everything I hold near and dear in my life didn’t come easy.  My wife of 12 years is attributed to my refusal of never taking no for an answer.  Luckily, my persistence won her over and allowed her to see the deeper me.  She claims I wore her down but the results speak for themselves.  Want to talk about my career?  Hearing the word ‘no’ is a daily occurrence in sales.  Luckily, I know people don’t really mean ‘NO’, they just mean ‘not right now but please follow up in 4-6 weeks when I have time to evaluate the value of your services.’  You can’t convince me that is not what they’re thinking. For some reason, the word NO is just easier for some to say than others and I understand their challenge. I don’t take it personally.  I can honestly say the client relationships I have enjoyed the most are the ones that required years to materialize.  There is a lot of truth to us valuing things more that don’t come easily (this doesn’t apply to anyone currently reviewing one of my contracts).

Marriage, fatherhood and my career have reinforced ‘everything is good in moderation.’  I am constantly self-monitoring my actions to insure I’m persistent without being a pest.  Just because I monitor doesn’t mean I don’t cross the line.  When I tiptoe over the line, I jump back quickly and beg for forgiveness.  I have to remind myself daily everyone doesn’t wake up at 4am excited about their work day or on fire to see what they can get done in a day.  Everyone doesn’t set personal goals and measure success by fulfilling their dreams.  We are all programmed and wired differently and thank God for that.  I’m not sure if I’d enjoy hanging out with myself 24hrs a day on a weekly basis, much less 10 others just like me.   Just ask my wife when she is so lucky as to be woken up at 4am by my alarm and I sweetly whisper in her ear,

are you going to make a difference today.

I won’t repeat the expletives that quickly follow, but it’s safe to say it’s not “thank you honey for those words of motivation.”  I understand why she probably wants to strangle me and I know she would do it with love.  Trust me, I’m smart enough to never do this on back to back days and I’m always safely out of her reach.  The fact we have 5 kids is a testament she doesn’t hold my persistent/pest behavior against me.

In retrospect, I think people who know me and my story appreciate my persistence and how it has played a major part in who I am. Others however, may initially perceive me as pushy or aggressive.  It’s a fine line when you know what you want in life and you know your calling.

Would you act differently if you knew your life calling and knew what needed to be done to be successful?

It’s hard to undo or temper years of being told you could never do something and then spending every waking hour to prove them wrong – to which I always did even though it may have taken 1, 5 or even 20 years.  It’s hard to ignore my gut instincts to push harder when times get challenging as I did all those years of physical rehab when I was told I’d never play competitive sports again.  How do you know when or how much?  It’s simple. Time and experience. Both are great teachers and reward those who listen. For me, it’s a constant battle and one that requires constant monitoring. I am constantly looking for feedback on interactions and subtle hints to cool the jets, “easy Tiger” as we say.

My journey the last 33 years as a burn survivor has taught me not every situation demands a hammer even though at first glance the problem appears to be a nail.  I have learned to assess the situation, reflect on my experiences, and know when to use the hammer and when to use the wrench.

I think we all need to be mindful of our strengths and recognize they can be a weakness if not monitored and applied as a situation demands.  As a wise man once said, “our greatest strengths can be our greatest weakness”.


Shay is an All American and World ranked triathlete, burn survivor with scars over 65% of his body and is a sought out national motivational speaker. Despite being told he’d never compete in sports again at the age of 8, Shay is living testament to “Anything is Possible”: 4x Ironman, 4x member of Team USA, ranked top 1% of Ironmen worldwide and has competed in 9 triathlon world championships, including the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. His mantra has always been to not merely be a “finisher” but to be a “competitor.” If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to check out my other posts.

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