Professional basketball star Damian Lillard just put on a clinic for how to help someone persevere and keep fighting to achieve a goal

Oklahoma's Trae Young is widely hailed as the best college basketball player in the country, but has been going through a rough patch with his Sooners basketball team. They've dropped seven out of their last eight games including the latest loss to Baylor (in which Young performed poorly relative to his standards). Young and his team are in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament now.

Turns out, Lillard and Young met some years ago. Evidence came forth on this when the elder superstar Instagrammed the junior star with simple, but powerful words of encouragement after the latest Sooners loss. Here's the post:


Lillard hits on one of the most fundamental tenets of perseverance--the need to remember that there will always be challenges but that you must believe those challenges will only make you stronger. Research from Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania shows that mental toughness is the single most important factor for success, even above intelligence (or having glossy teeth).

The NBA star's well-placed reminder inspired me to share these other three keys for persevering:

1. When falling short, don't abandon ship.

While working on my latest book, I interviewed the CEO of a firm who helps companies innovate faster and better. I asked him what single thing most discerns companies great at innovation from those that are just okay.

I expected him to say the quality of the R&D people or the facilities, the size of the research budget, etc. Instead, he said the most discerning characteristic is that when great innovators face a roadblock or stumble, they simply keep going when others would stop.

That's it.

For Trae Young and the rest of us budding superstars out there, it's important to remember to think of the progress you've made to date and know that all the positive steps you've taken have moved you much farther forward then your misstep has moved you backward. 

2. Believe that you're right where you need to be.

The trials and tribulations we face are for a reason. Approaching challenges with this mindset, that you're neither too far behind or ahead, gives you a sense of comfort and reminds you that it's all one step at a time.

When I first left corporate life to become an entrepreneur, speaker, writer, coach, and professor, I was impatient. I didn't want a learning curve; I wanted a revenue curve that pointed sharply upward--yesterday. Knowing that I didn't know something was painful to know.

But I soon came to realize that this extreme discomfort wasn't happening to me--it was happening for me. Coming to grips with what I needed to learn was all part of an essential process that has helped me succeed in the long term.

3. Remember you need self-discipline and self-compassion.

Anyone can tell you that you need self-discipline to persevere. Not everyone remembers that self-compassion is just as important.

Have tolerance and patience for your own learning process. When things go wrong (and they will) remember to take it easy on yourself. Lillard went right at this with his advice to "Keep rockin youngin," probably informed by his own experience in rising above setbacks. 

So put a perseverance full-court press on the next setback you encounter.