Thomas Edison refused to give up when his first efforts to discover a filament for his carbon incandescent lamp failed. Edison continued his search by doing countless experiments with a variety of materials, but each failed. With each failure, Edison, perhaps out of pure frustration, tossed the worthless element out the window until the pile eventually reached the second story of his home.
Then, on October 13, 1879, after thirteen months of repeated failures, Edison finally succeeded in his search for a filament that would stand the stress of an electric current His persistence against discouraging odds had given the world the wonder of the electric light bulb!
Perseverance is the commitment you make to yourself to do whatever is necessary to accomplish your most treasured dreams and goals. Perseverance means you refuse to give up in spite of the difficulty that may surround you and in spite those who tell you that your goal is unattainable. Perseverance is a fundamental attribute of a winning character.
To accomplish something that is easy is something anyone can do. However, to accomplish that which is difficult – even seemingly impossible – is something that sets you apart.
History is replete with examples of men and women who have persevered in spite of the odds:
An editor once told Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, acclaimed as one of the best children’s books ever written, that she would never write anything popular.
Even deafness could not stop Ludwig Von Beethoven. He composed many of his greatest works unable to hear the grandeur of the music he was creating.
At nineteen months of age, Helen Keller contracted a serious illness that left her blind and deaf. In spite of the odds being stacked against her, and with the help of her family and friends, she developed a winning character with a fierce sense of perseverance. She set herself apart from those with similar handicaps by refusing to give-up and give-in. She became the first blind and deaf person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and ultimately became a prolific author, political activist, and lecturer.
A coach to former Angels’ shortstop, David Eckstein, once told him that he would never play major college baseball. “That was hurtful but not defeating. I did not believe him. I was raised to believe in myself, so I just kept playing hard and giving 100%.” A winning character, armed with perseverance, remains undaunted by the negative comments of others and simply continues moving forward toward the goal.
Jim Abbot, a former pitcher for the Angels enjoyed frustrating his cynics by continually proving them wrong. He overcame incredible odds and reached his goal of becoming a major league pitcher. He was born without a right hand.
Abraham Lincoln rose from a humble childhood in the Indiana frontier to become the 16th President of the United States. Before his election in 1860 Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate.
His life is a testament to winning character and perseverance. “Honest Abe,” as friend and foe affectionately labelled him, was largely self-educated. He was an avid reader and would sometimes walk several miles to borrow books in order to learn.
His accomplishments set him apart from the ordinary politician. He successfully led a fledgling country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery.
He overcame incredible odds to accomplish his goals including the loss of a son, suffering multiple illnesses, being plagued with frequent bouts of “melancholy” (clinical depression), and a host of betrayals by those in whom he had placed his great trust.
Albert Einstein was slow in learning how to speak. In fact, his parents were so concerned about their child’s lack of normal speech development that they consulted a physician. During Einstein’s youth, one headmaster expelled him from school; another said that he would never amount to much. Nevertheless, Einstein persevered. Best known for his theory of relativity and specifically mass-energy equivalence, expressed by the equation E = mc2 Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” Today his name is synonymous with genius.
The List Goes On!
John F. Kennedy the 35th President of the United States had to take the New York bar exam three times before he passed.
Ray Charles, world-renowned musician and singer was blind.
Thomas Edison – had a learning problem.
James Earl Jones – had a speech impediment.
Franklin D. Roosevelt – was paralyzed from polio
Itzhak Perlman – contracted polio at age four that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Stevie Wonder- blind from birth.
Stephen Hawking – has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralysed.
Woodrow Wilson – suffered from dyslexia and was ten years of age before he learned to read. As a teenager he compensated for his handicap by teaching himself shorthand. His academic achievements were largely due to his absolute determination and self-discipline.
Terry Fox – diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age fifteen. His right leg was amputated several inches above the knee. Three years later, the young athlete decided to run from coast to coast in order to raise money for cancer research. His goal was to raise one dollar from each Canadian citizen.
Steps to Improving Your Perseverance
1. Don’t Give Up! When you are working toward a goal and someone or something offers you an excuse to give up, say “NO.” So many people are living lesser lives today than what they could have had if only that had not allowed someone or something to steal their dreams.
2. Overcome Fear with Faith. Do not let fear dictate who you are or what you are able to accomplish.
Have faith in yourself; know that God has a plan for your life and that it is He who places opportunities in your life fully expecting that you will make the most of them.
3. Learn from your Failures. Each of us experiences failures along life’s journey. There is a reason for this: wwithin every failure there is the seed of a lesson well learned. Each failure we experience reinforces an emerging solid character trait. It is our failures that contribute most intensely to our character development.
4. Welcome Difficult Times. Recent studies in psychology and biology, are confirming what our grandparents knew intuitively: exposure to diffiicult times makes us stronger, and psychologically more resilient. When difficult times arise here are some suggestions to consider: a) Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost; b) Do not be blinded by difficulty, search for opportunities that may exist as a result of the situation; c) Think about how you have been helped by the difficulty: how it has changed your personal values, what effect it has had on your relationships with your spouse and family members, how it has changed you spiritually; d) Think about the benefits of the event: perhaps you have rediscovered some personal values, or rediscovered a dream, or learned more about your mission and purpose in life; e) Consider how the circumstance has made your life more meaningful.
5. Be Totally Committed to your Goals. Whatever you embark upon do it with all of your heart. Invest your whole self in each project. If you cannot make a 100% to a goal, you should come to terms with the fact that it is unattainable. Extraordinary success demands extraordinary commitment.
6. Always Do your Best. Never make the mistake of thinking that something less than your best will due, it will not. There is an old adage that will forever be true: Do your best and the best will be returned to you. This is another law of the universe that is immutable. Use it to your advantage.
7. Meet the Challenge. This requires discipline and hard work, but doing whatever is required to meet the challenge is exactly what it takes to succeed. There are no short cuts, no side steps, and no cheats.
8. Never Give Up. In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, “If you want to get somewhere, you have to know where you want to go, and how to get there, and then never, never, never give up!