The power of perseverance

by Henrylito D. Tacio

WHEN he was six years of age, Ray Charles lost his eyesight. His mother told him, “Ray you’ve lost your sight, but you haven’t lost your mind. You can still create a productive life for yourself.” To a young, poor, blind child, the possibilities didn’t seem too bright. But as Ray thought about what he really wanted to do with his life, he dreamed of becoming a recording star. He did – and he received countless awards for his music including winning 12 Grammies and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone had been turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600. Some producers read the script he himself wrote about a boxer. A few were interested to buy it but he wanted to star in the film adaptation. Finally, he found a company that would produce “Rocky.” It won an Oscar for Best Picture and an acting nomination for him!

Ray Charles and Sylvester Stallone have one thing in common: both persevere. “Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth,” British actress Julie Andrews once said. Richard M. DeVos has the same view: “If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, Here comes number seventy-one!”

What about the words of Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Kevin Sorbo, known for his television commercials in the United States, understood this well. “You have to persevere,” he said. “You have to do it. I have insecurities. But whatever I’m insecure about I don’t dissect it, but I’ll go after it and say, ‘What am I afraid of?’ I bet the average successful person can tell you they’ve failed so much more than they’ve had success. I’ve had far more failures than I’ve had successes. With every commercial I’ve gotten, there were 200 I didn’t get. You have to go after what you’re afraid of.”

The phenomenal Bjorn Borg agrees: “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”

“If you want to get somewhere,” well-known speaker Norman Vincent Peale once said, “you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up.”

Remember Sir Winston Churchill? It took him three years getting through eighth grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic that several years later, the Oxford University asked him to address its commencement exercises.

Churchill arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane and a top hat accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause. With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting audience. Authority rang in Churchill’s voice as he shouted, “Never give up!”

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated: “Never give up!” His words thundered in their ears. There was a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement address was finished.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up,” Thomas Edison pointed out. “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” He was talking from experience: he tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light.

Sometimes, we fail what we want to do in life because we aim so high. We want to be a star, although we can only be a tree. But being a tree doesn’t mean that you will not a star in your own right. If you are a tree, be the best tree of all trees. Mark Twain reminds: “Stars are good too. I wish I could get some to put in my hair. But I suppose I never can. You would be surprised to find how far off they are, for they do not look it. When they first showed last night I tried to knock some down with a pole, but it didn’t reach, which astonished me. Then I tried clods till I was all tired out, but I never got one. I did make some close shots, for I saw the black blot of the clod sail right into thee midst of the golden clusters forty or fifty times, just barely missing them, and if I could’ve held out a little longer, maybe I could’ve got one.”

B.C. Forbes declared: “History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”

Take the case of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest. On May 29, 1953, he scaled the highest mountain then known to man-29,000 feet straight up. He was knighted for his efforts. He even made American Express card commercials because of it!

However, until we read his book, “High Adventure,” we don’t understand that Hillary had to grow into this success. In 1952, he attempted to climb Mount Everest, but failed. A few weeks later a group in England asked him to address its members. Hillary walked on stage to a thunderous applause. The audience was recognizing an attempt at greatness, but Edmund Hillary saw himself as a failure.

He moved away from the microphone and walked to the edge of the platform. He made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain. He said in a loud voice, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow… but I’m still growing!”

How true, indeed, were the words of Booker T. Washington: “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as the obstacles, which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”


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