Success in life is more dependent on how long and hard you work than on talent. I have seen firsthand many people with less talent than others be successful because they worked harder and longer than their more talented peers. I have seen this in sports, in school, in business as well as in relationships.
Persistence isn’t doing the same thing over and over. Some people call that insanity, others find it annoying. It is having the same goal over and over. After Newton saw the apple fall, he began thinking about why it fell downward all the time. His persistence in asking the question ‘why?’ led to the discovery of the Law of Gravity.
You can find hundreds of quotes on persistence. My favorite does not come from any scholarly source, but from Dory in ‘Finding Nemo’, who sums it up best-
“You know what you gotta do when life gets you down?
Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
During a 2004 game against the Cubs, Alex Cora of the Dodgers fouled fourteen straight pitches before hitting a home run. That took determination, concentration, and an unwillingness to give up. Cora battled through tough pitch after pitch until he got one he could handle. Life is full of situations where it is easier to give up than battle until we get a pitch we can handle. How many marriages and families have been abandoned because one spouse wanted an easier life? How many athletes or employees have been overlooked because it is easier to consider the new guy? All too often, Christians grow weary and give into sin – thinking this temptation is too hard, I’ll get right with God later.
The first synonym you find listed for persistence is perseverance. Perseverance demonstrates work ethic – remember it is row, row, row your boat. We work hard knowing there is no substitute for hard work. We never stop pushing ourselves to be in better condition and to improve our skills to reach our goals. Perseverance has been described as the “the ability to not quit, and to keep on going with a greater drive than you think you have.” Perseverance is often a sown seed. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians (6:9) he states, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.”
There are no shortcuts and there is no “Easy Button” (sorry Staples). If there was, it likely would be pushed early and often – maybe even when it shouldn’t. Maybe God wants us to have that tough coach or boss so that we can learn perseverance. Maybe a team or company that doesn’t act like a team, needs a leader to bring unity through selfless playing. The job that seems like it’s not a good fit could be exactly where we need to be to learn. But we grow restless, lose patience and don’t give ourselves time. Best-selling author, Marabel Morgan said, “Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.”
It is too easy to bail out versus stay put; harder to stand firm when it feels like you should run. Do we know that God may have begun great work in us, right where we are, but we just don’t recognize it? Nehemiah was an incredible leader who rebuilt the Jerusalem wall in 52 days. Five times men approached him and told him to stop. They tried to discourage him. But each time, they found him on the ladder working on the wall, and he simply replied, “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” The heroes of the Christian faith, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament and even the early church, had incredible staying power. They dug in and had resolve. Maybe we need to take the same approach.
God will not waste our pain and struggles. He will use them for His good, whether that strengthens our faith or strengthens His kingdom. Our struggles can make us better people, allow us to comfort others and even improve society. In 2005, a high school junior was killed in a car accident coming home after a volleyball game. It was an incredible young life with so much potential, cut short. Through the pain, sorrow and struggle the family started a scholarship fund in her name. Today that fund has awarded over $50,000 to over 50 students in scholarships.
In college, I was in the fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. Our motto came from a fellow Brother, President Calvin Coolidge, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Winners are people who consistently invest effort, they battle and struggle, and keep getting better at whatever it is they do — regardless of whether they win anything. It is a choice to persevere and endure, versus quitting when challenged. Doing what they can, where they are, with what they have.
Abraham Lincoln is a shining example of persistence. Look at his track record – twice failed in business; nine times he ran for office and was defeated; his sweetheart died, and he had a nervous breakdown before the age 30. However, he was eventually elected President of the United States and is revered today for “pressing on” during one of our country’s greatest challenges.
“Press On” and resolve to learn what you need to know to live the kind of life you want to live. In the words of Robert Frost, “The best way out is always through.” For in due time we shall reap our harvest.