Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. Thomas Carlyle
Encarta defines persistence as the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is a fact that we all face difficulties in our lives. As we face these difficulties we all have different ways of viewing and responding to our circumstances. Some people really struggle to deal with problems that arise in their lives while others seem to have an uncommon strength when it comes to handling adversity. I can’t help but wonder why it is that some people seem to have that uncommon ability to adapt to and overcome their problems. What makes the difference? Is it education, gender, age, qualifications, or some secret that some are privileged to learn?
It is not always the most educated person that is the most successful. It is quite often the person that has the ability to be persistent regardless of their circumstances. Most of the successful people that I have encountered are not necessarily the most educated. They have certain qualifications, but they are not necessarily the qualifications one receives from an academic environment. I do believe that academics can play a very important role. If nothing else, academics can prove ones ability to make and sustain a commitment. This sustaining a commitment is the the very essence of persistence. However, the people that seem to be most successful in life have an even higher sense of commitment. They have an uncanny ability to stick to their mission. They do not let anything deter them from doing or becoming what they desire. They set a goal and they stick to it.
I can’t help but think of people that have achieved their goals while enduring incredible obstacles. I think of Abraham Lincoln overcoming the lack of formal education, suffering from severe bouts of depression, facing numerous tragedies in life, failing in almost every endeavor he took up, and still becoming one of the greatest leaders of all time. Consider Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They both overcame hatred and prejudice. They did this with non violent opposition and changed whole governments, societies and the world’s view of oppressed people. James Stockdale endured horrendous treatment while spending over 7 years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Not only was he able to endure and survive incredibly harsh conditions and brutal treatment, but he was able to change his captors view of him and eventually won better treatment for him and nearly 400 other captives. Viktor Frankl was able to survive the brutality of Nazi concentration camps and the loss of all that was dear to him. Art Berg became a quadriplegic at a very young age and was able to be a father, business owner, hall of fame professional speaker and even was awarded his very own super bowl championship ring. The list can go on and on of incredible achievements of valor, glory, and fame. That is not the real goal of what I am trying to convey. The point is not the achievement and becoming famous. The point is not that only famous people posses the ability to overcome great odds. The point that I really want to make is that it is not some magical quality that can only be obtained by the rich and famous. It is not necessarily taught in schools or universities. No this quality can be the possession of anyone.
The quality that I am talking about is persistence. Everybody has the ability to be persistent. The common man has just as much ability to persist as the rich and famous. It really depends on how much we choose to cultivate this ability. It is not as though it is some mysterious quality or something that has to be searched for. It is something that has to be cultivated. I mentioned James Stockdale earlier. He was an avid reader of ancient philosophers and gave a great deal of credit for his inner strength to his studies of Epictetus. Stockdale believed “that each individual brings about his own good and his own evil, his good fortune, his ill fortune, his happiness, and his wretchedness” How? By following the line of thought that all persistent people follow. It is not your circumstances that determine the outcome; it is your response to your circumstances that determine the outcome. Viktor Frankl stated that if you have a big enough why you can overcome any how. In other words, if you have a purpose strong enough to make you persist towards your goal, you can succeed. The real trick is in being persistent. Refusing to give up on your intended goal.