Persistence Goes the DistanceBy: Jim Clemmer
"Hang in there! is more than an expression of encouragement to someone experiencing hardship or difficulty; it is sound advice for anyone intent on doing good in the world. Whether by leading or prodding others, or improving oneself, or contributing in the thick of things to some larger cause, perseverance is often crucial to success...Much good that might have been achieved in the world is lost through hesitation, faltering, wavering, vacillating, or just not sticking with it."
There are no "success secrets." However, there are success systems, success habits, and success principles applied through discipline and persistence. In a university address on medical education, the 19th century English biologist, Thomas Henry Huxley, advised students, "Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness."
We often think that successful people are those lucky enough to have won the "gene pool." They picked good parents and were born with great talent, intelligence, or natural gifts. But we all know people with talent, perhaps even streaks of genius, who never did much with their abilities. Many people give up just as they're about to achieve success. They often stop digging when they're inches from their vein of gold. Then they decide to prospect for silver, start digging in new places, get discouraged and give up just before they're about to reach their dreams.
Studies of Nobel Prize winners have shown that their intelligence levels are average. However, their tenacity and persistence is well above normal. They hang in there with research and doggedly following a theory long after many of their colleagues have moved on to what look like more promising research paths. The French-born American surgeon and biologist, Alexis Carrel, won a Nobel Prize for his work on vascular ligature and grafting of blood vessels and organs. His research experience led him to conclude, "Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia." We aren't losers until we quit trying. As the Japanese proverb teaches, the eventual winners are those who "fall down seven times, get up eight."
Facing a journey of a thousand miles or many years of effort can be discouraging. One way to deal with that is breaking it into small, manageable pieces. It's eating that proverbial elephant one bite at a time (Not that I can imagine anyone wanting to eat an elephant; I often wonder about the sadists that comes up with these expressions — skinning cats, boiling frogs, etc?). It's often helpful to move away from looking at the long journey and instead break it into a series of short trips.
Terry Fox, having lost his leg to cancer, embarked on a cross-Canada run called the "Marathon of Hope" to raise money for cancer research. With an artificial right leg, his shuffle-and-hop running style took him about 24 miles per day. I think jogging a few miles in the morning is pretty good. Many people train for months and make a big deal out of running in a single marathon (26 miles). Terry ran close to a marathon a day – with an artificial leg! He managed to run for 143 days and cover 3339 miles from St. John's, Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ontario. At that point, cancer was discovered in his lungs and he was forced to abandon his run. A few months later he died. His inspiring legacy continues to this day in annual Terry Fox runs that have raised tens of millions of dollars for cancer research. When asked how he kept himself going out there as exhaustion set in and he had thousands of miles ahead of him, he replied, "I just keep running to the next telephone pole."
© Copyright 2001 The CLEMMER Group
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