Every little bit helps. Every little quit hurts.
Everyone gets discouraged once in a while. That’s normal. Everyone has setbacks. But at that very point of discouragement … that is where you separate the winners from the losers. The winners persevere. The losers quit.
Take one man, for example. His biography would read:
Failed in business ————————— Age 22
Defeated for the legislature —————- Age 23
Again failed in business ——————– Age 24
Elected to legislature ———————– Age 25
Sweetheart died ——————————Age 26
Had a nervous breakdown —————– Age 27
Defeated for Speaker ———————— Age 29
Defeated for Congress ———————–Age 34
Elected to Congress ———————— -Age 37
Defeated for Congress ———————- Age 39
Defeated for Senate ————————- Age 46
Defeated for Vice President ————— Age 47
Defeated for Senate ————————- Age 49
Elected President of the United States- – Age 51
That’s the record of Abraham Lincoln.
And that’s often the case of all those “overnight successes” you hear about. They’ve tried and tried and tried, and they’ve worked and worked and worked … until they became extremely successful.
So I hate that phrase, “overnight success.” That’s almost never the case, but it’s almost always the phrase that lazy losers and quick quitters apply to successful people.
I guess I’m a little sensitive to the phrase because that’s what a lot of people have called me over the years. Or they would say, “You’ve sure been lucky,” as they saw me graduating at or near the top of my high school class, my college class, and then again for my master’s and doctor’s degrees. Or they might say, “It was easy for you,” when I was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame.
Baloney! Back in college, for example, I started studying for finals five weeks in advance. I actually scheduled and then studied 20 to 30 hours for every test. Luckier than others? Easier for me? No! My success … like that of others … has come mostly through perseverance.
That’s why I like the poem that reads:
He worked by day
And toiled by night.
He gave up play
And some delight.
Dry books he read,
New things to learn.
And forged ahead
Success to earn.
He plodded on
With faith and pluck.
And when he won
Others called it luck.
The more important question is HOW can you develop unwavering, invincible, victorious perseverance? I’ve found several things that work — all of which I reveal in the JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY. But here are two points to get you going.
=> 1. Believe in and understand the power of perseverance.
All you have to do is look at the evidence. Great people invariably swear by the power of perseverance. They know that more often than not it pays off, and it pays big time.
Soichiro Honda, the founder of the Honda Motor Corporation affirmed that. He said, “Success is 99 percent failure.” In other words, success will come if you just keep on keeping on, no matter how many setbacks or failures you encounter.
Even Albert Einstein, who is always praised for his brilliance, said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Sparky would have affirmed that also. As a boy, school was all but impossible. He failed every subject in the eighth grade. He flunked physics in high school, getting a grade of zero.
Sparky also flunked Latin, algebra, and English. He didn’t do much better in sports. Although he did manage to make the school’s golf team, he promptly lost the only important match of the season. There was a consolation match; he lost that too.
Throughout his youth, Sparky was awkward socially. He wasn’t disliked by the other students, but no one cared that much about him either. So he was astonished if a classmate ever said hello to him outside of school hours.
There’s no way to tell how he might have done at dating. Sparky never once asked a girl to go out in high school. He was too afraid of being turned down.
Sparky was a loser. He, his classmates, and everybody else knew it. So he rolled with it.
However, one thing was important to Sparky — drawing. He was proud of his artwork. Of course, no one else appreciated it. In his senior year of high school, he submitted some cartoons to the editors of the yearbook. The cartoons were turned down. Despite this rejection, Sparky persevered. He was so convinced of his ability that he decided to become a professional artist.
After completing high school, he wrote a letter to Walt Disney Studios. He was told to send some samples of his artwork, and the subject for a cartoon was suggested. Sparky drew the proposed cartoon. He spent a great deal of time on it and on all the other drawings he submitted. Finally, the reply came from Disney Studios. He had been rejected once again. Another loss for the loser. But he persevered.
Sparky decided to write his own autobiography in cartoons. He described his childhood self — a little boy loser and chronic underachiever. The cartoon character would soon become famous worldwide.
For Sparky, the boy who had such lack of success in school and whose work was rejected again and again, was Charles Schulz. He created the “Peanuts” comic strip and the little cartoon character whose kite would never fly and who never succeeded in kicking a football — Charlie Brown.
Quite simply, Sparky learned … and you’ve got to realize … that perseverance works. Oh, it may not always bring the exact result you want, but it brings results that are so much better than you would ever get by merely quitting.
=> 2. Start. Just plain start.
Winners know that perseverance is a way of life. They force themselves — if necessary — to keep on keeping on until they achieve their goals.
But perseverance starts with starting. And as strange as that may seem, starting may be the hardest part. That’s why I like the sign that says, “It’s the START that STOPS most people.”
Despite the fame and respect given to St. Francis of Assisi, people forget how he struggled with perseverance. He had several setbacks in life before he mastered it. Once he mastered perseverance, he advised us all, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Of course, some people will tell me it isn’t the right time to start. They’re waiting for the right set of circumstances — and then they’ll get going.
One of the world’s greatest playwrights would disagree. George Bernard Shaw said, “I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
Now it’s time to look yourself in the mirror. Ask yourself if you’ve got enough perseverance or stick-to-ativity? Or do you give up too easily?
If you need a good dose of perseverance, read this quote every morning. It comes from Les Brown’s book, “Live Your Dreams.” Les says: “If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace, and your sleep for it … if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it … if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it … if you simply go after that thing you want with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity … if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you away from the thing that you want … if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God, you WILL get it!”
Action: Get a role model. Find a person that you respect, who models great perseverance, who has had great success, and think of them every time you’re tempted to quit.