Preparation + Perseverance = Progress

Champions do not become champions in the ring. they are merely recognized in the ring.

A thirty-year old woman wrote in her diary: “My God, what will become of me? I have no desire but to die. There’s not a night that I do not lie down on my bed wishing that I may leave it no more. Unconsciousness is all that I desire.”

What a bleak, depressed position to be in! Yet I’m quite sure you would never guess who wrote those words.

In fact you might be quite surprised to learn that when she died 60 years later, it was said that she was one of three people who did the most to alleviate suffering in the 19th century. Her name was Florence Nightingale, the founder of the modern nursing profession.

Somehow or other, Florence learned that PREPARATION PLUS PERSERVERANCE EQUALS PROGRESS. She learned that even though she had to go through seasons of pain, it was still possible to make significant gains in life.

The same is true for you. You can make a lot of progress in life. You can achieve some major victories — but not without some pain. There are few if any “overnight successes” in this world. Progress is almost always preceded by a lot of preparation and perseverance.

Long ago professional basketball star Bob Petit knew that. He knew that preparation boils down to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Even though he became one of the highest scoring players in the sport, it wasn’t that way in the beginning.

As a freshman in high school, Bob was weak, frail, and uncoordinated. All he really had going for himself was the determination to practice until he became a quality athlete.

Bob began with a wire coat hanger that he bent into the shape of a basketball hoop. Hour after hour, day after day he threw tennis balls through his makeshift basket. Eventually his father got him a real basketball and hoop.

Bob would throw baskets after school every day, go to dinner, and then go back to practice. It wasn’t too long before he became the star of his church team, then his high school team, college team, and finally a professional team.

It’s the same for you and me. There are few shortcuts on the road to success. We all have to prepare or practice first.

Great pianists also know this. They invest hundreds of hours of practice before a concert. They know that the quality of their performance will be determined by the quality of their many grueling hours of practice.

And the old master knew this in “The Karate Kid” movie. Even though his young protégé wanted desperately to learn the art of fighting, the master handed him a paint brush instead. He told the boy to paint the fence a certain way. Of course the boy was discouraged and disillusioned. He couldn’t see any relationship between fence painting and ring fighting.

He was even more disappointed when the master instructed him to wash, wax, and polish the car. As he worked his hands in a circular motion over the car, he was demoralized. He couldn’t help but wonder, “How will this help me in my future? How will this help me to be a fighter?”

But the old master was helping the boy learn the motions he would need as a fighter. He was helping the boy to realize that champions do not become champions in the ring. They are merely recognized in the ring.

What about you? Are you giving yourself enough preparation? Are you practicing enough?

If your answer is “yes,” congratulations! Add some perseverance to the mix, and your success is almost a foregone conclusion.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a great American poet, said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and hard enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” He’s right. You’ll wake up your potential, and you’ll wake up your success.

Wadsworth seemed to know that FAILURE IS THE PATH OF LEAST PERSISTENCE. If you’re not succeeding as often as you’d like, you may not be hanging in there long enough. You may be quitting too quickly.

If you need to be more persevering, spend more time focusing on what you want to achieve. Think about it. Dream about it. See it. Feel it. Taste it. Smell it. The stronger your focus, the more perseverance you’ll have.

Buddha knew that. When a young man came to seek his advice, to discover the path of deliverance, Buddha led him down to the river. The young man assumed he was to undergo some ritual of purification. So they walked out into the river, and suddenly Buddha grabbed the man and held his head under the water.

The man struggled and fought. After a great deal of effort, the young man wrenched himself loose and brought his head above the water.

Quietly Buddha asked him, “When you thought you were drowning, what did you most desire?” The young man gasped, “Air.”

Buddha said, “When you want salvation as much as you want air, then you will get it.” Likewise, when you really really want something, you will have the perseverance you need to achieve the success you desire.

So perseverance starts with great desire, but it shows up as a calm stick-to-ativity. Senator Robert Taft, one of the great politicians of the 20th century demonstrated that. Early in his political career he went into hostile territory to make a speech. Someone threw an over-ripe tomato at him. It hit the Senator in the chest and burst all over his face, glasses and hair.

What did he do? React with anger? Lash out? Quit? No. He didn’t wipe his face, glasses, or hair. He just went on giving his speech and never even referred to the tomato. When he finished, he stepped down from the platform and said, “Good bye boys,” in a friendly manner. As Senator Taft walked down the aisle toward the door, the once hostile crowd gave him a standing ovation.

That’s what I call “class” on the Senator’s part. And that’s how persevering people get though adversity. They just keep on keeping on. They don’t get distracted.

Donald Bennett showed the same calm stick-to-ativity. As a successful Seattle businessman, he always wanted to climb Mt. Rainier. The mountain was so enticing, so beautiful, but very few ever climb it because the weather makes it impossible most of the time.

Donald trained and trained until he was given permission to climb the 14,410’ mountain. The time eventually came, and he climbed 14,000 feet. But the weather forced him to turn back, which meant he had to wait another year.

Many people would be too disappointed to try again, and they would quit. Afterall, they gave it a try, but it just didn’t work out.

Not Donald. A year later, Donald Bennett stood on the top of Mt. Rainier–on his one leg. He was the first amputee to make it to the summit. When a reporter asked him how he did it, Donald said, “One hop at a time.”

If you desire to be a champion, if you want phenomenal success, it will be hard. What else could you possibly expect? If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it. Just remember champions do not become champions in the ring. They are merely recognized in the ring.

Action:  Where do you have a hard time hanging in there? Where do you tend to under-practice and under-persevere? Starting today, get honest with yourself. Stop making excuses, and tell yourself over and over again, thousands of times if necessary, that, “I keep on keeping on until I succeed.” This affirmation will work for you.