By WALTER ALBRITTON
The word “persevere” is seldom used in everyday conversations. If we want to encourage a struggling friend, we are more apt to say simply “Hang in there,” or “Hang on.” However we say it, our goal is to persuade our friend to persevere. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to success is paved with perseverance.
To persevere is to refuse to quit or give up. Thomas Edison produced a workable lightbulb because he refused to give up. Bankers rejected Walt Disney’s concept of Mickey Mouse 300 times before one said yes. He persevered.
Guess what basketball player said this: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Yes, that’s a quote from Michael Jordan, one of the greatest to every play the game.
And it was Michael Jordan who also said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” He persevered.
Babe Ruth is recognized around the world as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. But when he retired in 1935 he held the record for the most strikeouts in major league baseball. Asked to explain why he struck out twice as often as he hit a home run, he said: “I just go up there and swing. I just keep on swinging and I keep on swinging. Every strike brings me closer to my next home run.” He persevered.
Winston Churchill inspired England with his famous call in WWII to fight in the fields, the streets, the hills and “never surrender.” Educated as a child at Harrow School, Churchill returned there to deliver a speech that endeared the prime minister to people everywhere:
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Good advice from an old man who was known for his perseverance in England’s desperate fight for freedom.
Ben Franklin called perseverance the mother of good luck. Thomas Carlyle said it was patience concentrated. An Arabian proverb calls it the greatest of all teachers.
My parents taught me perseverance. Dad had a doggedness we all admired. Every day he got up at 4:30 and worked till dark. When he tackled a job, he stayed with it until it was done. I never heard him say, “Son, when you take on a tough task, persevere.” But his example illustrated the difference perseverance can make.
Mama canned vegetables like there was no tomorrow. One day she spilled boiling paraffin on her right arm and hand. The injury was so severe that she could not use her hand for months. But that slowed her down only a few days. Slowly she learned to write with her left hand. Her “sticktoitiveness” taught her children how to persevere in tough times.
A friend gave me the honor of persuading him not to give up when he felt like quitting. He overcame his failure and became a credit to his profession. To celebrate our friendship he gave me this framed poem that reminds me of the value of perseverance:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse,
That you must not quit.
If today you feel like you are at the end of your rope, hang on. Hang by your fingernails if you must, but don’t quit. Believe in yourself. Ask your friends to help you. Ask God to help you. He is famous for helping his struggling children find the grace to hang in there until the dawn chases the darkness away. He can give you the grit and gumption to say what Paul said from inside a stinking prison, “Forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what is ahead, I press on!” So don’t give up! Never give up! Persevere.