Friday, April 15, 2011

No Guarantees

Quitters never win, and winners never quit.

That's the way it is. Without persistence, we are guaranteed to fail. The reverse, however, isn't necessarily true. Sometimes we persist, we finish the race, and yet we don't get the prize. This can be a hard nut to swallow.

I love the Old Testament verse that says, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong... but time and chance happen to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Why do I love this saying? Because it give us a much needed reminder that things don't always work out. That's reality.

For example, there are no guarantees that if I say all the right things I will "close the deal" in business. Or get the job. Nor am I guaranteed to win the big race at the track meet if I prepare better this year than last. Nor am I guaranteed to become a famous novelist by writing lots of books. In all of these examples there are many factors outside of our control. Illness, strong competition, a death in the family, a car accident, even death - the list of things outside our control is limitless. As we all know, none of us is God. We are finite creatures with limited capabilities.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that is in our control. We can choose to give up, to quit, or we can choose to keep going. The one who quits pursuing his dream is certain never to reach it. The one who keeps going, who persists, will find that his dream inspires and strengthens him. And whether he reaches his dreams or whether he doesn't, he will be an inspiration to others to go after their own dreams.

If I remember correctly, Stephen King's first novel was rejected more than thirty times and he threw it in a waste basket out of exasperation. His wife encouraged him to try one more time, and sure enough, he found a publisher to take a chance on his book. His persistence paid off.

This story like many others about persistence are repeated in order to give us hope. Quotes about perseverance are legion, one of the most of quoted being this one by Calvin Coolidge.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

And here is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on the same theme:

"The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night."

And yet, at the end of the day when all is said and done, there are still no guarantees. Like Rocky we can continue to the end and give it our best shot. Even we fail we can hold our heads high.

Press on!

4 comments:

Pedro H. Albuquerque said...

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: 121 rejections... And a turning-of-tide blockbuster of a book!

ENNYMAN said...

I read Zen & Art of Motorcycle Maintenance two or three years ago after trying several times to read it in previous periods of my life. I think the best part of the book is the title.

When I tried to help get my father-in-law's book published, I contacted several publishers and all said to get an agent. When I contacted 300 agents, only three even bothered to reply.

Persistence is necessary if you believe in the project and do not have established connections.

Thanks for the note.

Pedro H. Albuquerque said...

Interesting what you say. It took me four years to finish reading it, and only started after I turned 40. This despite the fact that my friends read it (as school assignment) in their teens. I can only imagine what is it to read a (usually awful) Portuguese translation of this book. It's not an easy read, this is clear. And I think you lose much of its meaning if you read it too early in your life. There's too much in it about parenthood, intelectual obssession, mental disorder, achieving maturity, I don't think you can fully appreciate it when you're too young. But its defense of holism trying to use non-holistic methods is yet the best I know of, even though not purely formal. What I get from it is that it's indeed maddening to try to define the undefinable (the meaning of quality)...

ENNYMAN said...

There are a lot of books that are difficult to really grasp when young... Levels of understanding can come with the classics as one experiences more of life.
thanks for the visit and the comments.