I believe in perseverance; all human progress has been the result of insight combined with perseverance. When Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Woman’s Suffrage Association in Seneca Falls in 1848, they could not know that it would take seventy years before women actually gained the vote. But, they persevered and women gained not only the right to vote but also to own property, rights to have their children in case of divorce, and the right to earn and keep their own wages.
Every gain in human rights or advance in human knowledge has been the result of just such perseverance. When Nelson Mandela said no to Apartheid and Martin Luther King said no to Jim Crowe, they advanced human rights through perseverance and personal heroism. Whether it was Jonas Salk discovering a vaccine for polio or Bill Gates developing the personal computer, the great heroes of human achievement are masters of the art of perseverance.
For non heroes like myself, perseverance is the everyday work upon which families, businesses, art, music, and science depend. I watched my daughter and her husband give a birthday party for my five year old grandson and I was struck with the perseverance that it takes to be a good parent. I am grateful that my grandchildren are being raised by kind and patient parents who know that nothing good is achieved without consistent effort.
My own experience is that through perseverance, I have discovered talents that I did not know I had. I am the CEO of a small ceramics manufacturing firm started by my Mom and Dad. My determination to keep this business going and my pride in my parent’s accomplishments have forced me to learn new skills. I surprised myself by becoming a skillful ceramics decorator. I have learned to do bookkeeping on line after believing that I could never do anything on a computer. And the most important thing I have learned is the pleasure of mastering new things. And this has spilled over into the other joy of my life; playing the guitar.
I taught myself to play the guitar when I was sixteen. I desperately wanted to be a folk singer and accompany myself. It was sheer persistence and perseverance that kept me playing the guitar. I have been the lead singer of a Bluegrass band, Clay County, for twenty years and have written most of songs for six albums. Again, perseverance has given me the greatest joy of my life.
So, if Woody Allen is correct that “80% of life is showing up” then the other 20% is perseverance.
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