Previously from the category On Life
Persistence – firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition
Let’s paint a scene. It’s one o’clock in the morning. You’re only halfway done with an important English paper. You’ve got all the research you need, but as the minute’s tick by your eyes is getting heavy, your fingers continue to mistype words, and, after digging deeper for the energy to make a boring subject more interesting, you keep drawing the same blank over and over again. You know this is important, but you just can’t seem to find it within yourself to finish. What do you do?
At any given point in your life, you will face an obstacle that defies all others thus far. I’m talking about the brick wall; the unsurpassable force. No matter the angle it’s looked at this opposition seems impenetrable. The brick wall can take many forms, and with each new form it seems the bricks have been laid more firmly, the bricks themselves have hardened with age, and the entire wall has become riddled with thorn and thistle. The real question is what are you going to do to overcome the brick wall that’s holding you back?
It’s important not to be tricked by the seed of doubt that’s planted by this opposition. It allows time to pass, and the wall will only seem to get stronger. In these moments of doubt, it’s important to ask yourself, ‘how am I preparing to get past this?’ Doubt is inevitable, but the decision ignore the doubt and overcome the obstacle anyway is a choice that is all yours. If you let it, doubt will begin to become a comfortable bubble that keeps you in denial and reassures you that everything will be okay. There’s only one problem with doubt: it is utterly toxic. When an obstacle presents itself to you and it seems impossible to overcome, there are only two simple options: you can give up everything you’ve worked so hard for, or take a few steps back to get a running start.
What Persistence Has Done In The Past
Throughout history, there have been so many creative minds that have started exactly where you are right now. They started in debt, with children, no job, little to no experience, and no clue as to how to start pursuing what they care about. Of all these things, the one thing they all had in common was a mindset that embraced each of these difficulties and said in one way or another, ‘to hell with this, I’m going to do it anyway.’
A creative mind that sticks out to most is the author of the immensely popular Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, but Rowling didn’t start off as a famed author. In her commencement speech at Harvard University, she says,
“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. I stopped pretending to be anything other than what I was and began to focus all of my energy toward the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might not have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I felt I truly belonged.”
Imagine a world without the realm of Harry Potter because Rowling had decided to listen to the negative voice in her mind. What if she listened to the friend that may have told her the idea was a little too ‘far-fetched’? What if she had given the idea of publication up after having so many rejections from publishers? What if she had not practiced persistence? The fact is that so many great minds end up giving into the walls that seem to form on their journey, hence wonderful ideas are lost forever.
John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 28 times before it was published.
Poe was both neglected and rejected by his adoptive father when asking for help.
Stephen King wrote his first three novels in the laundry room of a trailer.
These authors are revered worldwide, not because they gave up on their ideas, but because they had the will to keep going in the face of opposition. Many of the great creative minds through history have had some form of brick wall standing in the way of what they wanted to do, yet every one of them practiced persistence because they knew it was the only thing that truly mattered. They ignored the walls and pushed through anyway.
A Walk in the Rain
There was a night not many years ago where I had been faced with an obstacle that kept me from simply getting home. This obstacle was only the weather, really, but experiencing it is one of those things that no amount of words can really describe. I had never thought it would serve a purpose, but it has been a place I often think back to when persistence may run a bit thin in my own life. The goal of telling you the story is that hopefully, it may inspire you to think back to your own past when persistence was all you had.
It was Late February of 2014; the weather was growing more severe as the hour’s tick by on the clock above the drive-thru window. I was working hard, but for the first time, I was wishing that the clock would get slower. Instead, the clock only seemed to tick by faster and faster as the work began to pile up. I didn’t have the time to look at the clock at this point; should my focus be perceived as broken by the manager, she would yell, give disgusted looks, or threaten to fire me altogether.
When everything began to slow down, I had 15 minutes left on the clock. Under normal circumstances, I would have been happy, hell, ecstatic, but my transportation was in short supply. This meant walking home, and I didn’t have a problem with that except for the fact that it was past freezing and it was, as they say where I’m from, ‘Comin’ a flood.’ Before I started walking into the storm, I tried phoning a friend who lived in the same house I had just moved into, but he didn’t answer. This is when I had the thought that many young adults have when they’re in a real pinch. ‘Just call mom’. I had considered it, but the thought was quickly washed away with an overpowering sense of pride that came with moving away from home in the first place. So, I started walking.
Let me pause for a moment and reinforce a personal opinion. If you’re a young adult, you’re going to make mistakes regardless of how much you believe you may know. I’m not saying the decision to walk through the rain while it was closing in on twenty-five degrees was a smart decision, however, had I not made the decision I would have never learned some very important lessons that night (Aside from the idea that it’s always good to have an umbrella).
Starting off, the walk wasn’t so terrible, but as time passed and the cold started to sink in, I started thinking it may have been a mistake. The half of me that was taking most of the rain was covered with a plain t-shirt, my work shirt, and the final layer of a thin hoodie. Although the hoodie was good at keeping me dry for the most part, the rain and the cold were stinging against my face with growing severity. The waxy coating of my work pants had also stayed the rain, at least until I got through the first mile of the town. It’s common knowledge for puddles to form when it rains, and if you’re me, you know you’re apt to have the darnedest luck. Instead of falling into one of these puddles, I started into a long and balanced slide that resulted from a running momentum to avoid traffic, and when my shoes made contact with the puddle in such a motion, a wave of water washed up and over my lower half, coating my pants and shoes in icy rainwater. No amount waxy coating was going to stay that water, and the result was being soaked from the waist down. As odd as it sounds, I started laughing at this. Why? Because my only cynical thought was, ‘who else but me?’
Continuing on was the bulk of the journey, I started making my way through the downtown area of my hometown. The wet sting of the puddle water was numbing my legs, my hoodie had lost its battle of keeping the rain at bay, my upper body began to shiver, and with each step, water was squished from my shoe. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, and an eerie sense of survival started to make its way into my mind. It’s a weird thing to mention, or feel for that matter, but this thought had a very comforting sense. It kept me focused on the only thing that truly mattered: getting home so I can make it to tomorrow. All other thoughts seemed to fade from that point until the only one that mattered was repeated like a mantra, ‘Keep walking.’
It should be known that I was prepared to make the entire journey on foot, but, because of a voicemail that I had left, I was picked up about a mile from home by that friend from earlier. I had never been more grateful to accept a ride home in my life. When making this walk I didn’t really think anything significant would come of it. I was just an eighteen-year-old who wanted to get back home. Looking back now, the walk that night becomes more pertinent to the goals I pursue today. I stood under a hot shower that I was truly grateful for that night. The food I ate tasted better than anything I had eaten in a long time, and, although I had just recently moved in and only had an air mattress, I slept like a baby.
The lessons I learned from that night were simple, but they set a standard of persistence for me as a younger individual that still hold true today. When you make a decision to do something, you made the decision for a reason so don’t second guess yourself when things get a little scary because they can and will get scary. If you quit now, that dream that you held so dear won’t make it to tomorrow because you’re letting it fade into all of the other things that seem important but are only distractions. Lastly, no one will make the journey for you, but along the way, others will offer help when they see such determination. Don’t be too prideful to take this help. Above all, when you see the obstacle ahead and no way around it, just go for it. It’s better to die for what you love than to give up on something just because it starts getting difficult
Remembering in the Darker Times
The most important thing to take away from this is that it’s easy to be persistent when the cards fall into place and the universe is in alignment with what you, dear reader, believe is of high importance. Being persistent isn’t about those easy times; it’s about knowing why you started something in the first place when a difficult time presents itself. It’s about continuing even though the journey seems impossible.
At some point in time your idea was something so pure that it could have made you burst, and now you’re staring at a colossus of an obstacle. Do what is necessary, adapt to your surroundings, remember why you started in the first place, and prove to the world that no matter what forces are stacked against you, you are the force to be reckoned with, not the obstacle, because that obstacle will be nothing but a hell of a story the next morning.