Sunday, September 5, 1999
HISTORY is dotted with inspiring stories of people like Ford, Einstein Darwin, Disney, Edison, Newton, Rodin, Beethoven, Astaire, Churchill and countless others who kept moving on, picking themselves up after every fall, disillusionment and disaster. They did not allow lifes crippling experiences to undermine their future. Each one of them strongly believed that "if its going to be, its upto me!" Such optimism and indefatigable persistence earned them reams of adulation, so much so that they contine be relevant, even after their death, as the ideal resource material for motivational and performance optimisation seminars!
For most of us, when the chips are down and things seem to be going from bad to worse, inspirational stories provide little comfort. The general reaction is "Big deal! I am not Edison who in spite of blowing out a 1000 bulbs continued to persevere, confident that he would be able to light the perfect bulb. I am no martyr. I dont need an A certification on human endurance. If I cant bear it, I will opt out or seek not-so-honourable alternatives."
In a bad marriage, when a partner walks out or indulges in an extra marital relationship, he is empathised with and lauded for his courage. A person quitting a job in the face of a slander campaign without having another job in hand becomes an ideal in not tolerating injustice and having belief in his convictions. When a scientist doesnt get his magic formula right and decides to give up his mission and take up another job his family and friends marvel at his flexibility and
professional wisdom. Misunderstandings within a family over property matters escalate to the extent that the eldest son not only relinquishes his right over the property but also severs ties with his siblings. For his magnanimity and detachment, people close to him hold him in awe. Perseverance in all these cases is not a trait to be emulated. It is charateristic of those who are emotionally weak, who cannot stand up for themselves and fight their own battles. Instead of admiring their steadfastness, tenacity and resoluteness, people feel sorry for their wimpish value system which makes them wallow in self pity and continue existing helplessly in a no-win situation but not take up the challenge.
A defiant attitude might seem to make practical sense. Today, more than ever before, there is an openness, a forthrightness which seems to say, "What is wrong with having fun, being oneself, doing ones own thing and disregarding what the world thinks and says so long as one gets what one seeks?". No one wants to stick through the bad times. Friends and so-called well wishers are quick to say, "Get out before the going gets tougher and things get worse, you deserve better, give yourself another chance, dont allow fate and destiny to swing things for you, stand up for yourself." Now, here most of us forget that critical decisions cannot be taken in isolation. And most importantly, others cannot understand your situation, predicament and compulsions the way you can. And by listening to them blindly, by not persevering with patience and fortitude, you may be throwing away what was actually not such a bad choice.
A marriage, even if it is an unhappy one, involves many people the partners, children, parents and in-laws. It is possible that the reasons which were responsible for creating the unhappiness may recur again in ones second marriage for the simple reason that they havent been tackled. Siblings and family, in spite of being selfish and petty, cannot be dispensed with. Enduring may then be the long-term solution. An option which could make things better.
An individual must make a realistic assessment of whether a situation is worth holding on to or not. It is foolish to continue sitting on a sinking ship waiting for a miracle to bail one out. Stubbornness and stupidity must not cloud logic and reason in ones pursuit of perseverance. If you hate a job, dislike a city, or feel suffocated in a social circle, the solution to your angst and bitterness could be in getting out. But dont allow quitting, escaping, blaming and whining to become a persistent pattern of behaviour/action. That is not perseverance.
Persistence is an attitude common to all successful people. They realise that it is the main ingredient in winning both small and big battles. Unsuccessful people treat persistence as an optional extra, an ingredient which can be dispensed with any time. They would much rather quit or look for something simpler. Perseverance means sticking to what we are doing and thus staying ahead of others. Like someone rightly said, "A big shot is simply a little shot that keeps shooting". So like the spider, tortoise, steadfast tin soldier, little steam engine, crow (in the pitcher story), one must realise that perseverance combines the honour of commitment and the strength of determination. There is sweet pleasure in endurance, waiting till the tide turns in ones favour, in working towards correcting the wrongs in ones life praying for things to get better and seeking alternatives to alter the scenario.
Most of the time, the solution does not lie in discarding the things which dont seem to work. If that were so, wouldnt all of us be happy and turmoil-free? When we weigh the pros and cons, we find it difficult to sever ties, give up jobs, do away with spouses, run away from things which haunt us and drift from one fleeting promise of happiness to another. The magical words "this too shall pass" imply that everything in this world is transitory. Everything passes. The sun comes up in the morning, and sets at night. A child is born one day, dies another day. But then that is regeneration and rebirth.
Vikas malkani, a young person with rare spiritual insights, points out that "A volcano bursts and wherever the lava falls everything dies. Scientists have discovered that beneath that lava life is still growing which will sprout through the lava one day." Everything, therefore, moves in a circle. Life is like a river, always flowing and seeking the ocean. It loses its separate identity when it reaches the ocean but even within the ocean, constant change, creation and destruction take place.
Our emotions and feelings are also transitory. If one day we find ourselves angry with with some one, we must know that the moment will pass and we will be back to being the friends we always were. So if we do not persevere, we tilt the balance against ourselves, against harmony and peace.
When we advise someone to hang in there, the phrase is more than just an expression of encouragement to someone experiencing hardship or difficulty. Perseverance has been found to be a tried and tested formula for success and happiness. It is an essential quality of leadership. Success that might have been achieved is often lost through hesitating, faltering, wavering, vacillating or just not sticking with it.
Had Colonel Sanders not
peddled his then not-so-famous recipe to 1009 restaurants
and food outlets in USA and Europe before finding someone
who finally gave him a chance, the world would have been
deprived of Kentucky Fried Chicken! Or for that matter,
had Richard Bach accepted failure after receiving the
rejection slips of the 18 publishers, who turned down his
10,000-word story, jonathan Livingston Seagull
million of people would have been bereft of the
unique uplifting experience his book provides. So the
name of the game has to be perseverance. But it has to be
intelligent perseverance which differs from annoying
persistence and foolhardy stubbornness.
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