The need for determination in the face of adversity

The need for determination in the face of adversity

The key to achieving success for our clients lies in overcoming adversity with dogged determination. Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States. He once wrote:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common then 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"

We see examples of persistence in nature. If you visit the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky you will see huge pillars that were formed by a steady dropping of liquid from the ceiling. A single drop runs down from the ceiling and deposits a sediment on the floor of the cave, followed by another and still another until an icicle of stone forms a pillar of rock.

Woody Allen quipped that "ninety-eight percent of life is showing up"but the fact is that our professional life is really a continuous series of obstacles we must meet, overcome and move under, around over, or through. It is our determination that makes the difference important in our struggles for our clients. But that’s not something new for us. How did you learn to skate?, someone asked. The answer was: By getting up every time I fell down. We must be prepared to fall, get up and move ahead even if we fall again. It is the determination to "do" that makes the difference. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says to Luke Skywalker: "Do or do not. There is no try." We must do.

In 1968 a marathon runner demonstrated determination in Mexico City. By the time John Stephen Akwari of Tanzania entered the stadium he was the last person to complete the marathon. The winner had already been crowned and the stadium was almost empty when he finished. All alone and late in the evening. But he circled the track with his injured leg and finished the race. It’s reported that he was asked why he bothered to complete the race he said "My country did not send me 9000 miles to start the race. They sent me 9000 miles to finish the race." Our job is to finish the race for our clients

A heroic example of determination occurred on October 29, 1915 when a group of Antarctic explorers were trapped on the frozen Weddel sea with their vessel, Endurance, locked in the ice and were forced to abandon the vessel. After nine months the ship had begun to be crushed by the ice. They had no radios. All they had were 70 sled dogs, a supply of food and three 22 foot life boats. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton they began to drag the boats across the ice pack towards an open sea some 350 miles away. Shackleton’s plan was to sail from there across over a 1000 miles of rough sea to the nearest civilization. It would mean covering that distance through floating ice and one of the roughest, most unpredictable seas in the world. The men carried the clothes they wore, two pair of mittens, six pair of socks, two pair of boots, a sleeping bag and a pound of tobacco plus two pounds of personal belongings. It was a tremendous struggle that took thirteen months of starvation, danger, near death and freezing temperature, but Shackleton led them to safety without losing one life.

Then there is the story of the determination of Tom Dempsey who was born without a right hand and with only half a right foot. He was determined to play football and became a place kicker. By dogged determination and long hours of practice he played in college and was good enough to be signed by the New Orleans Saints. On November 8, 1970 the Saints were behind in a game against Detroit 17-16 with only two seconds to go on Detroit’s forty five yard line. The Saints sent in Dempsey to attempt a sixty three yard field goal. Dempsey kicked the ball and set a NFL field goal record when it cleared the uprights to win the game for the Saints.

We often are tempted to give up when we meet problems and obstacles. The words of the poem, Always Finish gives us the right attitude when we have those temptations:

If a task is once begun

Never leave it till it’s done

Be the labor great or small

Do it well or not at all

An African slave who was given the name Sojourner Truth lived in the 1790’s. She escaped and obtained her freedom. She could neither read nor write but became an unmatched story teller and orator for women’s rights in the early years of this country. She could transfix audiences with her presence and her spellbinding oratory in spite of a lack of education and in spite of racist attacks against her and the other women suffrage advocates. She was determined and nothing could stop her.

However, we also need to learn how to correctly and intelligently deal with the problems we encounter. We must not continue to "bang our heads against the wall" without making any progress. Instead we should stop, focus and think about solutions. We need to try other approaches and measure the progress in deciding our solutions rather then continue to do the same thing when it is not working. Consider the way people in North Africa capture monkeys. They use a gourd they have hollowed out and made a hole in which is just large enough for the monkey to put it’s hand inside. Next they insert food monkey’s want and tie the gourd to a stake or tree. The monkey smells the food, insert their hand inside and grabs a fist full. The fist with the food, however, is too large to come out of the hole. The monkey will not let loose of the food and continues to struggle until they are captured. We must not react to problems like that, but instead change our approach and see what results.

Problem solving involves looking at problems from different view points, much like what is done in Psychodrama. Get outside of ourselves and look at the problem from another angle. The solution may be very simple like that the Russians used in their space program. When NASA first began to send astronauts into space they had the problem that ball point pens would not work in zero gravity. So NASA scientist’s spent almost a decade and $12 billion dollars developing a pen that would write in zero gravity, upside down and at temperatures below freezing. On the other hand the Russians solved the same problem by having their astronauts use pencils.

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