Early on in our lives we encounter challenges. Whether misunderstood at school, whether we fail at a task, suffer an illness or injury, our immediate reality is stunned. With the help of our parents, guardians or loved ones, we are protected while developing ways to cope and to fight the challenge. In the old West, the term used was “circling the wagons.” In nature, we see some herd animals circle the weaker member, heads in, flanks out to kick at whatever danger may come near.
Time helps to develop strategy. Time helps the body to assess a threat, to fight illness and to heal. We are hopefully supported by family, friends and community who research outside support systems and help us to utilize them.
We learn perseverance from those around us, from those who support, care for and encourage us. This is all such a necessary part of life, though it is not a pleasant part of it.
We have learned of historical figures who persevered through difficulties and failures. Milton Hershey, the creator of the Hershey Chocolate Company lost his fortune many times before he became successful with chocolate. Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln…examples abound of persevering individuals. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book entitled “Outliers: The Story of Success,” which detailed the stories of well known, successful individuals and what was common to each. Surprisingly, it was less a factor of talent or genius, but rather the number of hours devoted to their work. Consistently, 10,000 hours was found to be key. Whether the hours were spent studying, writing, researching, painting, those who reached great levels of success simply persevered.
Finishing a task is an important skill to impress upon our children. Rather than quitting because of a lack of talent or immediate reward, finishing a class or a commitment becomes a potentially life-changing habit. The class or skill or interest may change over time; Hershey started with taffy, then caramels before ending up as one of the earliest millionaires of the twentieth century because of a chocolate bar. He simply would not give up.
Let us strive as parents or influencers to instill perseverance in children. They don’t need to earn a medal, or to be the best in their class. They need to learn the integrity and strength involved in attempts, in trying again. Mother Teresa was quoted as saying that “We do not have to be successful, just faithful.”
Edward Hickson wrote “The Singing Master” in 1836. Most of us will catch an oft-heard phrase amongst these lines:
“‘Tis a lesson you should heed–
If at first you don’t succeed,
Then your courage should appear;
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear,
Once or twice though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we did not win the race–
What should you do in that case?
If you find your task is hard.
Time will bring you your reward,
All that other folk can do,
Why with patience should not you?
Only keep this rule in view,