Saturday, March 24, 2007

Persistence Revisited

A follow-up to the Calvin Coolidge quote:

In my youth, persistence was not my greatest strength. I was certainly passionate about the things I was pursuing, and I could work very hard. What I wasn’t very good at was plowing through external resistance.

There were probably many reasons for my inabiltiy to mow down serious obstactles, but I'll leave most of that investigation for my therapist (when I finally gather the good sense to go get one). The reason that matters to me here is that, fundamentally, I lacked confidence. It’s hard to persist when, at least at some level, you’re convinced you’re supposed to to fail. Even into early adulthood, I believed that successful people had some magical skills that I didn't possess--and could never possess.

So, when my first attempt at a novel got rejected--even rejected with complimentary words in a one-page single spaced response from a successful agent--some part of me understood that it was supposed to end that way. Enough said.

A response that would thrill me today convinced me that I was wasting my time, that I was only pretending. And soon after that, my initiative curled up in a ball in the corner and died of neglect. It wasn’t quite as simple an issue as I make it sound. There were other pressures, as well, pressures to get a real job, pressures to really make my own way in the world—I had, after all, stretched the limits of my parents’ patience.

I look at those times now and think about how much better I’d approach the problem in my current skin. But there’s a funny danger in that thought, as well; I’m sure that even now I’m not always--and consistently--applying those lessons to my life as it exists today. It’s one thing to learn how to look back with a smartly critical eye, but it’s a bird of a very different feather to learn how to apply wisdom to your activities in the here and now.

So, if I understand the value of this whole persistence thing--if I actually 'get it'--why bother studying the quote at all? Well, that's simple. Even now, when I understand the truth of what Coolidge said, it helps to be reminded with regularity. Real learning, after all, comes from repetition.

It's an immesearable relief to know that success doesn't acrue to those with mystical qualities as much as it does to those who dogedely stick it out.

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