I think back to when I was a kid and how the story of "The Little Engine That Could," by Watty Piper, served as a teachable moment and a motivator for me when I would repeat to myself, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," and finally as I succeeded, "Look! I thought I could!" It seemed like such a silly thing to say to myself, but it was a reinforcement to the perseverance "gene" that I find absent from so many people today. I wish more of us used self talk that encourages and helps us push ahead, instead of the excuses and negativity that makes it so easy to give up. There are many lessons to be learned from this children's story that was first written in 1930 and has since been the inspiration for many similar stories.
The Yosemite Climbers' recent feat was amazing. Almost everyone who goes to Yosemite and looks up at the 3,000 foot sheer cliff of El Capitan proclaims it's beauty but in awe says, "I'll have to find another way to the top." But these veteran climbers said, we can do it - and we'll use the free climb method where we won't even use the anchored rope supports that others before them had used to conquer the seemingly unconquerable. They planned and prepared for several years for this 19 day event. It was supposed to take 12 days, and despite the setbacks along the way, they kept going, helping and encouraging each other to take one more step forward. Even the President of the United States tweeted, "You remind us anything is possible."
My husband and I recently saw Angelina Jolie's movie, Unbroken, based on the life (and a book of the same title by Laura Hillenbrand) of Louis Zamperini, a bad boy turned Olympic athlete, who went on to survive against amazing odds during World War II. He was lost at sea following a plane crash, afloat in a life raft for 47 days, only to be captured by the Japanese. He endured wretched conditions, torture and survived it all, defeating horrendous circumstances and the atrocities of war. He persevered because of his attitude and mostly because his will was stronger than all the obstacles that he faced. He inspired his family, his fellow soldiers, and now a nation as his story is brought to life in print and film.
As a lifelong educator, I have witnessed many students and players over the years who pursued their goals with passion and perseverance. Their shining moment was one of joy and true accomplishment that I was privileged to share. There is no greater joy for a teacher or coach or even a parent than to see the look on a the student or child's face when they finally achieve that sought-after goal whether it's the first time they tie their shoes all by themselves, 3-step over all 1o hurdles without falling, or drain that winning shot to seal the come-from-behind win. It's probably not even comparable to surviving the carnage of war, but it is the culmination of hard work and seeing it through to the end.
Just because we have the desire, the goal, or even the will doesn't mean we won't be faced with obstacles or even detractors. People may not believe in us, but we must continue to believe in ourselves. A recent high school classmate of mine posted a video on Facebook about firemen and commented how proud he was to be a firefighter himself. He also noted that many people probably thought, as he was growing up, that he wouldn't amount to much, but he did and he was rightfully proud of his career path. He is a perfect example of where there is a will, there is a way. Traditional school might not have been the best predictor of future achievements for him, but when he tapped into his passion, he overcame any shortcomings he might have had and found the success of which he dreamed. And yes now, he even teaches others about firefighting!
There are so many other examples of perseverance that I have witness and could share that would inspire you and help you believe that anything is possible. But alas, there is not enough room in this blog space.... I would have to write a book - now there's a thought! How many times have we given up when we were so close to completing our goal or task? Edgar A. Guest is credited (although there is some controversy over this) with penning this poem that shows us the importance of perseverance:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.
Look around you and find your inspiration that helps you keep going when the going gets tough so you can become The Little Engine That Could who turned failure inside out!