“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than 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.” – Calvin Coolidge
“Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941
These are two of my favorite quotes. I have many that guide me, but these two stand out. You can easily see how they relate to one another. Resolve. Will power. Persistence. Internal fortitude. Character. If that were all, they’d be great quotes. But there’s more. Much more. To wit:
When you hold yourself to account I’d bet everything I have that you don’t see yourself as some obsequious fool bowing down to gain favor until the slightest sign of difficulty arises. Rather you see yourself as up and coming, with direction, eyes held firm on the long road towards a life of significance and well-being, relative wealth and influence, connectedness and love. That is a good and appropriate vision, and manly so. Assuming you’re on the front end of life, that vision you hold has yet to be tested with any real tribulation. You know it will, but not how it will. You know you’ll face difficult times, but not the depth of that difficulty. And you may fear you’re not up to the task the day your mettle is tested in the fires of adversity.
Difficulty comes in all shapes and sizes. Being in a job that requires you to perform consistently to the vision of the company is the most common. Coolidge speaks to that. Talent, mental acuity, and education account for little if you don’t persist from moment to moment in your daily tasks. It is so easy to get up and take a coffee break to ease the burden of enduring mental effort. In sales, facing yet another “no” requires fortitude to make the call anyway. Keeping your mind and attitude positive and uplifting is more an internal discipline rather than a consequence of ease and pleasure. Coolidge rightfully says that these qualities of persistence and discipline alone will determine the likelihood of fulfilling your life’s vision.
And then there’s the Churchill quote. Sometimes events present themselves to you that will require more than everyday diligence. I have been moderately tested. When my wife broke her back and couldn’t lift our 2 year old or stand for more than 10 minutes, couldn’t sleep, and was dealing with serious pain which drained much joy from our life, that was a 7 year journey I couldn’t anticipate. It knocked me off the vision I held for my life. When the housing and stock market crashed and it was raining fire, that was another 7 year detour from my vision.
But here’s the thing, in the quotes above, each infers a vision, a hope, a way of life that you must steel yourself to. In the speech in which Churchill is quoted, he talks about how the nation “stood in the gap” with no flinching or thought of giving in. He gave words to his nation to inspire them to the struggle at hand. People need inspiration. My wife needed inspiration that she would come through. And through the difficulty with faith and encouragement, she did. My company needed inspiration that sterner days would lead to the sunny uplands (from the speech). And through perseverance, we did.
2017 offers you the opportunity to prove your mettle in small and meaningful ways. Your desires, your goals for the year, are but a Coolidgian training ground. You are developing your character, your ability to press on in the face of everyday challenges. Should you need that character in some Churchillian future where the flame of hope is a flicker in a storm, you will have the tested strength to Never, Never, Never, Never… Never give in.
To your growing character,