Persist Despite Failure

Have you ever told someone about your dream, and they laughed at you, mocked you, but then called you “tenacious” when you reached your goal?  Or did you ever get the opportunity to watch a grad ceremony, cameras continually zeroing in on the graduating student with the crushed spirit? Or did you ever hear wild tales, unbelievable but possibly true, like ones about the obese loser in high school who went on to become a psych doctor by day, world champion wrestler by night, and supermodel during her spare time?

These tales are all examples of what persistence can do.

An obese female with the loud laugh and the IQ seemingly of zero shocked everyone, years later, when she returned with a graduate degree and an athletic body. That was me. And the disabled student in the classroom that seemed pitiful turned out to be on the university wrestling team, bodybuilding by night, accepted into grad school. That was me, too.  One fellow student, when he learned of what I, the disabled student, was doing, said, “Sometimes the losers get lucky.” I took it as a compliment: he was calling me tenacious, persistent.

With persistence, we can all break through barriers.

For instance, I faced a bad string of luck with careers, which held me back from securing long term employment. Instead of despairing, I kept learning skills. The bad karma slowly dissipated, and I may have finally reached the point where I’m able to secure a long-term high-paying career. But if I fail again, perhaps next time I’ll achieve the dream. Or the time after that.

At the very least, that’s persistence. At the very most, it’s unstoppable success. I’ll take the wager.

So how does persistence apply to students?  Persistence means we structure the goal of graduating into steps, the graduation ceremony being the finale. Persistence means investing everything we’ve got into our dream. If we tend to cancel coffee dates with friends in favor of study time, chances are we’ve got persistence. If we spend all our money on supplementary textbooks instead of on clothes and makeup, we’ve got tenacity. If we write an essay rather than go to the movies, we’ve got persistence. And we’ve unquestionably got persistence if we sweat it out, figuring out every tiny edge, seeking out every avenue to overcome a limitation—hiring tutors, borrowing study guides from the library, staying up extra late studying, buying dictionaries instead of shoes, seeking out mentors, studying weeks in advance of class start dates—and the list goes on.

And sometimes persistence is simply facing another day. My favorite indicator of persistence is when our spirits get crushed, but we still keep working toward the goal. These are the most telling times of persistence.

I managed to persist during my loneliest time at the university, when a dear friend, who nourished me with advice, called me “The kid at school without a lunch”; when harassment was so troubling I fled a department; when I lived in fear; when I wanted to drop out of school; and when every day held sorrow.

All students face some aspect of hardship during their degrees. And in life, we all face severe setbacks at times. When they happen, then to achieve our goals, we must drum up persistence. It’s persistence that brings hope. And hope brings promise. And promise brings opportunities, which lead us further up the path to success.

Persistence is the badge of honor of every student.

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