On Perseverance


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ― Thomas A. Edison

On a personal note, I’m playing crummy tennis these days. And by crummy tennis, I mean really crummy tennis. In fact, I am 0-5 in our neighborhood Men’s Singles Tennis League—the exact same league I won last fall! In fact, not long ago, I was actually losing so badly to a fellow competitor I was tempted to quit. But then, I remembered that my 6-year old daughter is struggling to learn how to tell time in school… and I decided that I had to persevere.

You see, my kids are important to me. As a result, I work hard and intentionally to help them develop important life skills. By important life skills, I don’t just mean reading, writing, and arithmetic, I also mean kindness, humility, responsibility, discipline, and perseverance. And perseverance is one we’ve been working on for quite some time.

My daughter has a tendency to get frustrated when she doesn’t get something right the first time. This is, of course, not unusual. But when the frustration too quickly escalates to resignation, I often step in and encourage her to persevere.

I understand that life can be very difficult at times. I realize many of the most important concepts she will learn in school and life will take time and effort. I have come to understand that nobody gets life right the first time. And in those moments, perseverance is an essential life discipline to draw upon. We will never reach our full potential until we learn to push through the frustration… no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.

Of course, the very nature of perseverance requires that we face trials in life. We can not learn perseverance without experiencing difficulty. This often makes it a painful skill to learn. But also, one of the most rewarding.

People who become the most in life have learned the skill of perseverance. They are the ones who refuse to give in regardless of the score… or the current trial they are facing.

My dear friend, today, persevere.

Image: matthewthecoolguy

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    ” I have come to understand that nobody gets life right the first time.”

    I’m not sure anybody ever gets it right at all. We just keep doing, improving and learning along the way. The journey is the goal.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.

  2. says

    All you can do is keep trying. I could not agree with you more about persevering being one of life’s greatest skills to learn. If you give up (like a lot of people these days) at the first signs of trouble or something being too hard you will be stuck at a certain level and never move forward. You will create these walls of “I cant’s” and “that is not possibles”. These walls will box you in until you are living in a box. It will be safer in your box, but is it worth it?

    I have to remind myself of these things every day. When I was younger I struggled through my life and would not have gotten anywhere if I did not keep trying. Now that I do not struggle, I often find myself giving up, and resigning from tasks much quicker than before, I have almost gotten used to the “easy life”.


  3. says

    It’s funny, I just had to sit down and talk with my daughter about how quitting can be good sometimes! You gotta know when to throw in the towel. In her case, she’s involved in a LOT of extracurriculars and it makes her anxious and sad all the time. She has no time to play or be alone! But she felt that she couldn’t just quit, because quitting is always bad. So my wife and I talked with her about how quitting isn’t always bad. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and decide what’s really important. She ended up picking her 3 favoriate extracurriculars and dropping the rest. And man is she happier!

    • joshua becker says

      While the discipline of perseverance could be learned in almost any endeavor, the most effective application of the skill requires the wisdom to know when to apply it.

  4. says

    I just bought a hula hoop myself and I have been learning how to hoop. After realizing it will be a while before I am any good at it, I had the desire to give it up. But you are right about perseverance. If I keep up at it, in a few months, I’ll be an expert that I wish myself to be. I just have to keep at it. :)

  5. Julie Nicholson says

    Thanks Joshua – this is just what I needed to hear right now. I’m struggling with statistics for my honours project, and I just said to my husband that I was likely to have headaches and be crying for the next month until my deadline. Perseverance I something I definitely need!

  6. says

    Interesting to find this post seems completely unrelated to the topic I come here for–which is encouragement in the simplifying process. But as you know, simplifying IS a process, and one which requires perseverance. I’ve been working on it over the course of a year or so, and made much headway, but still far to go. Thanks for coming at it from a different angle today.

  7. says

    This is a great reminder, and especially pertinent. We’re moving into a house that is half the size of our current place, and we are minimizing in a BIG way – like getting rid of half of our possessions. I’m overwhelmed – not by the act of relinquishing objects, but by the sheer magnitude of the needless crap that I have amassed over time. I am also coming up on my one year anniversary of embracing health and fitness. I’m fifty pounds lighter and a lot stronger, but I still have a long journey ahead, and sometimes it’s difficult to convince myself to go to the gym. Thank you for the emotional boost!

  8. says

    It’s inspiring to watch young children and toddlers try to learn basic skills like crawling, walking, or talking. They seem to have a lot of drive and motivation, despite the difficulty of the tasks.

    • Rachelle says

      I wonder if this would continue on throughout life if it wasn’t for the outer diversion of “prescribed learning outcomes”?

  9. Rachelle says

    I wonder if a focus on “getting things right” can interfere with trusting in the flow of life? When we’re pushing through with things we *think* we need to learn, like telling time, and it’s a struggle, could it mean that this isn’t the path for us at this time? We’re going against the flow and the resistance is telling us “try another way, or try again another time?” Your example of your 6 year old struggling with time in school, to me, would be an indicator that she’s in a situation that isn’t natural for her – she’s being pushed to learn something not from her internal desire and passion to learn it, she’s doing it because someone made a curriculum that says “6 year olds *should* know this” and now she’s developing thoughts in her head that are telling her she’s incapable or inadequate because this is a challenge to her, yet *shouldn’t be* a challenge. Things in life flow and feel good when you’re on a path that is in line with your personal truth. Places like school don’t often allow that inspired growth.

    “I work hard and intentionally to help them develop … the skill to persevere” > how do you do that, exactly? How do you help you daughter *learn to persevere*? Do you tell her she should keep doing what is expected of her by the school so “she” can feel good about it?

  10. says

    I do appliance repair. Through the years I’ve always have found it interesting customers calling me halfway through their do it yourself jobs.

    If they had only been able to figure out that one hump they got stuck on, the rest of the job would have been smooth sailing.

  11. says

    Ahhh the one thing I am honestly good at. Persistence can you take you far in life. Abraham Lincoln lost hundreds of different elections, and had some of the worst life tragedies I have ever heard of, but he was eventually elected president of the USA.

    I know losing sucks, but the worst days for our egos are the best days for our souls. So keep on swinging that racket, or bat, or whatever.

  12. Kathleen Dunagan says

    Perseverance was not a choice for me. At the age of 16 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to fight to make it through surgery, fight to live, then fight to learn how to walk and do everything again after two strokes left me paralyzed on my left side. For the last 27 years, I’ve had to persevere through more than any individual should have to in one lifetime. I’m grateful perseverance was instilled in me during the first 16 years of my life, because without this fight in me, I’d be dead. Without that internal drive I’d be a mess. Thank you for a great article.

  13. Don Conrad says

    I’ve had a similar experience. After taking 15 years to finish my undergrad part time while working full time and taking 10 years off while my kids were little, I went back to get my Masters. I didn’t really need it – I’ve been in my field for 30 years – but it’s something I’d always wanted to do. Well doing a masters program, working full time and having a family is tough. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit. The thing that kept me going is not wanting my kids to see me quit. Now – 2 months from graduation – I can say it was worth it and (hopefully) a lesson learned by my children that perseverance is a good trait to have.

  14. says

    I’ve been awake last night because my daughter woke me up. After a while she was asleep again and I was pondering about quitting making bread. Doing this – making bread on a daily base – was a dream, but it also takes time and planning. I am not very good at it, so I wanted to stop it and buy bread. As I was pondering and thinking about it all this article came in my mind. So I got up at 2.30 AM went to the bread maker and put all the ingredients in it, did some laundry and went to bed again.

    This morning I notices that I did not have any bread and we – the Dutch – eat bread as a breakfast and lunch. Because I got out of bed at the middle of the night I was able to give my husband his lunch (instead him buying expensive fast food) and am able to give my girls (3 yrs and 1.5 yrs) a healthy and good start of the day.

    Thank you for this!

  15. anniep says

    I can remember as a girl I had problems learning how to tell time also. I got so good at hiding it and asking folks , “is it 7 o’clock yet?” that no one suspected for a long while. My father figured it out and sent me to my room to make a paper clock with moveable hands and he sat with me that day and quizzed me until the light bulb finally came on. I learned that day that there is no shame in saying you don’t understand and asking for help. I also learned that my Dad is my hero, even though I’m an older adult and he is 81. :-)

  16. says

    This post touched me. I’ve been struggling with myself lately. I don’t know where I’m going and most of the things I do, end up feeling… average.

    It made me realise that my perseverance mostly lies within my family (while I always thought I was seeking some form of personal achievement). I don’t know where that makes me stand yet.

    Does that mean that I chose subconsciously to fight for what is more important to me (in which case it’s good) or that I’m just too afraid to try to reach for the things I wanted before (in which case, it’s not so good) ? In the end, where does perseverance stops and where does acceptance of one’s limits and/or priorities begin?

    • says

      You asked: where does perseverance stops and where does acceptance of one’s limits and/or priorities begin?
      Excellent question; my opinion/answer.
      I am not convinced that limitations has any impact on drive/perseverance; I believe that it takes drive/desire/perseverance to ignore limitations and that certain limitations can be overcome/won over via exercising perseverance . As for priorities, I feel that there is a connection to perseverance,as it depends if a solution to a problem or an answer to a question is important to you and will impact your situation/life enough for you to make the pursuit of answers/solutions/resolutions a priority is an individual choice on each individual situation. Some things are worth pursuing and maybe some you rather ignore. Acceptance and change is an individual decision/choice. As each situation presents itself, you will realize that your answer depends on the attitude and perspective of each person per situation, and is not based on limitations, but on the willingness and desire to change what you can. Acceptance of limitations is applicable when the importance of how much impact that limitation has in our lives; it is a choice to either accept or change & praying to God to help with the answer is always a wise choice. Write down pro and cons & how your limitations (one by one) affect your life, then ask yourself if it is worth your effort and time to change or that particular limitation is so trivial that you rather accept it; not one can make the choice of which things to have persistence and perseverance in achieving except you. I wish you wisdom in all your decisions throughout life. Note: self-improvement is a life time journey; there is always something to improve on within ourselves. Procrastination is an enemy to many; avoid it often.

  17. Lynne says

    I am dealing with some personal issues right now, In spite of them I am still fighting. If I do not reach the goal that I planned then I will be able to say I tried. BUT I have no plans on failing.

  18. Kathy Ericksen says

    Thanks for sharing this. I know of several very hard situations going on and this word spoke into it with grace. On a more personal note I’ve been hitting a wall in doing art lately and this was a good word to try again. Thanks seems too small. Grateful.

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