“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people 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. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
I live by these words. I now lecture on them in every class I teach. If my students learn nothing else from me, I hope they learn the lesson of persistence. History is littered with the successes of the the people who had the courage to push forward despite failures, setbacks, naysayers, critics, self-doubts, and struggles. Thomas Edison comes to mind. So does J. K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 publishers before one accepted the Harry Potter series. Colonel Sanders fought back from bankruptcy in his 60’s.
In graduate school, the will to write was crushed from my spirit. My creativity and passion literally withered away, and I was left a hollow shell of a person. For three to four years, I didn’t write anything to speak of, and I look back at that period as one of the bleakest of my life. I gave up on myself, and looking back, I’m ashamed of that as much as anything in my life.
Life has knocked me down many times. From the shotput accident, to graduate school, to the divorce, to the struggles to launch my writing career, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to keep fighting, to find my inner strength and believe in the possibilities of the future. Three years ago I had every excuse to quit, and be perfectly honest, I nearly did. Losing my children was by far the worst thing I’ve experienced. Without them, nothing mattered. Many nights I saw no hope of ever recovering from the loss, no hope of ever achieving success, no hope of being the man I wanted to be.
But something inside me held together, and I came to know that if I didn’t press on, I truly had no hope. But if I fought with everything I had left, I at least had a chance to get to my feet. Today, I’m a better man for it. Nothing has been easy, but now, every little success is more fulfilling, each victory that much sweeter. I won’t consider myself a success until the farm is running and my writing is profitable, but I will not stop “pressing on” until both of those have been accomplished. If you are reading this and facing adversities of your own, please know that you too can overcome any obstacle and find your success. All you have to do is dig in and fight with everything that’s in you. And if you are willing to do that, good things will eventually come your way.