I’ve thought a lot about perseverance over the years. It’s one of those words. The kind that takes on a new meaning every time you feel it, or wish you had more of it, or see it in others.
When I think about it a few things flash in my mind:
…I remember my dad getting up so early to go downstairs and keep the coal fire burning to heat the house and then heading to a job he hated to make sure his family was taken care of and happy – day after day after day…for years.
…I remember my family after my mom passed away and how no one wanted to really get up, or be awake, or do anything- for a long time. But we just did things. Ate meals, cleaned the house, left the house and saw friends. We just did things to move forward.
…I remember my graduate degree and working at the coffee shop in the morning, going to classes, and working nights as a hostess, and just going, until you couldn’t because that is what I had to do to pay for school.
…I remember watching a friend of mine go through so many rough things with her family for years, and just seeing her be the mom and the sister and the aunt and the cousin. She just did it day after day for years.
…I remember all the startups I’ve built and those my friends have built. The ones that made it. The ones that didn’t. Not much difference in the work you put in, the early mornings, late nights, and dreams you dreamt, and sleep you lost. It’s just our way…our days and our nights and the way of things.
When I was younger I thought perseverance was something you either had or something you didn’t. I used to think it was something you were brought up believing in or something you weren’t. Grit, gumption, relentlessness. I thought these were all things that life taught you early or you never learned.
I think I was wrong.
I think perseverance is a practice. Sure some of us learned it early. We were bitch-slapped into it by life. But others…others have chosen to chase it down. I think that is really special. We actually can choose to persevere.
A friend of mine is going through something very hard right now and I was telling her how strong she was and she said “I’m not like you, you’ve always persevered, that’s just you.” and I was taken back. I thought about it and I realized – at every single point along the way I chose. Not to stay in bed. Not to give up. Not to quit. It was a choice. A choice I made enough times that it became a practice. I think it’s easy for people to say “they have more will, that’s just who they are.” It’s harder to admit that grit really could just be a choice, a habit, a practice. It’s up to all of us to bear down or buckle. It’s up to us if we have it, or more importantly…if we could have it.
I like to believe these days that perseverance is just a practice. Maybe I can help be the coach for others by reminding them how supported they are, and how ready they are, and how damn strong they are…intuitively, and in practice. Maybe the point it just to remind people it’s something they can grow into. They can baby step their way into perseverance as a practice.
Thinking back my dad wasn’t born with the ability to get up so early and work so hard for his family all those years…he committed to it, by choice. Bam. Perseverance. Tenacity. Staying power.
Now that’s what I’m talking about.