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The Power of Persistence

by David DeFord

Once we have begun to open the doors of opportunity we usually find roadblocks and challenges in our way toward our desired success. In the face of these obstacles, many give up. They give up on their dreams and settle for much less. We’ve all done it.

The truly successful in any endeavor will move past these challenges and persistently press forward.

Heber J. Grant, a religious leader of the American West, knew the power of persistence. He often quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: "That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do; not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do has increased."

But Grant not only quoted this maxim, he lived it.

He loved the hymns of Zion. Unfortunately, he was tone deaf. Frances says of her father, "He had no sense of pitch at all. You could play a note on the piano then play a note four notes higher, and he could not tell if it was higher or lower."

But he persevered. "He would practice," she recalled, "just playing a note on the piano with one finger and practice and practice. Of all his accomplishments he was proudest of learning to sing."

Grant said, "The most I ever worked was to sing 400 songs in four days." It may also have been the most work for Rudger Clawson and J. Golden Kimball too as they were with him on a trip when he asked if they had any objection to his singing 100 hymns that day.

"After I had sung about forty tunes," he recorded, "they assured me that if I sang the remaining sixty they would be sure to have nervous prostration." He still sang the full 100.

A great proponent of personal development, Heber J. Grant said, “every individual can improve from day to day, from year to year, and have greater capacity to do things as the years come and the years go.”

He told the following story about a time in his youth when he displayed the quality of persistence:

“When I joined a baseball club, the boys of my own age, and a little older, played in the first nine, those younger than myself played in the second, and those still younger in the third, and I played with them. One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to the other; another reason was that I lacked physical strength to run or bat well. When I picked up a ball, the boys would generally shout, ‘Throw it here, sissy!’ So much fun was engendered on my account by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play baseball in the nine that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.

“My mother was keeping boarders at the time for a living, and I shined their boots until I saved a dollar, which I invested in a baseball. I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at a neighbor’s barn, which caused him to refer to me as the laziest boy in the Thirteenth Ward. Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night. But I kept on practicing, and finally succeeded in getting into the second nine of our club. Subsequently I joined a better club, and eventually played in the nine that won the championship of the Territory. Having thus made good my promise to myself, I retired from the baseball arena.”

As a young man, Grant decided that he needed to improve his penmanship (an important skill at the end of the 19th century. He enrolled in a penmanship and bookkeeping class. Once during a class several friends gathered around his desk, and in jest, made slighting remarks about his handwriting. One asked the taunting question, “What is it?” Another said, “It’s hentracks.” The final insult came from a boy who declared, “I know what it is—lightning has struck an ink bottle.” Young Heber jumped up, struck the table with his fist and boldly stated that he would live to write as well and better than the professor of penmanship, and that he would live to some day be the professor of penmanship at the local university.

Of course, he achieved both of these prophesies. This skill helped him greatly in earning extra money during his struggling years; during this period he spent much of his spare time, especially near holidays, inscribing greeting and calling cards, for which he occasionally received more compensation than from his regular employment.

As you set your sites on achieving your dreams, whether they are successes in your personal life, your family, your profession, or your community involvement, remember that you will find yourself beset with many challenges as you move forward.

Rather than slipping into depression over unrealized dreams, “cowboy up” and challenge yourself to strengthen your resolve.

When one approach fails, modify it and try again. Keep evaluating your progress, adjusting your plan as needed. Find a way.

What you persist in doing will become easier as your capacity and strength grow.

Related Quotes

The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way. Dale Carnegie

“Three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” Thomas Edison

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature." John D. Rockefeller

"He that can heroically endure adversity will bear prosperity with equal greatness of soul; for the mind that cannot be dejected by the former is not likely to be transported with the latter." Henry Fielding

"Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements." Joseph B. Wirthlin

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