Just Sayin’: The Art of Perserverence

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Many people have championed perseverance. There have been books written, speeches given, songs sung. Perseverance is not a new or novel idea. The concept has been around since time immemorial. But what comes to mind when you hear the word? What picture do you paint in your head?

As with definitions of most intangibles, the idea is different for each person, but somewhere in that list of descriptive adjectives I bet there are word like, “heroic effort,” “valiant try,” “superhuman,” “prodigious out-put.” And I would say to you that perseverance is really none of those things!

I maintain that the best descriptive synonym for perseverance would be “doggedness.”

Now perseverance may result in those descriptive adjectives I listed above. And enough perseverance will, of certainty, result in some of those descriptions, but the place where the effort meets the will is the sheer doggedness of refusing to give up. Refusing to give in to the passage of time and/or distance.

There are several things that perseverance is not. For one, it is not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about sweat dripping in your eyes, or heeding the 5:30 a.m. alarm day in and day out, about grit getting in your teeth, about returning to the battle day after day or mile after mile. There is no glamour in committing to the journey whether anyone is there to cheer you or give you a pat on the back or even to recognize that effort is being expended.

Perseverance is commitment, first of all to yourself, despite circumstances; despite obstacles; despite naysayers;despite our own frailties, either mental of physical. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, whether the effort results in inches gained or miles covered.

Give me one person whose modus operandi is pure doggedness over 10 sprinters every time. A sprinter will run out of gas and sit down; the person with doggedness doesn’t care if they have run out of gas. They move one micrometer closer to the goal whether they can see it or not.

Sprinters run on inspiration. Those with doggedness run on perspiration.

When the inspirational vision dims, and they can no longer see the goal, a sprinter will frequently give up. That person running on perspiration never gives up because, heaven knows, there’s always plenty of perspiration and more where that came from.

I think Aesop covered this dichotomy pretty thoroughly. Remember the tortoise and the hare.

tortoise morguefile

I know that most of us fall somewhere in between sprinters and plodders. In fact, most of us probably vacillate between those two descriptions from day to day or even from hour to hour. I know that that shot of finishing line adrenaline can be the push that inspires us and those around us, over the finish line, but I’ll bet you that it was the day-to-day plodding that got us to the finish line at all.

Sprinters need, or at least want the applause at the end of the race. Plodders have learned that the attention span of the public is that of a gnat, so looking for the applause is pointless. Sprinters will wail, “But no one noticed!” But plodders will mutter the same thing under their breath. And take another step.

I’m sure that each of you has experienced exactly these circumstances and emotions in varying degrees throughout your lives. And I would also bet that if you look back and analyze a bit you’ll see that those times you reached a particular goal, you spent way more time plodding than sprinting.

How about you? What goals have you achieved? Did you reach them by sprinting or through the sheer will of doggedness?

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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15 Responses

  1. I enjoy watching perseverance in action at meal time with twin two-year-olds.  We give them food that is easy to eat by hand, but NOOOOOO — they want forks. And they painstakingly manage to spear the blueberries, scoop up the pasta and sometimes get the pieces to the their mouths. Or drop them on their laps – or on the floor. And then they start again. The girls don’t get angry and frustrated – they just get busy.

    I like to keep that lesson in mind: Just continue making the effort. And even in the worst-case-scenario, the dog scores.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Well, Madam Doggedness, did your prediction come true:  that you made it to Align this morning?  I hope so and also hope that you’re feeling so much better.  When my dear mother was a child, she messed up the pronunciation of persevere and pronounced it preverse.  We have used preverse ever since.

  3. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I like the track and field perspective as I ran track in high school.  I liked the quickness of the 100, but the mile was boring.  I really liked cross country, which would relate to the tortoise and the hare, because we ran in parks or outdoor areas away from stadiums and thus crowds.

    When I think of perseverance, after reading how bad Redding has become. I think that would relate to all those who have stayed living in Redding area and trying to change it back to what it used to be.

    • Avatar Grammy says:

      Was in Roseville last week and went to a Wal-mart No security anywhere. Did not see any homeless either. Had forgotten what it was like before we lost our sense of peace and safety when shopping. How does Redding change back to the sweet wonderful place after the “powers that be” give into the homeless problem and admit defeat? Why is our county so bad? You just do not see the homeless begging on street corners in Sacramento, Corning, Orangevale, Granite Bay, Roseville, even Bodega Bay. When did the young people have such apathy to work? Content to just smoke and laze around? My kids were greatly motivated to get out and work, achieve greatness with schooling/jobs and then never come back to Redding because we just do not have the jobs.

  4. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    As an addendum to this article, which I wrote a few months back, I have to wonder if I was foreshadowing. In the months that followed that writing I have dealt with several physical problems that have slowed me down, but as I said to Matthew (our trainer at Align), if all I can do is crawl in the door and then back to my car, I WILL show up . . . and then come home and read my article again . . . and again . . . .

    Have i thought about quitting? SURE . . . . then I read the article again!!

    Could I have a little seasoning on those words as I eat them, please . . . . ?!?

    • Avatar ol Brierbush says:

      Theres times it dose’nt seem worth while

      with all the resistence we have the presistence

      to still crack a smile             and getter done

  5. Avatar cody says:

    Climbed over a 16,000 foot elevation pass in the Himalayas last month.  It was part of an all-day (10 hours) hike, and it was definitely one very slow step at a time.  Had to rest every 50 to 100 feet, as the trail was steep and rough.

    It was certainly a situation of true perseverance, willpower, determination, grit, persistence, etc…

  6. Avatar Gracious Palmer says:

    Thank you, Adrienne. Oh, yes, doggedness aka perseverance ??? Your words brought back memories of a marathon I actually completed by sheer doggedness. There are days when I do not feel like even starting my assigned exercises recommended to me by my physical therapist. Sometimes it is one second at a time. I am.

  7. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Brilliant article Adrienne.  Really great accomplishments often take time…a lot of time in some cases and there are no shortcuts.  You asked, so I’ll say that it took me 16 years before I got teaching position after I came to Redding.  My work in the computer field  (minimum wage) strengthened my chances and I went back to school (while working at two different minimum wage jobs) to secured more desirable credentials for this area.  Still, there were 600 applicants for the first math teaching job I applied for.   Another example of doggedness is that I keep playing the fiddle even though 1) I started way too late at the age of 29 and 2) I have examples of musical brilliance in my life which should discourage me!

    This article applies to every thing in life.  Thank you Adrienne.

    • Avatar cheyenne says:

      Joanne, I worked six years as a sub custodian before I was finally hired.  As a sub that mostly worked nights I had to stay by my phone, no cells then, until 3PM everyday so I wouldn’t miss a late call.  I never turned down a call, even for only one shift, because it might be the new job.  I, and I am sure you went through the same thing, got tired of being called into interviews and not being hired and told that I made it to #2 or #3 when I wondered if I would ever make it to #1.  I saw others who got hired not because of what they knew but who they knew.  What I really felt bad were for some of the long term sub teachers who would really got involved with the sub position only to be passed over by someone who just moved to Redding.  At one time we, all subs, joked that when we applied for a position we should say we just moved here from L.A.  My niece subbed as a teacher and was finally hired, probably cause nobody else wanted the position, in Platina.  For six years she drove from Anderson to Platina until she finally was able to transfer to a position at Pacheco.  That is perseverance.

      • Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

        I was a sub teacher for several years….an1 yes there were patterns….people “from afar” hired ahead of proven experts.  In one district, only alumni were hired.  In one district, people who belonged to a particular church got first crack at a job.  I realized that no great sub  or aide would ever get a “real” job.  I also realized like you, that who you knew was so very important.   Scoring that job, in Shasta County, is a sign of perseverance and doggedness Cheyenne!

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          When we moved back to California from Alaska, I applied for a couple of jobs in Yreka – unsuccessfully.  Each job had interviews by committee, and when I would run into a committee member at the grocery store, she would say, “We really wanted you, but So-and-so’s relative was chosen.”  Being an outsider in a small town made employment nearly impossible.  However, when we moved to Eastern County, there was a job opening for secretary to the superintendent of schools.  The newly-hired Supe was also an outsider and was looking for another outsider; so I was at the right place at the right time.  Doggedness wasn’t necessary in that particular instance, but timing was.

  8. Avatar Cate says:

    Doggedness. It’s all about the doggedness. Moving forward every day.

  9. Avatar Larry Winter says:

    “Perseverance furthers”

    The most powerful example of perseverance I’ve witnessed is a fisher chasing a jackrabbit and eventually catching it.  The house I lived at was pretty remote and I was sitting in the kitchen with my door open and I saw a rabbit run by.  A few minutes later a fisher went loping past, nose to the ground.  Shortly after, the rabbit went by my door a second time, with the fisher gaining ground but still far behind.  The rabbit went by again, with the fisher getting closer.  When the rabbit went by the fourth time, the fisher was right behind and the rabbit was looking pretty ragged.  I then heard a scream and went outside and saw the fisher with the rabbit in it’s mouth.

    Apparently, the rabbit would run from one brush patch to another, back and forth, resting and hiding, to no avail.

  10. Avatar Jorgi says:

    One foot in front of the other – over and over. Sometimes that’s all that got me through. Loved your article. Love you.