Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thoughts on Perseverance

“In plain words, you’ve got to make up your mind to study whatever you undertake, and concentrate your mind on it, and really work at it. This isn’t wisdom. Any fool in the world knows it’s true, whether it’s a question of raising horses or writing plays. You simply have to face the prospect of starting at the bottom and spending years learning how to do it.” ―Eugene O'Neill (1)

In previous blog articles, I have discussed ideas like success, finding purpose in life, some of the challenges to creativity such as fear of failure and poor time management (links below). Today, I turn my attention to the idea of grit and perseverance when life seems challenging and you are feeling discouraged. 

Related articles that you may find of interest:

What is Perseverance?

Kill Devil Hill, Outer Banks, NC. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved.  

I have been considering the concept of perseverance in my own life over the past few weeks. Certainly time management plays a part in this character trait, but how does one gain, what my father playfully called, “stick-to-it-tive-ness.” Granted that word doesn’t exist, but I think it captures the essence and definition of this idea: sticking to what you are doing and continuing to work at it without giving up, even when it is hard or when you are feeling negative and doubtful.

Growing Up

As a young boy, I was a hyper-active child. I was one of those kids who could not sit still, would not focus on anything for more than 5 seconds, and had the memory of a goldfish (my wife may attest that I still have the memory of a goldfish, but I try). Was there something wrong with me? Probably not, other than a mild sensory disorder, I was like most excitable and extroverted boys, full of energy.

 Well, I got older, I still can’t sit still for very long without a concerted effort, I am still sensitive to loud environments and bright lights, but I learned to focus by working in short concentrated burst of energy. I pace a lot when I work, can’t seem to think when I am sitting down, but I have learned that if I really care about a project then it deserves my full attention and effort. As a creative person, I know that it can be exciting, at least for me, to start new projects, but if you only start new works, when do you ever finish something already undertaken?

Facing the Prospect

Climbing Kill Devil Hill, Outer Banks, NC. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved.  

In the quote at the beginning of this article by the famous playwright, Eugene O'Neill, in a letter to his son about raising horses, instructs him to have perseverance, summing it up so well: 

You simply have to face the prospect of starting at the bottom and spending years learning how to do it.” 

Nothing comes immediately; anything worth doing takes years, not days, weeks or months, but years for you to become accomplished or successful in life.

As a blogger, I know that many blogs get to about the 6th month mark (this is the beginning of the seventh month here at Impulsive Artistry) and that is when many authors quit blogging for any number of reasons – not enough views, comments, time-commitments, relationships, money, responsibilities, or other things in life that occur. Some of those are valid reasons to stop, but not all of them.

It is easy to feel discouraged when things are not going as well as you hoped, when your expectations, grounded in reality or not, do not come to fruition at fast as you would like, but that’s exactly when you need perseverance and grit! Sticking with it when it is hard, when it doesn’t seem as exciting as day one, is a valuable life skill to employ – otherwise we are just running in circles, never getting anywhere. I am writing this article to myself, as much as I am sharing my thoughts with you now – we can’t give up, the easy thing to do, but must keep striving for our goals in life.        

What are my goals?

My main objective with this blog is to inspire you to a greater creativity in your life, to get outside your comfort zone and try something new, be it painting, photography, learning a musical instrument, etc. I would love for this blog to be a success; I would love to support my family on my work as a visual artist, but those things take years to come about. I know that every post I put up, every link I share, I am working towards my dream, fulfilling my life’s purpose and that is a comforting thought, especially when you are feeling down and full of self-doubt.

Perseverance in History

My wife and I on our recent trip to Cape Hatteras Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina, stopped on the way home at the hill where the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air machine on December 17, 1903. As we climbed Big Kill Devil Hill, a solitary sand dune, 90 ft. tall (tallest on the island), the cool, salty wind whipped through the air into our faces from the sea. We peered down the steep descent, and marveled at the brother's courage and resolution to attempt to ride a predominantly wooden contraption that they built with their own hands. It took them several years and several failed attempts to finally conquer flight – how did they do it? Perseverance, study, hard work and patience. 

At the very top of the hill, a monument to their achievement sits in the sunlight bearing the following inscription: “In Commemoration of the Conquest of the Air By the Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright Conceived By Genius Achieved by Dauntless Resolution and Unconquerable Faith.”

Question of the Day?

When in your life have you used perseverance? I would love to hear about it, so comment below and tell me about your experience. I hope that you all have a great end to your week, remember to call on your grit and use that “stick-to-it-tive” attitude when you are feeling discouraged. Have a fantastic creative day,


[1] Travis BogardJackson R. Bryer, Editors, Selected Letters of Eugene O'Neill (Hal Leonard Corporation, 1994), 490.  

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