When I was in high school I can remember in almost every class asking myself “When am I ever going to use this information in real life?” So during math, science and history, I completely tuned out. So much so, that my father loved saying that I graduated “Summa Cum Lucky”. Today, 40 years later, he would be proud to know that one of the greatest joys in my life is reading a really good history book. On the upside for me, is that reading history is now... is like reading mysteries that have yet to be unfurled! They have introduced me to human beings who inspire, amaze and astound me. Believe me... no one is more surprised than me that my favorite author is David McCullough. He has authored, “John Adams”, “Truman”, “Benjamin Franklin”, “The Wright Brothers” and a host of others. These men stand as a great example of the importance that character, conviction and courage played in shaping the history of the world.
All of these men had to possess certain qualities in order to achieve their goals. The most apparent to me was their perseverance. All of these men were creating something, that in the history of world, had never existed before. Steve Jobs may have transformed the telephone into a cell phone that takes pictures, videos, speaks to us and may one day do our laundry... but... Alexander Graham Bell came up with the original idea. He is the one that thought he could create an instrument that people could speak into and communicate with someone else in another place. General Electric may have perfected the light bulb but...it was Thomas Edison who came up with the idea and invented it. Ben Franklin set out to see if he could harness electricity, before the word was even in existence. The Wright Brothers tried for years to build a machine that would fly in the air, they didn’t know how, but they believed it could be done, and so they spent years bringing the “fly machine” into existence. In all of these cases these men failed over and over again. Many of their peers not only doubted them, but also thought of them as idiots for wasting their time chasing a ridiculous dream. These were brave men, as they had the courage of their convictions.
How did they do it? Through perseverance, and that is what changed the world. you examine it, there, just under perseverance... is belief. First they had the idea,then believe it could be done, then figured out how to do it, all the while they had to learn not to give up. You need to believe first, then persevere to accomplish that which you believe in. That is the lesson to be learned from history. Even President Calvin Coolidge said:
If there is something you feel you are meant to do, or invent, or discover, or share, and you believe in it, then simply “press on”. The key is all in the believing. Back in 1969 the slogan for the New York Mets was “Ya Gotta Believe”. Once you know it, then pursue it, and never, never give up. Remember it can not simply be something you would want, or like, it’s not even a wish, or hope. It is something that you KNOW you can accomplish and could devote all your time and energy to, even in some cases, your entire life.
When reading “The Wright Brothers” the lesson was that these two men KNEW without a question in their minds, without the slightest doubt, that man could build a machine that could fly. Once they knew that, then all they had to do was figure out how to do it. They studied birds for years, they worked day and night, they failed time after time after time, but each time they failed they learned something new. If they hadn’t believed in what they were doing they would have eventually said to themselves, “Well I guess it can’t be done”. But they didn’t, and that made all the difference. What kept them going was their unshakable belief in what they were doing. They knew it could be done and wouldn’t give up until they figured out how.
Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 time to invent the light bulb. When a reporter asked “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” As my mother would often say “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson” and these men didn’t, it’s how they succeeded... by failing.
So if you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never have an opportunity to succeed. Let your mantra be “You gotta believe” for that is the foundation of all else. If you believe you can be a writer, or lose 30 pounds, open your own business, buy a house, or chase a dream, know your success all balances on the depth of your belief in your ability to achieve it. The great Winston Churchill wisely said “Success is not final, and failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Go ahead, find out what you believe about yourself. Make your goals, find your courage and then go after it... elbows, knees, and teeth!
By Nancy Witter