The popular Academy Award nominated movie “Darkest Hour” has brought a lot of attention to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill recently.  It’s also brought a lot of attention to Gary Oldman, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Churchill.

According to biographers, Churchill did not have the happiest of childhoods.  Neglected by his uninterested parents, he was sent to boarding school at a young age where he would write letter after letter pleading for his parents to visit him.  Most of his requests went unanswered, and he ended up spending a succession of holidays alone at school without even the company of classmates.

Churchill would go on to suffer many failures both at school and in his political life, failures that would have defeated most people.  But Churchill kept persevering, overcoming great odds and eventually leading his country in its finest hour.

How did a man with such a difficult upbringing and spotty professional record achieve such greatness? 

The answer may lie in the following story:  In his eighties, Churchill was asked to deliver a commencement address at Harrow, the boarding school he attended as a boy.  He is reported to have stood up at the podium, glared over his glasses, and delivered one of the shortest, yet most inspiring speeches ever given at a graduation ceremony.

“Never give up!  Never give up!  Never give up!” he roared.  Then he sat down to thunderous applause.

What a tremendous lesson in perseverance!

Perseverance separates the winners from the losers.  Those who persevere understand that luck is something only failures believe in.  Perseverance has other names – persistence, determination, a can-do attitude.  Success in life depends on your willingness to never give up, even when the reward is delayed. 

One of my guilty pleasures is that I occasionally stop at McDonald’s for a hamburger and a caramel sundae.   The phenomenal success of the Golden Arches franchise is evident throughout the world.  How was such a dynasty built?  Why is Ronald McDonald a household name?  The answer rests in the motto adopted by its founder, Ray Kroc.  It simply reads, “Press On.”

As U.S. President Calvin Coolidge said:  “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

In my line of work – sales – persistence takes on a special meaning.  Somewhere between throwing in the towel and being a pest, you might find wisdom in this Code of Persistence for salespeople developed by Herman Sherman.  Resolve to:

Never give up so long as you know you are right.

Believe all things will work out if you hang on until the end.

Remain courageous and confident when the odds turn against you.

Never permit anyone to intimidate you or shake your belief in yourself.

Fight to overcome any physical handicaps and setbacks.

Try again and again, and yet again, to reach your dreams.

Take new faith and resolve from the knowledge that many successful men and women have had to fight defeat and adversity to achieve their greatness.

A few generations ago Susan B. Anthony was both a revered and despised political figure.  In the late 1800s she tirelessly fought for a woman’s right to vote, a law that was not enacted until several years after her death.  American women have only been able to vote since 1920.

At that time, the majority opinion was that women need not vote or be equal to men, and that anyone trying to change the status quo was simply a troublemaker.  Still, Anthony soldiered on, and eventually earned a tremendous following.  At a reception given in honor of her work, she was inundated with bouquets of flowers.  Recalling her early years in politics, she commented, “They threw things at me then – and they were not roses.”

Shortly before her death, she was asked if she was happy about how her life had played out.  She said yes, she would do it all over again.  “The spirit is willing yet; I feel the same desire to do the work, but the flesh is weak.  It’s too bad that our bodies wear out while our interests are just as strong as ever.”

Susan B. Anthony serves as an inspiration that one person can accomplish greatness through perseverance.

Mackay’s Moral:  Triumph is just the “ump” beyond “try.”

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