"Perseverance: How to Develop It"
by H. Besser
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With his motto "Success attends him who determines to persevere," the Author of this work describes true perseverance; points out the impediments to its attainment and the obstacles to be overcome. The Reader is warned against the dangers of that excessive enthusiasm which leads to precipitancy, and is urged, above all things, never to be precipitate, for precipitancy is the handmaiden of error and the companion of misfortune. Likewise, he is advised to eschew obstinacy as the companion of ignorance, self conceit, and false pride. Obstinacy is an indication of a weak judgment and a stubborn mind.
The obstinate man is wanting in culture, for he lacks both delicacy and refinement of temper.
Edmund Burke described obstinacy as a great vice which was frequently the cause of great mischief, for it is allied to constancy, fortitude, fidelity, firmness, and magnanimity all commendable virtues, which if practiced to excess lead to obstinacy, the one passion that never recovers from failure. It is the pathway to that narrowness of mind which leads to self conceit.
Perseverance is the dogged determination that overcomes difficulties which appear insurmountable. "Victory," said the great Napoleon, "belongs to him who has the most perseverance." The spirit of indomitable perseverance crowns every worthy effort. Here is a simple but effective guide to this great power.
The Second Part of this work is devoted by the Author to teaching how to acquire that moral force which leads to the development of Perseverance. By practical exercises he points out the way to secure it; teaches the control of self through the influence of the will, and leads the diffident man to self-reliance and that perseverance which plucks success even from the spear-point. The battle-cry of all who would succeed must be '' Perseverance,'' but this battle cry, like all others, is worthless without support.
By Perseverance Hannibal crossed the Alps in fifteen days, Julius Caesar in eleven, and Napoleon the Great in five. He that would attain success must support it with persistent effort full worthy of his aim; for, just as the Indian strikes fire as the reward of continuous endeavor, so can we achieve success by indomitable and unceasing exertion, and thus, on the forge of experience, model the Key that shall turn the lock of Life and open the doors to Fortune.Every earnest Reader of the following pages may draw from them that strength of mind, clearness of thought, and force of character that awaken enthusiasm and inspire that confidence which the world at large readily grants to the persevering and successful man.
Perseverance is that faculty which gives us the power to accomplish a piece of work with out allowing ourselves to be turned aside from our purpose either by the initial difficulties involved or by the obstacles that multiply themselves as we progress with our task.
It is that form of energy which enables us to develop sufficient strength of will never to be discouraged by the labor we have to face in accomplishing what we set out to do.
It is the art of marching directly forward toward the goal we have set before us, quite ignoring all temporary embarrassments, great or small, save by putting forth all our strength to surmount them.
It is the quality found in people of an
temperament, who, once they have discerned the favorable possibilities
of an enterprise, allow nothing to divert them and can never be
defeated by the occurrences that tend to hinder its successful outcome.
The people who possess perseverance are of the type that is able to keep walking steadily in the path that has been chosen, despite the pitfalls encountered along the way.
Obstacles, far from lessening the courage of such people, seem rather to redouble it.
The fever of battle increases their strength tenfold and the difficulties they meet merely sharpen their wits.
The persevering know nothing of the weaknesses which serve to defeat those whose feeble wills go to pieces at the first encounter with opposing forces.
Such people abandon themselves to despair and cast all the blame upon fate, which has nothing to do with it.
They are very careful not to admit their own incompetence and make no attempt to change it into the energy that will accomplish results.
Their ineptitude is much better suited to inaction and they cease to struggle toward the goal while excusing themselves to their own consciences by exclaiming:
"Nothing succeeds with me! It is much wiser to persevere no longer!"
All the same they miss no opportunity of expatiating upon the luck of their neighbors who are able to carry all their undertakings to a successful issue.
"Oh! If that were I," they cry, "it wouldn't come out in that way! For them everything goes right!''
Their envy has led them to state a truth.
Practically speaking, everything succeeds for the man who has will-power and perseverance and nothing can ever come to a successful termination in the hands of the man who deliberately ignores his opportunities of making every favorable slant of fortune serve his purpose.
Never at any period in the world's history was perseverance more necessary than it is in our social conditions of the present day.
The spread of general education, in quickening so
talents that were formerly merely dormant in the germ, has enormously
increased the number of competitors in the struggle.
The battle has become for this reason much more bitter and more long-drawn out, and demands of those who are engaged in it an inflexible will, backed up by untiring effort, which is the base of all perseverance.
This persistence of purpose does not merely bring into play the qualities needed to hasten the accomplishment of an end we have in view.
It is also the result of an idea that has been pondered over and cherished in the mind until such time as it has acquired sufficient vitality to be able to transform itself into deeds.
It will remain sterile if the goal is not clearly visioned. Before we are able to maintain our course with tenacity in one fixed path it is indispensable that we must know exactly where it leads.
The number of those who wander along blind alleys is legion. These people are filled with astonishment when they encounter difficulties that it was given to them to foresee, if they would. Those who are endowed with perseverance collect their forces at this stage; they reflect upon the nature of the obstacles they are likely to encounter and estimate their own forces of resistance.
If they feel themselves unable to make headway against the barriers before them; if they foresee that these difficulties will very surely soon become impossibilities, they will not hesitate a moment, but will go back to their starting-point and will look for a more radical route.
Nevertheless, for many people to abandon a project is to convince themselves of their own weakness, and they will shrink from a determination which appears to them in the light of a failure.
But for the man of energy the obstacles are the enemy, and, just as a soldier would think himself dishonored were he to fly in the face of a movement of the hostile forces, he will feel himself lowered in his own estimation if he does not keep up the struggle to the very end.
The first thing to be done by those who find
in this position of difficulty is to stop marching forward, not in
order to retire, at first, but to give themselves time for reflection.
We shall see later on that it is vitally necessary never to do anything without consideration if one has made up one's mind to be persevering.
Reasoning should be the foundation of all our enterprises.
The man who engages in a fight without first having decided that such a step was necessary is beaten before he starts.
What soldier would think of going to war without his weapons?
In the struggle for life the battle is no less bitter than on the field of carnage and it is sometimes equally deadly.
When one is sufficiently informed upon the efforts that must be put forth, and when one has reflected in advance upon the windings and the difficulties of the road ahead, it will be time to take up the question of shortening the first and of surmounting the second.
The parent of all perseverance is the power of the motive idea.
This virtue has been much calumniated.
The weaklings and the incapable are glad to give it the name of "mania" or "fixed idea."
But fixity of ideas is an indispensable quality in the accomplishment of results.
Unsettled and wandering ideas invariably lead to decisions whose diversity is their weakness.
The man who really and ardently desires to arrive at his goal will mistrust every suggestion that is alien to the main purpose that fills his mind.
The ends he seeks will always be the regulators of the decisions he makes.
He will not lose sight of the fact that the effort of will-power that causes him to make a certain decision is for him merely a transitory state of mind.
In order that this state of mind may become definitely established it is necessary that it should produce acts which will tend toward the accomplishment of his purpose.
In those cases in which the action has been
undertaken he must not allow himself to be haunted by any thoughts
inimical to the successful outcome of what he has determined to do.
"We are now speaking only, it should be understood, of those eases in which such thoughts might turn him aside or lead him astray from his goal.
In all other cases every change of place, every possible betterment that he thinks of should be welcomed by him and critically examined with all possible care.
However, before changing his original purpose, it will be well for him to undertake a serious examination of the facts involved, in order to prevent himself from embarking thoughtlessly upon a dangerous course, or, what is a thousand times worse, arriving nowhere in particular.
The man who would possess the gift of perseverance should, before elaborating the plan which is to be perseveringly followed out, do exactly what all prudent travelers do at the time when they are about to set out upon a journey.
They begin by consulting their tastes, and the reasons or the special interests that lead them to choose one country rather than another.
The choice once made they consider their means.
Next they consider the question of the amount of time they are able to devote to the trip.
They then provide themselves with clothes and equipment of all sorts, of which they are likely to stand in need.
This done, they spread out before them the map of the country they propose to visit and carefully plan out their itinerary, allowing for the delays of the journey and the difficulty of making connections, and marking the towns at which they wish to stop and the spots or the localities which they think will be likely to interest them.
Then only do they actually start upon their journey, knowing exactly where they are going, without being exposed to any delay from the occurrence of conditions which will be likely to turn them aside from the route they have chosen.
Those who act otherwise will very likely be
some manner at the very outset.
The danger of missing connections, which they have not worked out carefully, will keep them in a constant state of anxiety that will deprive them of all freedom to enjoy themselves. Failure to provide themselves with necessaries will cause them continual trouble, and the slenderness of their resources, which may threaten to give out before the end of the journey, may render it necessary for them to cut short their trip long before they intended.
Others again, unable to resist the attraction of places they have seen from a distance, will allow themselves to be drawn from their prearranged line of travel to observe these localities at close range.
In this way they will lose a great deal of valuable time and will run the risk of being led entirely astray.
The worst of it is that these apparently attractive places do not always fulfill one's expectations and so one loses time on one's trip without receiving any compensating advantage.
It is under such circumstances that people who lack perseverance, in place of forcing themselves to return to their original plan of travel without again attempting to wander from it, begin to wander about aimlessly, imagining, at each new horizon that confronts them, that they have made a marvelous find because of the enchanting colors in which distance clothes it to their eyes.
Others, endowed with a less vivid imagination, will travel forward quite regardless of these tempting mirages, but will give up in despair when they encounter the slightest obstacle.
The least fatigue tires them out completely, and they are at once ready to return home and to give up the project whose execution seems to them to be a matter involving altogether too great a complexity of effort.
It may be said with perfect truth of such people
when they reach home, they will find similar causes for discouragement
in the accomplishment of little every-day acts, the doing of which they
will put off as long as they possibly can.
The man who is always able to make excuses for himself will by so doing deprive himself of the power that hope will give him in his next endeavor to succeed.
The will to persevere must be the center around which revolve all the qualities that are needed for the conquest of this virtue.
It most certainly is a virtue. The word is by no means too strong a one, since, well under- stood, perseverance is made up of the combination of a thousand qualities that we have been taught to admire.
Let us hasten to add that these qualities, in the struggle for life, are, as occasion demands, both weapons of offense and arms for defense.
They serve us to combat all the faults that are the enemies of sincerity and of success.
They attack these faults, batter down breaches in their defenses, and keep on the fight against them until they are destroyed root and branch.
They also constitute the shield that protects us from the mortal wounds that are aimed at our fairest hopes by the faults which hinder us from the practice of perseverance.
These enemies are, to cite only those of first importance:
Lack of confidence in one's own abilities;
Laziness, by implanting in our minds the hatred of effort, allows us to succeed only in the very easiest of tasks, those which call neither for concentration of mind nor for sustained attention, and least of all for continuous work.
At this point it may be well to remind ourselves that all enterprises which ask from us a minimum of effort and involve a minimum of complex thought, are almost invariably of second-rate merit.
The ease with which they can be performed by
them within the capacity of every one, puts them outside of the domain
reserved for more legitimate ambitions.
They are attempted and carried out by so many people, that, aside from the laws of supply and demand, they lose all the moral and physical interest that might possibly have been attached to them originally.
The very people who are attracted by them, and drawn into them because they are free from serious difficulty, do not hesitate to abandon them finally when the keenness of competition caused by the large number of people engaged upon such enterprises makes it necessary for them to exert those qualities of action and of perseverance which their laziness absolutely prohibits them from developing.
Lazy people are, therefore, eternally condemned to the performance of second-rate work and to employment which offers no future. Laziness always results in lack of moral tone which tends to keep its victim at a distance from everything which could possibly be given the name of work.
The field of experience is thus allowed to remain fallow, although a little activity would soon cause it to blossom with the flowers of wisdom, whose perfume would sweeten the lives of the workers.
In the land represented by the mental state of the idle, the choking ivy and a hundred other parasitic plants will soon become completely masters of a territory that no one disputes with them.
It is for this reason that people who are the victims of laziness are endowed with merely negative qualities.
Those which tend to success do not stay with them very long. They die quickly or drag along in a sort of half-dead existence, choked by the growth of innumerable faults, all springing from the one primary defect.
These people soon become themselves exactly like these morbid growths, which do not seem to be animated by any real and vital principle.
Laziness, when indulged in to extremes, always leads to degeneracy in the individual concerned.
It is a well-known fact that organs whose regular
functions are habitually suppress ultimately become atrophied.
There are very few people who can use their left hands as easily and well as they can their right hands.
Nevertheless, at the time of their birth, these two members were equally adapted for the same purposes.
But nature has decreed that -children shall be corrected the moment they try to do anything with their left hands, for which reason this hand never acquires the skill and the dexterity of the right.
This is so true that those whose occupation necessitates the use of their left hands, such as violinists or pianists, acquire a degree of dexterity in that hand that will always be unknown to those who have not taken special exercises to render the left hand expert.
Next to laziness comes discouragement, which is the cessation of all will-power as far as laboring to a definite end is concerned.
The encountering of an unexpected obstacle is always a cause of discouragement. Virile spirits will see in such an obstacle nothing less than a stimulus and the fascination of the struggle will incite them to persevere on the path that will lead them to success.
But people of wavering courage lose heart with every single reverse whose tendency it is to retard the accomplishment of their aims.
In the face of opposing events they are like the miner who sees huge blocks of stone constantly falling down into the gully he is cutting, and threatening to block the way.
The man who is endowed with perseverance, after deploring such a succession of adverse occurrences, will soon regain his courage by the mere reflection that such regrets are useless and unnecessary.
He will simply make the effort of will required
overcome the piled-up obstacles in his way, and will be all the more
rejoiced, when he has successfully accomplished his work, by the fact
that it was so much more arduous than he expected and, for that very
reason, so much the more productive of honor to himself for carrying it
But the man whose will-power has become atrophied will recoil before this redoubling of difficulties. He will prefer to abandon the enterprise altogether to recommencing a second time the work that he has already done and, while commiserating himself over the fruitlessness of his past efforts, he will retrace his steps, supremely grateful if his balked attempts have not caused such changed conditions as to bar the way to a safe return.
Lack of confidence in oneself is always caused by some past unfortunate experience.
However, in place of allowing oneself to become the prey of this most ignoble fear, it will be far more to the purpose to look back upon one's actions and to make a sincere acknowledgment of one's errors.
One sees every day that setbacks of all sorts are almost invariably produced as the result of lack of reflection, of a too easy discouragement, or by a want of active effort.
We may as well admit at once to ourselves that this last is one of the main reasons for failure.
In speaking of active effort we do not wish to imply that extreme mobility which certain people are inclined to dignify by the name of work.
Really fruitful activity is very seldom noisy. It has the qualities of perseverance, of which it is an important factor.
Too violent movement never lasts and when it is over it leaves weariness behind it.
Now the cessation of effort always brings with it the arrest of progress, and we know already that everything which does not progress degenerates.
From this it results that fatigue by becoming associated in our minds with our disappointment, tends to destroy in us all the incentive to renew the struggle.
In those cases where people of perseverance see nothing worse than a temporary inconvenience, those who lack confidence in themselves will discover an absolutely insurmountable obstacle.
Instead of redoubling their efforts, they will
lament over their troubles, and will declare their attempt quite
impossible of ultimate success and will devote themselves to the
accomplishment of some merely partial result.
Belief in oneself is a mighty lever, in the hands even of the weakest.
In every sort of enterprise, it is the lighthouse which illuminates the road, and gives us the means of keeping the straight path to success, without once wandering to right or left.
For this reason, if one will only take the trouble to examine oneself sincerely, one will readily recognize that distrust of one's own power can be easily overcome, since it springs from causes that one can oneself determine and that can be altered for the better with very little trouble, with a view to their ultimate suppression for good and all.
The remedy is, therefore, very closely connected with the disease and can be easily found by any one.
As to how it should be applied, all that is called for is discernment and will-power.
Impatience is the exact antithesis of perseverance. It always wishes to hurry along results, and curtails them, even when it does not altogether destroy them.
If procrastination is a deplorable thing too great haste is no less so. It raises insuperable obstacles to all perfection.
How many times does it cut short the development of something, the lack of which spells destruction to the usefulness of the work in hand, which is thus suddenly turned at once from its original direction and its ultimate goal.
Impatient people may be compared to the man who believes he can hurry the appearance upon the scene of a chick by prematurely breaking the shell of the egg that protects it. He thus reduces to nothingness something that, under its original form or under that of the bird that emerges from it, is a source of pleasant nourishment, but that is now of no use to anybody, thanks to his foolish impatience.
Superficiality is the stumbling-block that destroys the efforts of so many people of unequal will-power.
They make trial of all sorts of things, undertake
countless tasks, but never fix their minds on a single purpose.
A trifle serves to turn them aside from some task they have begun and leads them to undertake another, which they will abandon with all the docility that is the characteristic of their feeble impulses.
It is absolutely impossible for them to keep themselves in the same condition of mind for any length of time.
Spurred on by curiosity they will turn aside every moment from their projects to rush headlong into others that they will drop soon after with the same chronic changeableness.
Are such people sincere in their desire to do something?
Yes, generally speaking, they are.
But the least little occurrence leads to a change in their ideas. The slightest obstacle, without necessarily frightening them, renders them indifferent and soon disheartens them.
Without attempting to find a way out of it or to combat it in any manner, they fling themselves into some other occupation, the disadvantages of which they do not see on account of their superficial viewpoint.
Their lives are a constant series of new starts and they never reap the fruits of success.
It is fair to say that they never encounter absolute defeat. They never push things far enough for that.
They content themselves with playing with projects, and with constructing combinations, which, without giving rise to much disappointment on their part when they come to nothing, simply remain motionless for a moment and then start off anew like the soap-bubbles that a child blows into the air.
Now let us consider along broad lines what are the qualities of a man of perseverance?
At the head of all these qualities we find one tenacity. Then follow in order:
There are many other subsidiary qualities, which
not without their own importance, which are grafted on to those
enumerated above and give them a great deal of their worth, while
playing their role of faithful allies.
Of these we will speak in the course of the chapters which are to follow. In these earlier pages, devoted more particularly to the definition of perseverance, we will endeavor to indicate only those elements that are indispensable, and that form the foundations of this master quality that is known by the name of perseverance.
Composure is a quality of the brave.
It is during composure that all good resolutions are made, which lead to profitable achievements.
It is also by virtue of composure alone that one is able to lay down the premises of that reasoning that one finds at the foundation of all enterprises that have in them the potentiality of success.
Without composure no deduction can bethought out that will be in the least worth while, and it is from such deductions that success always takes its beginnings.
It is more important than one might think not to begin one's effort by making a failure in some undertaking.
Unsuceess is a factor of discouragement for those spirits which have not been tempered in the fires of energy, and their discouragement takes possession of them the more easily for the reason that they have not in themselves the strength to fight against events, in which it pleases them to perceive the workings of a mysterious and adverse power.
Patience, in prohibiting all indications of nervousness, imposes upon us continuity as well as frequency of effort.
But it must be borne in mind that perseverance is nothing else but the will to make this effort, the reiteration of which makes the continuity.
Patience also enables us to estimate things under the aspect that they really possess.
It says no to the inrush of considerations of passion, and, a necessary corollary of these, the biased judgment of partiality.
It is patience also that enables us to choose
discernment, and to carry out with clearness and method the actions
that reason has counseled us to perform.
Activity is indispensable to the man who wishes to be persevering.
"We have spoken already of that false enthusiasm which too often assumes the name of activity, but is nothing more, in reality, than the satisfaction of an exaggerated desire for movement.
Really effective activity does not expend itself in this or that direction.
It never wastes a minute over things that are of no use.
It attempts only those things which, thanks to its power, are susceptible of being brought to a fruitful development.
Division of effort is always the result of activity that has been misdirected.
Many centuries have passed since "Union is strength" was said for the first time, and this maxim, in its journey down to us through the ages, has lost nothing of its truth and of its applicability.
Poise enables us to put to practical purposes the resolutions that we have been able to conceive of during moments of composure, and that patience has permitted us to develop slowly and surely until they were ripe for action.
Poise is the master-quality of those who feel themselves filled with that power of will that inspires bold and brilliant deeds.
It conducts into one channel all the advantages of activity, by permitting it to know its own value and to be utilized in a just cause.
Furthermore, it gives us enough confidence in ourselves to allow free play to the controlling idea in our minds, the counselor and instigator of our best actions.
Poise must never under any circumstances be confused with effrontery.
It is the quality of people of self-possession, those who seek nowhere but in themselves for the means with which to conquer success.
It allows fancy and reason to act together in the
carrying out of resolutions that have been wisely taken, and by
moderating the preponderance of impulse in our actions, leaves to
reason a place large enough to enable it to assume absolute control
when it becomes necessary.
Poise, in giving us confidence in ourselves, enables us to march without a halt toward the far-off goal that our reason has marked out for us.
We are concerned here, it must be remembered, only with a reasoned and considered poise and not with that hardihood of conceit which having no solid base to build upon, can not long maintain itself in existence and will sooner or later fall to pieces, burying under its ruins those who, for a longer or shorter period, but always one that must inevitably end, have believed themselves able to impose upon others without possessing any real conviction in the worth of their own personal quality.
Attention is the habit of reflection deliberately applied to a certain end.
It is a desire of comprehension, coupled with the wish to apply the teachings that we have received.
Without this quality of attention no enterprise can be conducted to a successful issue.
Thanks to its light, the advantages and the disadvantages of any work we have undertaken will not long remain in the shade.
The lessons learned in the past are, for the devotee of attention sure promises of success in the future.
The blind alone will allow the lessons of life to pass by them unperceived and unappreciated.
Those who are endowed with energy will strive, on the other hand, to find every possible means for putting the lessons thus acquired into practice.
They will never allow themselves to forget that attention is a powerful factor of success.
It is the parent of experience, which could not exist if one did not use every care to fix in one's mind the details of things, on the faith of which one will begin to build later on.
It is thanks to attention that an inventor is able to make changes in his creations by means of his observations of the defects existing in similar mechanisms.
It is also by virtue of attention that the motive
can transpose itself into an active force of which the effects will
contrive toward the acquisition of perseverance.
"We can not make it too clear that it is quite impossible to dream of acquiring this quality if one does not practice the various virtues of which it is made up, while guarding oneself with all possible care from falling into the faults that tend to hinder its development.
It will also be of immense service to us in the formation of those qualities which we only possess in an undeveloped form.
It will comfort us; will make us patient,
moderate; and will at last lead us to success, by making impossible for
us those disappointments and distresses which continually assail, in a
greater or less degree, those whose feeble will is not upheld by faith
"Perseverance: How to Develop It"
by H. Besser
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