"Perseverance is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course; you do not give up!" Those are the timeless words of John Wooden. The word "perseverance" comes from a Latin root that means "abiding by strictly." Its synonyms are: persistence, tenacity, determination, staying power, steadfastness, purposefulness, and here at Handshake, I think we can safely add the word "grit" to that list.
You wouldn't have to worry about persevering if everything was easy. You wouldn't have to battle through circumstances if they weren't painful or difficult. You wouldn't need to press on if you weren't being pushed back and you would't stumble if your path was even. Of course, life isn't like that. Everyone that puts eyes to this screen can tell you a story of failure, of hardship, of loss, of setback, pain, torment, or even humiliation. Everyone reacts to tough circumstances differently and a lot of people can shoulder a lot of what life heaps upon them.
Perseverance, though, has another dimension to it. It implies that you have a destination or a goal in view. Maybe that destination is a college, a team, a personal best, or maybe its a career. You can't get anywhere without moving. You can't stand still and be awarded a scholarship. You can't stand still and learn to be a doctor. You have to move toward that goal. That's when the obstacles come at you, like a proverbial game of Donkey Kong. That's right, a Donkey Kong reference.
You want to go to college? It's expensive. Really expensive. You want to make the team? It's really hard work. No, it's harder than you imagined. Maybe you get hurt. Maybe you don't turn in your application for the scholarship in time. Maybe you're not accepted into the program you wanted. What then?
You persevere. Perseverance is the habit of not making excuses. It is the paradox of moving beyond the past and at the same time not forgetting it, transforming your mistakes into wisdom. It is owning your failure, knowing it will come and not letting it surprise you. It is knowing where you want to go and finding a way to get there. Sure, we can all share our hard knock stories and our lamentations, but to what end? We must be careful not to dwell on them, otherwise they become burdensome excuses that serve only to weigh heavy on our backs and hold us down.
The students in this Handshake America program have already begun to persevere. It is a part of who they are, because they found a way to be a part of it. They were presented with the opportunity and they did what they needed to do to get here. They have grit, and they are growing and developing that grit, ultimately striving in a way that will bring them success.
Part of the development happens here at these Handshake events. In the team building exercises they were challenged by their coaches to share their tough stories, but more importantly, how they worked through it; how they persevered. Some of these stories brought out some deep emotions, but what they highlighted were the victories. Some we won't forget. Some we will never know because we didn't get to hear them. But above all, what was inescapable was the ability for all of us to look back and realize how far we have come despite the trials of life. We got to enjoy that sense of victory, not just for ourselves, but we were able to share in the victories of others.
As serious as those conversations were, however, we ended on a high note with a bracket style challenge of Stack Attack. We all found out that it's not as easy as it looks! In the end, the crucible of competition produced a victor. She stayed consistent, she stayed the course, and she came out on top.
The take away? No matter the physical gifts or the outward appearances that are allotted to us in this life, perseverance is a choice. It is an inward attitude of grit and persistence that propels us to our goals and ambitions. It pulls us up when we are knocked down and it pushes us forward when our doubts tell us to turn back. This is perseverance.
Highlights from Session #3 - Perseverance.