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Persistence, the Crucial Step to Success

“A southern writer named John Kennedy Toole wrote a comic novel about life in New Orleans called A Confederacy of Dunces. It was so relentlessly rejected by publishers that he killed himself. That was in 1969. His mother refused to give up on the book. She sent it out and got it back, rejected, over and over again. At last she won the patronage of Walker Percy, who got it accepted by the Louisiana State University Press, and in 1980 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.” __From Rotten Reviews (Reported by Noah Lukeman in The First Five Pages.)

Rare is the man who goes to such extreme as suicide in response to rejection and to the perception that his work has been marked as failure. Probably universal, though, is the anxiety that attacks us when it seems we just cannot attain the success for which we reach. Others about us are more successful, their churches are bigger and better, their children well-behaved and ours are squirmy. Our friends are well-dressed and articulate. Their cars are shiny and dependable, their houses large–the paint not peeling. Some of them fly around the world, in wide demand as teachers and preachers, while we hear only the silence of un-ringing telephones and our engagement book is pristine and unmarked. Others’ art pieces and others’ engineering designs are perceived as prestigious, while ours remain undistinguished. No one pins medals on our lapels.

I want to remind you today that the Bible speaks to this scenario, and that the instructions therein are clear: persist, hang-on, keep trudging, keep believing, use your gifts, hone your tools.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Cor. 15:58

Think about this: If after the grief of her son’s death, and the pain from multiple rejections of his work, that mom hadn’t sent out his manuscript one more time, the papers would now be in a trash heap somewhere, burned into grey ash. Instead they are ribboned with one of the highest writing honors in the world: The Pulitzer.

Don’t give up. The corridor is long and the steps are high. Sometimes it’s dark, and you just might be tired. Don’t give up! Give your work one more thrust, one more shove, one more opportunity. Success may be close, very close.


PS July 30th 6:17 pm I’ve thought about this subject throughout the day and want to add something that is crucial for us to consider. The manuscript that finally won the Pulitzer was the same manuscript that had been rejected numerous times. Think about it; excellent work that later would receive the highest of accolades was summarily rejected time and time again.

So, then, your having failed to attain the success you’re reaching for may not be a fair assessment of the quality of your work. It may. It may not. Time and place and chance come together and in great part determines the immediate success or failure of any project.

The lesson remains the same: Persist!