“I grew up with an ambition and determination without which I would have been a good deal happier. I thought a lot and developed the faraway look of a dreamer, for it was always the distant heights that fascinated me and drew me to them in spirit. I was not sure what could be accomplished with tenacity and little else, but the target was set high and each rebuff only saw me more determined to see at least one major dream to its fulfillment.” — Earl Denman, Alone to Everest
Piettre Tielhard de Chardin once told the following story:
A group of mountain climbers took off to scale the heights. After some hours of walking, they got about halfway up and soon split up into three groups. They were all refreshing themselves at a chalet.
One group was sorry it had undertaken such a strenuous trip fraught with dangers and disproportionate to the expected enjoyment. So disheartened and tired, this group turned back.
The second group was happy it was here in the clear mountain air and with the sun tanning them. So they spread their limbs out on the mountain grass and heartily ate the tasty sandwiches they had brought along. Some broke out into song and breathed in the freedom of the heights. They were content and happy right here. Why move on higher? So they stayed right there.
It was only the third group of real mountain climbers who took off for the summit, which they had kept before their eyes from time they left the valley bottom. That was their goal and they relished tightening every muscle to attain it.
“In life as we climb to our goal, at times we belong to one of these three moods,” Chardin concluded.
It is our will to succeed that gives us motivation to go on — to reach the goal we want to have. Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone, was one such believer.
“I had made up my mind to find that for which I was searching even if it required the remainder of my life,” Bell said. “After innumerable failures I finally uncovered the principle for which I was searching, and I was astounded at its simplicity. I was still more astounded to discover the principle I had revealed was not only beneficial in the construction of a mechanical hearing aid but it served as well as means of sending the sound of the voice over a wire.
He discovered another thing that came out from his investigation: “When a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.”
Of course, you must have heard of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr., an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935. At one time, when William Moulton Marston asked him what the most exciting moment of his career was, he replied that it was during one game in the World Series.
Babe Ruth was in a slump, his team was behind and two strikes had been called on him. The crowd started to boo. His desire to win rose to the emergency. He pointed to a distant spot in the field and yelled at the hooting fans, “I’ll knock it out there for you.”
He hit the next ball where he said he would. It was the longest home run ever made at Wrigley Field. When Marston asked him what he thought about when the ball was pitched, he answered: “What’d I think about? Why, what I always think about: just hittin’ the ball.”
Ruth’s reply reminded me of the words of Paul Graham. “Being strong-willed is not enough, however,” the English computer scientist said. “You also have to be hard on yourself. Someone who was strong-willed but self-indulgent would not be called determined. Determination implies your willfulness is balanced by discipline.”
In one of his speeches, British Prime Minister Winston S. Church reminded the audience not to give up: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Mario Andretti has this thought: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
Sarah Dessen, author of Keeping the Moon, has some suggestions. “If you try anything, if you try to lose weight, or to improve yourself, or to love, or to make the world a better place, you have already achieved something wonderful, before you even begin,” she wrote. “Forget failure. If things don’t work out the way you want, hold your head up high and be proud. And try again. And again. And again!”
Asked by a fellow pianist if he could be ready to play a recital on short notice, Jan Paderewski replied, “I am always ready. I have practiced eight hours daily for 40 years.”
“I wish I had been born with such determination,” the other said. “We are all born with it,” Paderewski answered. “I just used mine.”
The words of Joseph Hill “Joss” Whedon, an American screenwriter and film and television director, came into my mind: “The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.”