Perseverance – Just Keep Swimming
M.D. Personal Journal
I’m always reading about the stories of successful people and what distinguishes them from other people. Many successful people have similar traits that help them rise to the top. Of course it helps to have a bit of luck, privilege, and being in the right place at the right time.
Perseverance is a characteristic that is commonly attributed to highly successful people. As a physician, I can say that anyone pursuing a medical career needs a truckload of perseverance. This is probably the case of any skilled profession. There are numerous hurdles to overcome; tests, interviews, setbacks, rejection, failure, more tests, burnout, and disappointment. At any stage of the journey, there is always the temptation to quit. And quit, many do.
I was pretty gung-ho about being a physician up until medical school. The first two years of classroom teaching nearly overwhelmed me, and for awhile, I fell into a deep slump. No matter how hard I worked, I was barely passing my classes. The pace of learning was equivalent to drinking through a firehose. And everywhere I looked, my classmates appeared to be doing just fine and partying on the weekends. It was a good thing classes were graded on a pass-fail basis. That was the first time I called my parents to tell them I was on the verge of quitting.
I was able to get over that hump and the clinical years were a bit better. That is, until I hit the surgery rotation and then the OB-Gyn rotation back to back. Not only were the hours brutal, but I had no particular interest in either specialty. On the surgical rotation, the med student was the errand boy and whipping boy rolled into one. After morning rounds, I would spend time in the OR (which in itself is pretty cool). But I was on the colo-rectal surgical team so there would be marathon surgical sessions lasting many hours at a time. It was the medical student’s job to hold the retractor and suck the smoke from the surgical bovie (electrical cautery device). The room would inevitably smell like burned shit. That was the second time of near-quitting.
The point is that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. There will always be setbacks and obstacles. It’s how we face those challenges that will determine the outcome of our efforts. Do we turn around at the first sign of adversity, or press on with the long game in mind?
Webster defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”
In her book Grit, Angela Lee Duckworth defines ‘grit’ as “passions and perseverance for the long term”. “Successful people are more likely to persevere when they fail because they believe failure is not a permanent condition.”
Researcher and author Carol Dweck talks about two mindsets in her book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success. The fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset people believe intelligence is static; either you have it or you don’t. This group avoids challenges, gives up easily, views effort as fruitless, and feels threatened by the success of others. The people with a growth mindset, on the other hand, embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see effort as the path to mastery.
We hear about the achievements of successful people, but rarely hear about the struggles they have encountered. JK Rowlings wrote the first Harry Potter book in 1995. It was rejected by twelve different publishers. She was a divorced single mother surviving on government subsidies and her mother had just passed away from multiple sclerosis. But she was able to persevere and turn her work into a $15 billion business.
If you have a passion for something, I encourage you to keep at it. Don’t give up at the first sign of adversity. View each setback as a stepping stone to success. Power through the tough times. Celebrate the wins and don’t dwell on the losses. Remember, failure is not a permanent condition. And like Dory says, “Just keep swimming”.
I leave you with some thoughts on perseverance.
Genius is perseverance in disguise. – Mike Newlin
If you are going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucious
It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison
Just keep swimming. – Dory
Have you persevered? Are you about to give up on something? Please share and comment below.
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Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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