Perseverance Pays Off


HENRYLITO D. TACIO

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

For comments, henrytacio@gmail.com


By now, everyone seemed to have heard of the movie, La La Land, even if they have not seen it. It was first declared as the winner of Best Picture during the recent Oscar awards. But a few minutes later, the producers of Moonlight took over the center stage as the independent film was the real winner of the prestigious trophy.

La La Land didn’t get the Best Picture alright but it won Damien Chazelle the coveted Best Director award (getting the distinction as the youngest ever, at the age of 32, to get it). Emma Stone was also adjudged Best Actress winner.

What most Filipinos don’t know that La La Land was almost never done. “Damien had a tough time convincing others of the viability of his vision,” a move scribe reported. He waited for six years in order for his love letter to old school Hollywood cinema to get from script to screen.

In an interview with New York Magazine, the scriptwriter-director believed he ultimately made the movie at the right time in his career. “I look back now and think I caught a lucky break. I probably wasn’t ready to do the movie until I did it and, initially, I was a little naïve about the resources we needed for the movie,” he was quoted as saying.

Six years is too long indeed but Chazelle waited, waited and waited. He was not alone in his dilemma, however. Before he became a best-selling author, Stephen King admitted that he hammered a nail into the wall when he was younger, and kept all his rejection slips there, until he reached 100. In his wonderful On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he wrote: “When you get to 100, give yourself a pat on the back… You’ve arrived.”

Award-winning F. Scott Fitzgerald had the same experience. By July 1919, he accumulated 122 rejections slips, which he pinned in his room. It was not until his novel, This Side of Paradise, was published that his short started appearing in magazines. Jesse Stuart piled up 47 rejection slips for one short story before it was accepted by Arizona Quarterly, which picked it as the Best Story of the Year later on. The story was further reprinted.

Ernest Hemingway was one of those who collected rejection slips scattered on his road to literary fame. Unable to sell any stories he wrote in summer and fall in 1919, he asked Edwin Balmer, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, for advice. “The writing business is a funny business and you’ll never know when something will sell,” Balmer said. “Rejected stories did not stay rejected forever.”

“Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth,” British actress Julie Andrews once said. Richard M. DeVos has the same view: “If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, ‘Here comes number seventy-one!’”

Jacob Riis offers this statement: “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Damien Chazelle the coveted Best Director award for the movie La La Land
Damien Chazelle the coveted Best Director award for the
movie La La Land

Kevin Sorbo, known for his television commercials in the United States, understood this well. “You have to persevere,” he said. “You have to do it. I have insecurities. But whatever I’m insecure about I don’t dissect it, but I’ll go after it and say, ‘What am I afraid of?’ I bet the average successful person can tell you they’ve failed so much more than they’ve had success. I’ve had far more failures than I’ve had successes. With every commercial I’ve gotten, there were 200 I didn’t get. You have to go after what you’re afraid of.”

The phenomenal Bjorn Borg agrees: “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”

“If you want to get somewhere,” well-known speaker Norman Vincent Peale once said, “you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up.”

Remember Sir Winston Churchill? History records showed that it took him three years getting through eighth grade because he had trouble learning English. It seems ironic that several years later, the Oxford University asked him to address its commencement exercises.

Churchill arrived with his usual props. A cigar, a cane, and a top hat accompanied Churchill wherever he went. As Churchill approached the podium, the crowd rose in appreciative applause. With unmatched dignity, he settled the crowd and stood confident before his admirers. Removing the cigar and carefully placing the top hat on the podium, Churchill gazed at his waiting audience. Authority rang in Churchill’s voice as he shouted, “Never give up!”

Several seconds passed before he rose to his toes and repeated: “Never give up!” His words thundered in their ears. There was a deafening silence as Churchill reached for his hat and cigar, steadied himself with his cane and left the platform. His commencement address was finished.

Award-winning F. Scott Fitzgerald accumulated 122 rejections slips until his novel, This Side of Paradise, was published that his short started appearing in magazines
Award-winning F. Scott Fitzgerald accumulated 122 rejections slips until his novel, This
Side of Paradise, was published that his short started appearing in magazines

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up,” Thomas Edison pointed out. “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” He was talking from experience: he tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light.

Sometimes, we fail what we want to do in life because we aim so high. We want to be a star, although we can only be a tree. But being a tree doesn’t mean that you will not a star in your own right. If you are a tree, be the best tree of all trees.

Famous American humorist Mark Twain reminded: “Stars are good too. I wish I could get some to put in my hair. But I suppose I never can. You would be surprised to find how far off they are, for they do not look it. When they first showed last night, I tried to knock some down with a pole, but it didn’t reach, which astonished me. Then I tried clods till I was all tired out, but I never got one. I did make some close shots, for I saw the black blot of the clod sail right into the midst of the golden clusters forty or fifty times, just barely missing them, and if I could’ve held out a little longer, maybe I could’ve got one.”

B.C. Forbes declared: “History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”

Never give up, indeed!

Perseverance Pays Off 3