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Determined to Do It
What It Takes
If you have ever wondered how some people overcome the most harrowing obstacles, the answer is perseverance. The sheer determination to continue forward no matter what. This, in fact, is what separates a special forces soldier from people like you and me; they will not give up, under any circumstances. Author John Collins discusses this SEAL mindset in his book Self-Discipline, summed up with the advice, “Never ring the bell.” As Collins explains, “When you just can’t take anymore, you simply ring the bell and it is all over. You are dismissed from training and you no longer have to go through the hell that is the SEAL training process.”
Plus, many of us surely remember the words of Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai: “Even if one's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty.” While this is clearly not literally possible, this conveys just what level of devotion the Samurai was expected to have.
Never Give Up
Additionally, there is nothing worse than giving up. We have all, after all, heard the saying that it is better to try and fail than to never have tried at all. And, there is the genre of the Glorious Defeat in the study of warfare. For instance, the story of the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) lives on in history. In reality, they were defeated and killed by the Persians, yet their bravery earned them immortality. And in America, there was General Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). All controversy aside, Custer and his men are celebrated as going down fighting.
We might also remember Santiago, the old man from Ernest Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and the Sea. In the story the old fisherman Santiago goes eighty-four days without catching a fish. Yet, he does not give up; in fact, he determines to go out further next time. Santiago is determined, whereas nearly everyone else has given up on him, considering him “salao, which is the worst form of unlucky.”
On the one hand, Santiago goes through a great struggle to acquire the great fish, only to lose it to harsh circumstances, including hungry sharks. For this reason, the novella is viewed by many as a story of futility. However, as Schatz puts it in “Lessons in Manliness,” “It is a story about the indomitable spirit of man’ Santiago stands as a symbol of an attitude toward life, and his fight with the mighty marlin offers numerous lessons to all men.” (Of course, the tragic irony is discussing Hemingway’s work in the context of not giving up. He, after all, did give up—shooting himself with a shotgun. Depression is undoubtedly a difficult thing.)
Lastly, we humans are social animals and competition can be fierce. As author Robert Greene points out in Mastery, we often observe competition as children competing for grades and popularity, but the stakes are raised as adults competing for jobs and to make a living. As in his other books, Greene suggests we adopt ‘intense realism’ which entails seeing people and things as they are, not what we want them to be. Without such social intelligence, we waste our time entangled in unnecessary battles. Thus, we must be determined to effectively understand and deal with others to also excel in other areas of our lives.
In conclusion, it is unlikely that we will face challenges comparable to that of NAVY SEALs or Samurai or perhaps even an old fisherman, but we can certainly learn from their perseverance and dedication. In short, never give up. If we never give up, we will eventually succeed, no? Thus, our focus ought to be on overcoming all obstacles. We must remember, however, that the first step to this process is commitment. That is, we commit to achieving our goal. No matter what.
Collins, John. Self-Discipline: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Discipline like a US NAVY SEAL: Gain Incredible Self Confidence, Motivation, & True Discipline with Techniques used only by these Elite Warriors! (p. 16). Kindle Edition.
Greene, Robert. Mastery. New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print
Tsunetomo, Yamamoto. Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.