Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. – Plato
What does that mean?
There are plenty of stories told of people, now known to be great, who had some difficulty in their youth. Many of these stories aren’t true, but they do serve to illustrate the point. Just because they aren’t going very fast, it doesn’t mean that they are completely hopeless.
Sometimes, especially with youth, their brains are developing and aren’t as receptive as at other times in their growing cycles. Other times, people just can’t wrap their heads around a concept, and are simply missing that final spark to have it all make sense.
If you don’t give up on them, and they don’t give up on themselves, eventually they will get it. That is what this quote is all about. Persistence. From both the teacher and the student. As long as there is progress, there is hope. Hope for more progress. Hope for a breakthrough. Hope for understanding and appreciation.
Why is persistence important?
There is an old quote that starts with “If at first you don’t succeed…” Then what? The old saying simply ends with “try again.” Modern versions might include a little extra something like “after careful analysis and some new plans.” Humor might say “Quit already, don’t be a fool!”
No matter how you end the sentence, if you don’t persist, is it possible to succeed, or are you dooming yourself to the only permanent failure, giving up? If you keep trying, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your approach, you will make progress, however slowly it may be.
Even more importantly, if you are the teacher, instead of the student, it is up to you to maintain your cool, and never speak a discouraging word. Tomorrow may be the day it makes sense. Tomorrow may be the day they get it. Tomorrow may be the day that changes their life. Tomorrow may be the day that reshapes the future, not just for them, but for all of us. You never know.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Typically, we all have something we’re just not quite getting. Something that is frustrating us. Something that’s just beyond our ability to grasp, to act on, and to understand. For me, the magic incantation necessary to balance my need to eat and my lack of time to exercise is one.
Oh, I’ve tried a bunch of different ideas, different diets, and different exercise regimens (be it weights, walking, jogging, yoga, calisthenics, or bicycling). I’ve tried different diets and methods of not eating as much, but so far, they’ve all failed in some way or another.
I manage to keep from getting too fat, but I’m heavier than I’d like. If I keep trying, and change my habits, change my approach, and change my attitudes, eventually I’ll find the combination that works for me. I don’t intend to ever give up, and I’m not going to let what others say discourage me.
What are some of the things that are eluding you? What are you just not getting? Or, even worse, what things have you given up on ever being able to complete, due to the discouraging words of others? Take a moment and consider what things might fall into either of these categories.
Grab some paper and write them down, along with short notes about what methods you’ve already tried. Then take a moment and consider what things you have managed to stay focused, been persistent, and managed to get past a rough spot and succeed. Write these down as well, along with what helped you keep going, despite discouraging words from others, or personal discouragement.
Take a look at the list you have, as well as the different sections of which it is comprised. What has discouraged you, and what have you been able to power though and complete? Were there times in your life when you had less resistance (or more) to discouragement (internal or external)?
What did this brief examination tell you about yourself? What of the things on your list do you want to get back to and finish? What haven’t you tried? What have you learned in the mean time that might help you better approach the challenge? What has happened in the world of technology since then that might help your chances of success?
What are you waiting for? Get after it! Get started, even if it’s just the planning for tomorrow’s great project. Tomorrow may be the day that reshapes the future, not just for them, but for all of us. You never know.