How many times do we hear the old adage, “Never give up”? We see a friend who has lost hope after so many attempts, and our instant reaction is to probably say, “Hey, don’t give up!” Or perhaps we would blurt out: “Just don’t give up, keep on trying!” This reminds me of a half-joke we used to tell in school:
Try and try, until you die
Just do it, or die trying.
It seems so simple – that of not giving up – and yet it is probably the most difficult thing to do in our lives. It’s much easier said than done.
Consider how many times we try to achieve various goals in our lifetime – may it be in school, work, or personal life. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we planned them; hurdles unexpectedly appear along the way, and then we begin doubting what motivated us in the first place. Doubt turns to despair, and despair turns to disappointment. We throw in the towel – we tell ourselves that it’s time to face the music, we must learn to accept defeat and move on.
It’s easier to give up than to constantly admonish oneself to press on against all odds. After all, why beat yourself into doing something that doesn’t have the assurance of 100% success? In the movie Matrix Revolutions, perhaps the most poignant scene for me was during the ultimate showdown between Smith and Neo. Smith had just beaten the living daylights out of Neo, who was on the ground and looked as forlorn as a defeated boxer in a ring. Smith then asked in a very exasperated tone: “Why do you fight? Why bother to get up? Why do you keep on fighting? Why? Why? Why?!!!” (Ok, that’s just a paraphrase of what he really said.)
But Neo glared back at Smith and replied:
Because I choose to.
Neo then got up and beat the living daylights out of Smith. We all know how the battle scene ended.
Boy, that hits the nail on the head! Everything is a choice. YOUR choice. YOU choose to fight a battle. YOU choose to stand up and give it another try, even if you fail again and again. For what else is failure but a way to find out how NOT to do something the next time around?
I have to deal with my own battles everyday, everything from failed experiments to failed grant applications. I too had to deal with frustrations and disappointments. Failing sucks. It is even worse when someone I know succeeded where I failed. It does a wonderful job of sucking every bit of self-esteem I have.
I applied for a fellowship two years ago. I failed the first time. But I shrugged it off, and consoled myself that I could try again the following year. So I tried again. But guess what, I failed again! That time it really, really sucked. The second time really stung.
This year, I thought about applying again, and up to the last minute I held on to my application form, having second thoughts. With much trepidation, I submitted my application. If I only had a 0.1% success rate, it would still be better than 0%, which would really be the case if I didn’t submit my application at all.
This time, I succeeded. And let me tell you, success is so much sweeter because of the bitterness of the past failures.
My friend, if you are in the midst of pursuing a particular goal in your life, and if you are at the brink of just giving up because of failure, let me impart to you this bit of wisdom that I have learned from my experience: “If you will not do it, no one else will.” Nobody can give you any guarantee of success except yourself. But if you choose to give up now, I could most certainly give you a guarantee of 0% success!
It’s your choice.