Perseverance Punctuates Talent
By Donald P. Marsh, Chaplain, Pastoral Care
When Vonetta Jeffrey Flowers was small she dreamed of being in the Olympics. She ran everywhere, and in her teens she won a university scholarship in track-and-field. She finished college as a seven-time All-American. In the 1996 Olympic trials she finished just behind the leaders, and failed to make the team.
In spite of her disappointment she persevered in her strenuous training, eyeing the 2000 Olympics. She lifted weights and ate right. in the Olympic trials she finished thirteenth. After 17 years of training she had not reached her lifelong goal.
Two days later her husband noticed an ad for tryouts for the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, and urged her to go. Her unusual combination of speed and power were ideal for a brakewoman, the person who pushes the sled to get it going, and then jumps in behind the driver. This time, she made the team. Two years of intense training followed. She not only competed, she won a gold medal and became the first African-American to do so in the winter Olympics.
In reflecting on Vonetta's story, leadership guru John Maxwell identifies three aspects of perseverance. First, perseverance punctuates talent. Vonetta's talent was huge, but without persevering, she would never have achieved her dream. Everyone faces obstacles, but, says Maxwell, "Only when a person matches talent with perseverance do opportunities become avenues of success."
Secondly, perseverance means succeeding because you are determined to, not destined to. If Vonetta had seen her Olympic hope as her destiny, she likely would have given up after her second failure to make the team. But she pressed on, "determined to find a way to take hold of her goals," and she was rewarded with success.
Finally, perseverance means stopping not because you are worn out, but because your task is completed. "Perseverance doesn't come into play until a person is tired," says Maxwell. After disappointment, fatigue and discouragement set in. After her failure, Vonetta's task seemed more daunting, but she kept going, kept running, until she "finally caught up with success."
Perseverance is an important decision at any time, so don't make it a once a year thing. It is a continuing resolution. And may God bless you in this new year.
"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 3:12-14, TNIV]