December 29, 2016

The value of perseverance

A friend, Joanna, has recently shared the happy news that her short story has been accepted for publication in a magazine. The cool part is that the story is in English, but Joanna is a non-native English speaker: an expat from Poland who lived and worked in Ireland for eight years before relocating to Arizona. To make things even more interesting, the acceptance letter came on the heels of no less than FORTY rejections. This, of course, is an awesome lesson that perseverance pays off. And it got me thinking.

I'm not, and never have been, the sort of person who keeps trying for a long time despite repeated failures. I don't give up on the first try, nor on the third, but my approach tends to be more cautious and targeted. I feel motivated when I see a fair chance of success, and until now, I've subscribed to the belief that if something doesn't work on the tenth try, it probably won't work on the twentieth, let alone on the fortieth. 

I know, I know. I wouldn't have been able to become an inventor, since inventions require the ability to persevere even after discarding 100+ nonfunctional designs (actually, Thomas A. Edison's famous quote runs: I haven't failed. I've just found 10 000 ways that won't work.The thing is, I don't consider myself oversensitive to disappointment. Rejection letters don't depress me. It's more of a "if you keep banging against a glass ceiling, cut your losses and move on" mindset. A question of how much effort one should expend before calling it quits. Until now, I would have said that beyond a certain point, after trying several approaches, it's reasonable to conclude that the plan (whether it's getting a job in a given field or finding a publisher for a given manuscript) simply won't work.

And now Joanna's achievement is making me reassess my reasoning, and ask myself: am I too impatient? Too pessimistic? Have I been taught that in life, you either win quickly or fail? I definitely need to think about this. One thing is certain, though: from now on, I'm going to remember Joanna's forty rejections every time I'm tempted to "stop trying, cut my losses and move on"!

Image courtesy of scottchan at


  1. Perhaps I should also try.
    I'm not a translator, and not an expat, and my English is probably considerably worse since I've never lived outside Poland. I wonder if it would work, though.

    1. Whenever I have the dilemma "to try or not to try", my husband says "well, it certainly won't work if you don't try". I like his reasoning!

  2. OK, there was that time in France, but it honestly doesn't count :D