By Charles F. Harper

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” (Samuel Beckett)

In every hero story the hero overcomes at least one seemingly insurmountable obstacle, often only to face yet another obstacle.

The pursuit of a heroic endeavor takes discipline, courage and perseverance. To quote Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo: “The (hero’s) journey is one of continuously falling on your face, getting up, brushing yourself off, looking sheepishly at God and taking another step.” Or as inventor Thomas Alva Edison put it: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!”

Perseverance is the perspiration part of the heroic adventure. It is the point in the hero’s quest when the hero says to himself or herself: “I can’t go on (pause) I’ll go on.” It is confronting doubts about whether or not the heroic mission is worth all the time, effort and self-sacrifice. Indeed, at times it is heroes asking themselves if they have what it takes to fulfill their heroic quest.

In Taoism it is said that when a Monk asks, “What is Tao,” the Master always replies, “Walk on.”

We persevere one step at a time. Sir Edmund Hillary described how he successfully climbed Mount Everest. He explained that he never looked at the top of the mountain when he was climbing because if he did, all he would have seen were the thousands of feet he still had to climb, the dozens of obstacles he still had to overcome. Slowly, one step at a time, he scaled the steep, perilous and unpredictable slopes, dealing with the hurdles only as they came into his line of sight. In this way he conquered the world’s tallest mountain.

In the same spirit, author and educator Helen Keller admitted that she deeply desired to accomplish a great and noble task until she realized it was her chief duty to “accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” We all know that her perseverance in accomplishing the “small tasks” added up to a revolution of tools and schools to empower the deaf, the blind, and visually impaired, as well as those who had difficulty with speech.

The ability of heroes to persevere directly relates to their passion for their quest, their faith in themselves, and the joy they receive from giving of themselves. However, they do not persevere alone. They also need the encouragement of caring people to cheer them on in their journey.

No matter what the obstacles to the heroic quest, with perseverance in their tool kit, heroes can say: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”  

Question for Discussion

Stories Exemplifying Perseverance

Soichiro Honda

By: Isabella from San Francisco
Soichiro Honda was a successful inventor and businessman who built the Honda Motor Company.

Jackie Robinson

By: Brandon from Selden, New York
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball.

Annie Glenn

By: John Glenn
Annie inspired a lot of people to get treatment for their disabilities. Through the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), she would meet with people to tell her story and how she stuck with her treatment.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

By: Rebecca Miller
"During the years of our civil war, they [women] bore the brunt of inhumanity and terror... Yet, it is the women who laboured and advocated for peace throughout our region."
~Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Artwork Exemplifying Perseverance

Jane Austen

Jane Austen is my hero because she is a writer, a writer who inspires me. Not only was she a good writer, she was a female writer at a time when females weren't allowed to have ideas, let alone write. Jane Austen didn't have to hide who she was to get published; her work was just that good. She has shown me that if you persevere and keep going, you can do anything you want to.

Thurgood Marshall - Reigning Supreme

I've been with you from the beginning

The Lincoln Record


Films Exemplifying Perseverance


Producer: Anson Schloat and John G. Young
Liz Murray overcomes her difficult childhood to win a scholarship to go to college.

Portraits of Perseverance

Producer: Anson Schloat / John G. Young
These amazing kids of character show great strength in Perseverance.

A Fire Within

Producer: Polly Green
Polly Green lets nothing stand in the way of her realizing her dreams.


Producer: Fary Sakho from SENEGAL
A tale of courage and passion in the face of adversity. TAGGAT MEDIA SCHOOL

Synonyms for Perseverance

Assertiveness; insistence; self-discipline; resolve; commitment; determination; diligence

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Organizer created on 2/14/2011 12:34:28 PM by

Last edited 10/30/2018 12:16:19 AM by Anthony Pouw