2020 A Lesson in Perseverance

Annus horribilis or annus mirabilis?

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II of England saw 3 Royal marriages hit the skids, had the Duchess of York involved in a toe sucking scandal and watched over 100 rooms burn in her beloved Windsor Castle. She described her year as an ‘annus horribilis’, Latin for a horrible year. Unfortunately, much of the world will look back at 2020 with much the same sentiment; not as an annus mirabilis (wonderful year). We can be proud that we have displayed a remarkable and indeed unavoidable ability for perseverance, that stick-to-it-ness necessary for survival.

Perseverance is defined as the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially despite difficulties, obstacles or discouragement. This quality can also be called tenacity, spunk, moxie, grit, stamina, guts, purposefulness, doggedness, drive and backbone. Perseverance can be an unremitting or even annoying belief or action but generally refers to someone who does not give up despite setbacks or challenges. It is said that nothing pays off like perseverance so let’s examine it further.

Leon Uris, acclaimed author of the novel ‘Exodus’ was once a Marine and then became a truck driver. He felt he had stories and experiences to share so sat down to write a book. By all accounts, including his own, he was not a writer, having failed English 3 times but did not let that little thing deter him! In Romans 5:3-4 the Apostle Paul writes that ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope.’ The Koran says in 3.186 ‘you shall certainly be tried and tested…in your personal selves…but if you work hard (persistently) and patiently…that will be a determining factor’. In 3.20 ‘struggle on with patience and constancy…strengthen each other…that you may prosper.’ Aesop’s tale of the Tortoise and the Hare is a classic example of perseverance. The message that slow and steady wins the race is timeless. Life is a marathon race, not a sprint. We are in a race of endurance, requiring patience and discipline. Pace yourself, conserve your resources, gain strength along the way for the tasks that really matter. An individual’s motivation may be a tricky thing. It is not always easy or necessary to know the ‘why’ of something. Generally doing something about your situation is better than standing still and letting events roll over you. Often doing something is the important thing and the ‘why’ can sort itself out later.


Perseverance is considered an essential character quality in high level leadership in every field including professional Healthcare Management. In Harry S Truman’s memoir, he likened being President to riding a tiger. He said ‘a man has to keep riding or be swallowed. A President is either constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will be on top of him.’ The Little Engine That Could began her journey up the hill repeating ‘I think I can I think I can’ until cresting the hill. It then became ‘I thought I could I thought I could.’ In his book Everybody Matters, Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller Industries talks about the quality of courageous patience; that ability to see beyond the immediate that healthcare executives have long employed. Perseverance is often critical to success. ‘hang in there’ is more than just a catch phrase, more than an expression of encouragement to someone experiencing difficulty or hardship. It is sound advice for anyone hoping to do good, be good or effect change in the world. Chapman also references the concept of ‘Kaizen’, a Japanese word made up of 2 distinct characters. ‘Kai’ meaning change and ‘Zen’ meaning good, equaling change for good. He invites us to imagine the good in the world lost through hesitation, waffling, cowardice or hanging it up, whether ‘it’ is a task, a position, ethic, moral question or physical challenge.
One of the greatest and most famous speeches ever given on American soil was the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln told the world that the United States would fight on, not only for America’s sake, but for all nations ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ The Civil War was not over, Lincoln was by no means universally loved and supported but he persisted in his ideals and ultimately led the way to the abolition of slavery in the United States. Another of the greatest speeches ever given in the United States was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have A Dream’ address. On August 28, 1963 approximately 250,000 people gathered between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in a peaceful demonstration for civil rights. King too was not universally loved or supported, and the conflict is by no means resolved, but his eloquence, passion and perseverance have inspired a world towards change.

The stories of our first responders, essential workers and frontline healthcare professionals during this pandemic each are a testament to the power of perseverance. The fear, long hours, exhaustion, quarantine restrictions and pervading uncertainty have tested the resources of this country to the extreme. Often, we find that by helping others persevere we find the strength. courage and purpose to persevere ourselves.

To paraphrase a poem attributed to Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959) among others, entitled ‘DON’T QUIT’

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, …
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t QUIT

Samuel Adams said in 1771 ‘The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance.’ True then and now. Navigating the post-pandemic world will be one of our most challenging tests of perseverance. Those who survive and even flourish will have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt their mastery of the ability to persevere.

Fun Fact

Perseverance’ is the name of the new NASA Rover launched 7/30/2020 to explore the Jezero Crater on Mars. It is not due to land until 2/18/2021 so the jury is still out on its success. It is an inspired name given during this particular year as well as its uncertain mission and destination.

The team at NHS Solutions has definitely been practicing perseverance! We are working differently, efficiently, and diligently to continue to fulfil the interim nurse leadership needs of our hospital clients. We have streamlined processes and are working within the ever-changing constraints this pandemic has imposed on our operations. Contact us for more information. We are available on call 24/7.


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