by Frank Tarsia — 02/06/2012 — Updated 01/16/2020
Will Power to Overcome and Succeed
Early on in my life, I became aware that attaining success in any endeavor has little to with a gifted birth, an expensive education, having an opportunity, or even a high IQ, although it doesn’t hurt. The essential component for overcoming life’s obstacles and achieving true success, whatever that may mean to you, is the endowment of an undying attitude of persistence and determination. Please understand that it is not my intention to diminish or undermine the contributions of intelligence, visionary talents or a solid education. Any one or combination of these attributes will certainly have a significant influence an individual’s ability to succeed, but without determination added to the equation, the probability of failure increases significantly. Persistence and determination provide the ultimate power to succeed.
Visionary abilities enable people to recognize ongoing trends and imagine where they possibly might take us in the future. Determination is the catalyst that drives visions and ideas to become a reality. Many of us may remember when Ted Kennedy was delivering the eulogy for his brother, Bobby, at one point he remarked, “as my brother said in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and those who sought to touch him, some men see things as they are, and say why, I dream things that never were, and say why not”? Robert Kennedy not only saw what was possible for our nation’s future, he had the determination to get us there.
Determination and Robert F. Kennedy
Robert Kennedy was a true idealistic visionary as well as an inspiration. The quality that really set Bobby apart from those with similar ideals was his unstoppable determination. As attorney general, he investigated corruption and organized crime’s infiltration into the country’s labor unions. During a session of The Senate Judiciary Committee on Organized Crime and Racketeering, Robert Kennedy challenged the legislators to enact tougher laws on organized crime.
Kennedy relentlessly pressured the Department of Justice, the FBI and state and local law enforcement to utilize whatever legal means were at their disposal to crack down on racketeering. He even pressured and publicly admonished the all-powerful J. Edgar Hoover for not effectively using the FBI when organized crime was using interstate roads and national communication systems to conduct their illegal activities, making them federal crimes. Considering that Hoover intimidated every president in office during his reign as FBI Director, including three presidents that contemplated the removal of Hoover as head of the FBI, publicly challenging him and his effectiveness was quite remarkable; a testament to RFK’s courage and determination.
Robert Kennedy personally attacked Jimmy Hoffa, when he was called to appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on organized crime on numerous occasions to answer for activities uncovered through federal investigations. Bobby’s determination was so intense and effective against organized crime; many reliable sources believe that his tenacity and determination was such a genuine threat to the underworld, that it led to his assassination in June of 1968 as the only way they felt he could be stopped.
As a side note, investigations indicated that Hoffa would not allow organized crime to control him or the nationwide Teamster’s union of which he was so proud. However, he was connected and beholden to them for helping him get elected Teamster’s Union Treasurer in earlier years. His subsequent popularity among the Teamster’s rank and file got him elected National Union President. After Hoffa’s reign as Union President, he became a threat to the mob in 1975, when he intended to expose Frank Fitzsimmons, his successor, as being under mob control and lending them millions in union pension funds to finance their illegal Las Vegas ventures. Before he had the opportunity of testifying on mob’s infiltration of the Teamster’s Union, Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing in July of 1975 and suspected dead. His body was never found.
Exposing Misconceptions of Success Stories
Essential to achieving any type of progress requires vision, ideas, creativity, and planning. Nevertheless, relentless determination is needed as the catalyst to accomplish any worthy objective. Instead, people often prefer to think about stories where super-intellects like Bill Gates (MicroSoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (Apple) starting companies from meager beginnings and miraculously materialize them into mega-corporations.
Somewhat like fairy tales, “once upon a time” this young man had an idea for making a new gadget. He began working out of his college dorm room and used an empty garage to work at night. Soon, using all his creativity and ingenuity, his gadget was completed and his idea grew into a worldwide icon that employed millions of people, and “everyone lived happily ever after.”
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs augmented their intellect and visions of the future with almost obsessive determination. On the other hand, Steve Wozniak, a virtual genius in computer technology, would have been satisfied designing and building computers as a salaried employee without being driven by Steve Jobs. In fact, he was known to have frequently complained about the constant design demands from Jobs.
It does make for a more interesting story; “a major corporation arose out of the rubble of poverty to become an industry leader as a result of its founders being smart;” or my personal favorites “they were in the right place at the right time” or “it’s who you know, not what you know.” Public relations people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe in them themselves. However, while it certainly helps to be smart, and recognize an opportunity, it’s rarely the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, many of which probably having had dozens of worthwhile ideas and concepts, who achieve nothing.
In almost every walk of life, talent is overrated in favor of persistence and determination. In part because it makes a better story, and to some extent because it gives onlookers an excuse for being lazy, or a reason for jealousy and envy. In many instances, when a venture is successful, determination is oddly mistaken for talent. All of this begs the question, what about ambition, isn’t it a major factor for achieving success? Of course it is, but only because genuine ambition encourages its own determination and persistence as a course of action. By their definition, determination and persistence is the act of sustaining the ambition to succeed, regardless of the difficulties and obstacles placed before us.
Certainly intelligence and vision are required to recognize opportunities for the future endeavors. It may require creative intelligence to design, develop and apply state-of-the-art technologies to achieve mega success. However, addressing unanticipated complications and overcoming numerous stumbling blocks will challenge any earnest and industrious effort. This is especially true when complications and challenges are sustained over a period of time. In certain instances, it may even become necessary to rethink original designs and concepts and start anew. The common denominators for meeting such demanding challenges and accomplishing worthy goals is determination and persistence.
Developing human capabilities for meeting any challenge, whether it be winning in athletic competitions, maintaining peak physical fitness, or achieving excellence at a skill or ability, requires determination and persistence along with the initial commitment and ambitious dedication.
Mario Andretti, one of the most famous NASCAR drivers of all time, had as his mantra: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal; a commitment to excellence that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
Dennis Waitley, PhD, who is quite possibly the most gifted motivational speaker of our time, as well as a prominent authority on winning and succeeding in life frequently quotes; “determination gives you the resolve to keep going despite the roadblocks that lay before you.”
In closing, I will quote John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., our nation’s 30th President, when he stated, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence and determination. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”