News September 2012

Determination and Persistence – Sisyphus today

Sisyphus is often seen as an ‘absurd’ hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. In the myth, one sees simply the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it up a slope in seemingly endless motion. At the end of his long effort, measured by time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then he watches the stone rush down again, knowing he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain. That moment is like a breathing space, his hour of consciousness. In this moment he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock. (‘Myth of Sisyphus’, Albert Camus)

In many ways we can relate to Sisyphus, battling daily through traffic jams and taking on more and more work. We feel exhausted most of the time, yet rarely accomplish anything really significant. We willingly exhaust ourselves by pushing the rock uphill, knowing that we have to do it again the next day. The rock remains – waiting for us in anticipation – taunting us, daring us. We embrace it, more or less lovingly. Yet – are we pushing the right stone?

Determination is the essential human strength for survival and progress. The difference between success and failure lies in the purpose, which drives the engine of success. Not only young people are looking for meaning in life, for a purpose, and a way to realise their dreams and ideas. Often we focus on the obstacles and adversities instead of taking step after step towards our goal. Even Sisyphus had a choice Рhe could either choose defeat and suffering, or to transcend his destiny.

David Unaipon and Salvatore Ferragamo have more in common than it seems at first. Both learned the art of shoe making, both came from an adverse, though different background – and both kept going with their ideas, the realisation of their dreams – achieving more than they ever imagined. What they had in common was determination and persistence. There were no short cuts, no quick fixes. Nothing worth doing comes easy. It takes determined efforts, commitment and persistence to achieve one’s dreams, whatever they may be. There will always be obstacles, there will always be disappointments – even moments of despair. But determined people, like Unaipon and Ferragamo, turn these challenges into opportunities.

Determination requires discipline, self-control, and an unwavering set of core values. The crucial test of the power of determination and commitment is not the ability to build empires or lasting monuments, but the moral capacity to overcome adversities.

Determination is essential for success, however one defines it. As Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933, President of US) puts it:

‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence… Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.’


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