The Power of Perseverance

Salmon: Native animal symbols of Instinct, persistence and determination.
Salmon: Native animal symbols of Instinct, persistence and determination.
To persevere means to persist in spite of difficulties and it is perhaps the most important characteristic we need to see us through the inevitable tough times most of us will face at one time or another. To weather life’s storms, to follow through on our personal and business goals, to make our dreams come true whatever they are, we need to persevere. The old adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” is one simple quote to keep tucked away for when we need it. One that I made up and keep beside my computer is, “Tough times pass, tough people endure.”

Another quote that picks me up when I’m down, or find myself indulging in a little self-pity, is by a woman I met briefly years ago. A neighbor of a friend I was visiting, this elderly woman was recovering from a quadruple by-pass. She lived on her own and with no one to take care of her, she took care of herself. I didn’t know her at all, but I so admired her courage. When I asked her how she was making out, she looked me straight in the eye and told me, “Not terrific, but remember, no matter what happens to you, don’t mope — just cope. I’ll be fine.” I’ve never forgotten her or her very simple, but stoic advice. Even when I began to lose my hair years later with alopecia areata, I allowed one day to mourn the loss, a moping moment, then began the next day fresh for battle, looking for solutions, options — ready for a great challenge. My hair did get back to normal, but whenever I think about the experience, I smile remembering how this lady’s advice has held me in good stead over the years. Of course, that’s not my biggest challenge ever, just an assault on one’s vanity, but no matter what happens I always automatically think of this quote.

Here’s another case of never giving up — this time on a business dream — a stick-to-it-iveness story from “The One Minute Millionaire” by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen. I’d say that people overcoming obstacles are my favorite kinds of stories. Just love that “keep on truckin” attitude!”

One day in 1948, a machine shop manager and inventor named George de Mestral went on a hike with his dog near his home in the Swiss Alps. They came back covered with burrs. At first annoyed while plucking them off, he became intrigued. He wondered what made them stick so well to cloth.

Placing a burr under his microscope, he saw small hooks that burrowed into the little loops within the clothing fabric. The idea of a “hook and loop fastener” was born. However, commercial production of hook-and-loop tape turned out to be no easy task. He set out for Lyon, France, to present the concept to textile experts. They laughed at him. But one weaver there took an interest in de Mestral’s idea. The two began working together and succeeded in producing a workable prototype.

De Mestral then found a Swiss loom manufacturer who agreed to manufacture their product. But it proved to be too difficult, prompting the manufacturer to give up.

De Mestral was forced to take on the task alone. For months he carried out various experiments. Months went by. Still no solution. He had lost all of his backers’ support. He went broke. Desperate, de Mestral retreated to a mountain cabin to think the problem over.

Upon his return he recontacted his friend the weaver to discuss a new approach. The two built a special loom that worked. An investor agreed to finance the venture. De Mestral named the new fastener Velcro — vel for velvet, cro for crochet. He patented it in 1955 and by 1959 was selling more than 60 million yards of the material per year. In 2001 the company had total annual sales over $250 million, and it employed 3,300 people, so imagine it today when velcro is being used in countless applications.

George de Mestral’s eight years of perseverance paid off handsomely.