Quotations about:
    perseverance


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Do not get lost in a sea of despair. You must not become bitter or hostile; be hopeful and optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.

John Lewis
John Lewis (1940-2020) American politician and civil rights leader
Stump speech

Lewis used variations of these phrases regularly through his career. Several abridged combinations showed up in social media:

Ours is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year--it is the struggle of lifetime. We must build a world at peace with itself.
[Twitter (14 Jul 2016)]

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.
[Twitter (27 Jun 2018)]

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.
[Twitter (16 Jul 2019)]

 
Added on 27-Jul-22 | Last updated 27-Jul-22
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If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
(Attributed)

Broadly attributed to Addison, but possibly a 19th Century creation. The earliest found appearance is in 1854, and the earliest attribution to Addison in in 1862.
 
Added on 14-Jun-21 | Last updated 14-Jun-21
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Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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Added on 23-Apr-21 | Last updated 23-Apr-21
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One of the first things that a young person must internalize, deep down in the blood and bones, is the understanding that he may encounter many defeats, but he must not be defeated. If life teaches us anything, it may be that it’s even necessary to suffer some defeats. When we look at a diamond, a diamond is the result of extreme pressure. Less pressure, it is crystal; less than that, it is coal; and less than that, it is fossilized leaves or just plain dirt. It is necessary, therefore, to be tough enough to bite the bullet as it is in fact shot into one’s mouth, to bite it and stop it before it tears a hole in one’s throat.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Maya Angelou Raps,” interview by Jeffrey M. Elliot, Sepia (Oct 1977)
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Added on 19-Jan-21 | Last updated 19-Jan-21
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Clarity and perseverance are difficult in American society because the basis of capitalism is greed and dissatisfaction.

Natalie Goldberg (b. 1948) American author, teacher, speaker
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, ch. 42 (1990)
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Added on 11-Sep-20 | Last updated 11-Sep-20
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For we hold that the man who is truly good and wise will bear with dignity whatever fortune sends, and will always make the best of his circumstances, as a good general will turn the forces at his command to the best account, and a good shoemaker will make the best shoe that can be made out of a given piece of leather, and so on with all other crafts.

[τὸν γὰρ ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἔμφρονα πάσας οἰόμεθα τὰς τύχας εὐσχημόνως φέρειν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων ἀεὶ τὰ κάλλιστα πράττειν, καθάπερ καὶ στρατηγὸν ἀγαθὸν τῷ παρόντι στρατοπέδῳ χρῆσθαι πολεμικώτατα καὶ σκυτοτόμον ἐκ τῶν δοθέντων σκυτῶν κάλλιστον ὑπόδημα ποιεῖν: τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ τρόπον καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους τεχνίτας ἅπαντας.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 10, sec. 13 (1.10.13) / 1101a.1-6 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Peters (1893)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For the man who is truly good and sensible bears all fortunes, we presume, becomingly, and always does what is noblest under the circumstances, just as a good general employs to the best advantage the force he has with him; or a good shoemaker makes the handsomest shoe he can out of the leather which has been given him; and all other good artisans likewise.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 8]

For we hold that the really good and prudent man will bear all changes of fortune with good grace, and will always, as the case may allow, act most nobly; exactly as a good general will use such forces as are at his disposal most skilfully, and even as a good cobbler will, out of such leather as he may have, make the most perfect show; and of all those who practice any other art the same rule will hold good.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 17]

For our conception of the truly good and sensible man is that he bears all the chances of life with decorum and always does what is noblest in the circumstances, as a good general uses the forces at his command to the best advantage in war, a good cobbler makes the best shoe with the leather that is given him, and so on through the whole series of the arts.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

For the man who is truly good and wise, we think, bears all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

We hold that the truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow; even as a good general makes the most effective use of the forces at his disposal, and a good shoemaker makes the finest shoe possible out of the leather supplied him, and so on with all the other crafts and professions.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

For a truly good and practically-wise person, we think, will bear what luck brings graciously, and, making use of the resources at hand, will always do the noblest actions, just as a good general makes the best uses in warfare of the army he has and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides he has been given, and the same with all other craftsmen.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

For we hold that a truly good and sensible man will bear all fortunes of life with propriety and will always act most nobly under whatever the given circumstances may be, like a good general, who uses a given army most effectively, or a good shoemaker, who makes the best shoes out of a given leather, and likewise with any artist.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

For we believe that the truly good and wise man bears all his fortunes with dignity, and always takes the most honorable course that circumstances permit, just as a good general uses his available forces in the most militarily effective way, and a good shoemaker makes the neatest shoe out of the leather supplied to him, and the same with all the other kinds of craftsmen.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For a truly good and intelligent person, we suppose, will bear strokes of fortune suitably, and from his resources at any time will do the finest action, just as a good general will make best use of his forces in war, and a good shoemaker will produce the finest shoe from the hides given him, and similarly for all other craftsmen.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

For the truly good and wise person, we believe, bears all the fortunes of life with dignity and always does the noblest thing in the circumstances, as a good general does the most strategically appropriate thing with the army at his disposal, and a shoemaker makes the noblest shoe out of the leather he is given, and so on with other practitioners of skills.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

For we suppose that someone who is truly good and sensible bears up under all fortunes in a becoming way and always does what is noblest given the circumstances, just as a good general makes use, with the greatest military skill, of the army he has and a shoemaker makes the most beautiful shoe out of the leather given him. It holds in the same manner with all the other experts as well.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

 
Added on 18-Feb-20 | Last updated 12-Apr-22
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Life is thick sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

[La vie est hérissée d’épines, & je ne sçais d’autre remède, que de passer vite à travers ces broussailles. C’est donner de la consistance aux maux, que de trop s’y arrêter.]

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
(Attributed)
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Quoted in Louis Mayeul Chaudon, ed., Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire [Mémoires Pour Servir à L’Histoire de M. de Voltaire], Part 2, "Anecdotes Sur Voltaire (1785, tr. 1786). The English translation is also quoted in The Lady's Magazine, "Anecdotes of Voltaire" (Jul 1786). Voltaire used a similar metaphor in a 1769 letter ("La vie est hérissée de ces épines").

More discussion: Life Is Thick Sown with Thorns, and I Know No Other Remedy Than To Pass Quickly Through Them – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 17-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Nov-22
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Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Speech, Plymouth (22 Dec 1802)

Sometimes given as "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
 
Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Nov-16
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To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to William Livingston (7 Dec 1779)
 
Added on 11-Jul-16 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Speech to students during the 1992 US Presidential campaign
 
Added on 2-Jun-16 | Last updated 2-Jun-16
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Perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our asylums.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 7-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Apr-16
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Another discovery which came out of my investigation was the fact that when a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
(Attributed)
 
Added on 15-Feb-16 | Last updated 15-Feb-16
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When I was younger, I thought I could change this world. Now I no longer think so but for emotional reasons I must keep on fighting a holding action.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Dr. Baldwin] (1982)
 
Added on 24-Nov-15 | Last updated 24-Nov-15
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An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
 
Added on 2-Oct-15 | Last updated 2-Oct-15
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Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

Newt Gingrich (b. 1943) American politician [Newton Leroy Gingrich]
Renewing American Civilization, Lecture 2 “Personal Strength” (1993)
 
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, ch. 13 (1759)
 
Added on 16-Sep-15 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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You see, fellow-soldiers, that perseverance is more prevailing than violence, and that many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.

Quintus Sertorius (c. 123-72 BC) Roman statesman and general
In Plutarch, Parallel Lives, “Sertorius,” sec. 16 [Dryden ed. (1693)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "You see, fellow-soldiers, that perseverance is worth more than energy, and that many things that cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little."
 
Added on 9-Sep-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-15
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‘Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause — and of obstinacy in a bad one.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1786) Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman
Tristam Shandy, 1.17 (1759-67)

See Browne.
 
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 17-Sep-20
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Many strokes fell tall Oaks.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine (1639)
 
Added on 12-Aug-15 | Last updated 12-Aug-15
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The only time you don’t want to fail is the last time you try a thing.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Don’t Be Afraid to Stumble,” The Rotarian (Jan 1952)
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This was a favorite phrase of Kettering's, and many versions exist or are attributed.
  • "The only time you mustn't fail is the last time you try." (The Rotarian (May 1953))
  • "The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you can't afford to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you don't fail is the last time you try something, and it works."
 
Added on 31-Jul-15 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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Dripping water hollows a stone.

Lucretius (c. 100-c. 55 BC) Roman poet [Titus Luretius Carus]
De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], 1.313 [tr. Latham (1951)]
 
Added on 29-Jul-15 | Last updated 29-Jul-15
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Drop upon drop collected will make a river. Rivers upon rivers collected will make a sea.

Sa'adi (1184-1283/1291?) Persian poet [a.k.a. Sa'di, Moslih Eddin Sa'adi, Mushrif-ud-Din Abdullah, Muslih-ud-Din Mushrif ibn Abdullah, Mosleh al-Din Saadi Shirazi, Shaikh Mosslehedin Saadi Shirazi]
The Gulistan, ch. 8, Maxim 42 (1258) [tr. Rehatsek (1964)]
 
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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The last quality, perseverance, I particularly respect: it is the very hinge of all virtues. — On looking over the world, the cause of nine parts in ten of the lamentable failures which occur in men’s undertakings & darken and degrade so much of their history, lies not in the want of talents or the will to use them, but in the vacillating and desultory mode of using them — in flying from object to object, in starting away at each little disgust, and thus applying the force which might conquer any one difficulty to a series of difficulties so large that no human force can conquer them. The smallest brook on earth, by continual running, has hollowed out for itself a considerable valley to flow in: the wildest tempest, by its occasional raging, over-turns a few cottages, uproots a few trees, and leaves after a short space no mark behind it. Commend me therefore to the Dutch virtue of perseverance! Without it all the rest are little better than fairy gold, which glitters in your purse, but when taken to the market proves to be — slate or cinders.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian
Letter to John Carlyle (15 Mar 1822)
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Added on 15-Jul-15 | Last updated 15-Jul-15
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However highly we must value courage and steadfastness in war, and however little prospect of victory there is for him who cannot resolve to seek it by the exertion of all his strength, still there is a point beyond which perseverance can only be called desperate folly, and therefore cannot be approved by any critic.

[Wie hoch auch der Wert des Mutes und der Standhaftigkeit im Kriege angeschlagen werden muß, und wie wenig Aussicht der zum Siege hat, der sich nicht entschließen kann, ihn mit der ganzen Kraftanstrengung zu suchen, so gibt es doch einen Punkt, über den hinaus das Verharren nur eine verzweiflungsvolle Torheit genannt und also von keiner Kritik gebilligt werden kann.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 4, ch. 9 “The Battle: Its Decision [Die Hauptschlacht. Ihre Entscheidung],” (4.9) (1832) [tr. Jolles (1943)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

However highly we must esteem courage and firmness in war, and however little prospect there is of victory to him who cannot resolve to seek it by the exertion of all his power, still there is a point beyond which perseverance can only be termed desperate folly, and therefore can meet with no approbation from any critic.
[tr. Graham (1873)]

No matter how highly rated the qualities of courage and steadfastness may be in war, no matter how small the chance of victory may be for the leader who hesitates to go for it with all the power at his disposal, there is a point beyond which persistence becomes desperate folly, and can therefore never be condoned.
[tr. Howard & Paret (1976)]

 
Added on 8-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jan-23
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‘Tis Perseverance that prevails.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #5110 (1732)
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Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
“The Sub-Treasury,” Speech, Illinois House of Representatives, Springfield (26 Dec 1839)
 
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Considerations by the Way,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 7 (1860)
 
Added on 7-Oct-14 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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Laugh whenever you can. Keeps you from killing yourself when things are bad. That and vodka.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Changes, ch. 33 [Sanya] (2010)
 
Added on 28-Jan-14 | Last updated 28-Jan-14
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History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Bertie Charles (B. C.) Forbes (1880-1954) American publisher
Forbes, Issue No. 1 (Sep 1917)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 23-Feb-22
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If you’re going through hell, keep going.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
(Spurious)

Also sometimes given as "If you're going through hell, don't stop." Not found in any of Churchill's written works or directly attributed to him in any reliable source. See here for more information.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Sep-14
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It is not always by plugging away at a difficulty and sticking at it that one overcomes it; but, rather, often by working on the one next to it. Certain people and certain things require to be approached on an angle.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
Journal (26 Oct 1924) [tr. O’Brien (1951)]
 
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Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #226 (24 May 1750)
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