Victor Villasenor is a Hispanic writer who is a story in himself.

Raised in Southern California, says writer Jorge Casuso, Victor Villasenor was illiterate because of dyslexia until adulthood. Then a woman in Mexico taught him to read. Ironically, he decided he wanted to become a great writer and he asked God to help him.

While he worked for ten years as a laborer, digging ditches and cleaning houses, his mind was free to think and dream up characters and plots. At home he read voraciously, devouring more than five thousand books. He memorized favorite openings and analyzed paragraphs and sentences, taking them apart to see how they worked. And most important, he started writing. He wrote nine novels, sixty-five short stories, and ten plays. He sent them all to publishers. All were rejected. One publisher sent him a rejection letter that simply said, "You're kidding."

Incredibly he was encouraged by that. It meant that at least the publisher had read his submission. Then in 1972 after 260 rejections, Villasenor sold his first novel, which was called Macho. He then published a nonfiction work called Jury: People vs. Juan Corona, an award-winning screenplay called Ballad of Gregorio Cortex, and, the crowning work of his life, a two-part saga of his family called Rain of Gold that took twelve years to write.

With a lot of hard work on Villasenor's part, God answered his prayer.

Diligence, Failure, Overcomers, Work Heb. 10:36

On opening day of the 1954 baseball season, the Milwaukee Braves visited the Cincinnati Reds. Two rookies began their major league careers with that game. The Reds won 9-8 as Jim Greengrass hit four doubles in his first big-league game. A sensational debut for a young player with a made-for-baseball name!

The rookie starting in left field for the Braves went 0 for 5. Not a very auspicious start for one Henry Aaron. [Who is now famous in the Baseball Hall of Fame].

Failure, Spiritual Gifts

During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears' running back, had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, "Yeah, and that's with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards!"

Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone—even the best—gets knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.

Obstacles, Success

John Killinger retells this story from Atlantic Monthly about the days of the great western cattle ranches:

A little burro sometimes would be harnessed to a wild steed. Bucking and raging, convulsing like drunken sailors, the two would be turned loose like Laurel and Hardy to proceed out onto the desert range. They could be seen disappearing over the horizon, the great steed dragging that little burro along and throwing him about like a bag of cream puffs. They might be gone for days, but eventually they would come back. The little burro would be seen first, trotting back across the horizon, leading the submissive steed in tow. Somewhere out there on the rim of the world, that steed would become exhausted from trying to get rid of the burro, and in that moment, the burro would take mastery and become the leader.

And that's the way it is with the kingdom and its heroes, isn't it? The battle goes to the determined, not to the outraged; to the committed, not to those who are merely dramatic.

Determination, Emotions

On March 6,1987, Eamon Coughlan, the Irish world record holder at 1500 meters, was running in a qualifying heat at the World Indoor Track Championships in Indianapolis. With two and a half laps left, he was tripped. He fell, but he got up and with great effort managed to catch the leaders. With only 20 yards left in the race, he was in third place—good enough to qualify for the finals.

He looked over his shoulder to the inside, and, seeing no one, he let up. But another runner, charging hard on the outside, passed Coughlan a yard before the finish, thus eliminating him from the finals. Coughlan's great comeback effort was rendered worthless by taking his eyes off the finish line.

It's tempting to let up when the sights around us look favorable. But we finish well in the Christian race only when we fix our eyes on the goal: Jesus Christ.

Focus, Zeal

Even as a young amateur golfer Tiger Woods was known for mental toughness. In the New York Times Larry Dorman tells where some of that toughness came from:

His father and mentor, Earl Woods, traces it to an incident that occurred in 1992 when Tiger was 16 and playing in the Junior Orange Bowl Tournament at Miami. The young man was, as Earl recalls it, "a little full of himself" and when things started going badly for him, he began to pout. Then he went into the tank, and stopped trying.

Earl, a former Green Beret, chewed his son out. "I asked him who he thought he was," the elder Wood said. "I told him golf owed him nothing and that he had better not ever quit again."

The way Earl remembers it, Tiger never said a word. And he has never quit again.

The best things in life don't come served on a platter to those who think they deserve it. They come to those who know they must persevere no matter who they are and no matter what happens.

Child Rearing, Expectations, Fathers, Persistence, Quitting, Self-Pity Ps. 27:14; 1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9-10; Heb. 10:36

Even the most talented people may not get it right the first time.

In a 1995 interview ex-Beatle Paul McCartney said he once wrote a song with the first line "Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs."

Have you ever heard that song?

Not likely. McCartney tossed those words and wrote, "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away."

Since then "Yesterday" has played on the radio more than six million times, more than any other record in history. "Yesterday" also happens to be McCartney's favorite song.

The difference between failure and success—between "Scrambled Eggs" and "Yesterday"—is persistence.

Ministry, Perseverance, Success, Writing Acts 13:13; 1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9-10; Heb. 10:36

Someone Once Said ...

Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.

Samuel Johnson

We can do anything we want as long as we stick to it long enough.

Helen Keller

There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.

David Lloyd George

There are very few problems that pure, dogged persistence won't eventually solve.

Zig Ziglar

I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.—William Carey

The optimistic individual perseveres. In the face of routine setbacks, and even of major failures, he persists. When he comes to the wall at work, he keeps going, particularly at the crucial juncture when his competition is also hitting the wall and starting to wilt.

Martin Seligman

The ability to concentrate—to persevere on a course without distraction or diversion—is a power that has enabled men of moderate capability to reach heights of attainment that have eluded the genius. They have no secret formula other than to persevere.

R. Alec Mackenzie.

I have God, and his Word is sure ….. and though the superstition of the heathen were a million times worse than they are, if I were deserted by all, and persecuted by all, yet my hope, fixed on that sure Word, would rise superior to all obstructions ….. I shall come out of all trials as gold purified by fire.

William Carey

There is no means of escaping from tribulation and sorrow, except to bear them patiently.

Thomas Kempis

We must never forget that the word persevere comes from the prefix per, meaning through, coupled with the word severe. It means to keep pressing on, trusting God, looking up, doing our duty—even through severe circumstances.

Helen Hayes once made a shrewd observation that is as pertinent to business leadership as it is to her own profession of acting. Talent and ability are not enough, she said. "Nothing is any good without endurance."

Landing Well

During World War II, the Royal Air Force psychologists observed that pilots made the most errors as they flew their planes in for a landing on returning to their base from hazardous raids. The cause, said the analysts, was an "almost irresistible tendency to relax."


The ultimate source of a manager's ability to stay the course must be self-discipline. Only then can he share the boast of a genius like Louis Pasteur: "My greatest strength lies solely in my tenacity."

Lacking Perseverance

Author A. J. Cronin was a medical doctor at age thirty-three in London's West End, and, he says, "I wasn't a bad doctor." But he was frustrated by a certain character flaw that inhibited everything that he did. He didn't stick with any one thing for long. He lacked perseverance.

One day he developed indigestion and at length consulted a colleague who diagnosed gastric ulcers and, to Cronin's shock, prescribed six months complete rest in the country on a milk diet.

Cronin retreated to a small farmhouse near the village of Tarbert in the Scottish Highlands. After a week of forced idleness, Cronin felt himself going crazy, bored, and reduced to feeding chickens and learning the names of cattle. Casting round for something to do, he recalled that for years he had considered being a writer.

"By heavens!" Cronin said to himself, "This is my opportunity. Gastric ulcer or no gastric ulcer, I will write a novel." Going straight into the village, he bought himself two dozen tablets of paper. Upstairs in his cold, clean bedroom, he sat at a small table and tried to think of something to write. After three hours, the page was still blank, but eventually he began to write a few sentences.

For three months, he wrote down sentences and wadded up discarded sheets of paper. Finally he sent a batch of material to his secretary in London who typed and returned it. Reading it over, Cronin was appalled. It was utter nonsense, and he decided to abandon the whole thing. He abruptly bundled up the papers, went out, threw them in the ash can, and went for a walk in the drizzling rain.

Halfway down the shoreline of the lake, he came to old Angus, the farmer, patiently and laboriously ditching a patch of heath. As the two men talked, Cronin told the farmer of his decision to abandon writing. The old man was silent a long while before speaking.

"No doubt you're the one that's right, doctor, and I'm the one that's wrong. My father ditched this bog all his days and never made a pasture. I've dug it all my days and I've never made a pasture. But pasture or no pasture, I can not help but dig. For my father knew and I know that if you only dig enough a pasture can be made here."

Cronin, understanding the old man's words, tramped back to the farm, drenched and cold, and he picked up the soggy bundle from the ash can. He dried the pages at the kitchen oven, then flung it onto the table and began to work with a kind of frantic desperation. I would not be beaten, I would not give in. I wrote harder than ever. At last, toward the end of the third month, I wrote "finis." I had created a book.

He sent his manuscript to a publisher at random and promptly forgot about it.

On the last day of his stay, Cronin went around the village to say good-bye to those who had befriended him. Entering the post office, he was handed a telegram— an urgent invitation to meet the publisher. His novel, Hatter's Castle, was chosen by the Book Society, dramatized and serialized, translated into nineteen languages, bought by Hollywood, and went on to sell millions of copies.

I had altered my life radically, beyond my wildest dreams. And all because of a timely lesson in the grace of perseverance.

Truman and Korea

Having successfully driven Communists from the south of Korea, President Harry Truman decided to press beyond the 38th parallel and liberate the entire peninsula, calculating that the Chinese wouldn't intervene. But on the day after Thanksgiving in 1950, China launched a furious counterattack, sending over a quarter-milhon troops against American forces. As Truman gathered his advisors at the White House, the mood was silent and grim. The president began to speak, and suddenly his mouth drew tight, his cheeks flushed. It appeared to the men that Truman would sob. But when he spoke again, his voice was strangely calm and quiet. He said, "This is the worst situation we have had yet. We'll just have to meet it as we've met all the rest... Let's go ahead now and do our jobs as best we can."

His Secret

In a 1992 Reader's Digest article titled "The Ultimate Key to Success," Suzanne Chazin wrote:

Every day, a fatherless boy gazed at the fence separating his family's ramshackle cabin from the Glen Lakes Country Club golf course on the outskirts of Dallas. What chance did a poof Chicano boy with a seventh-grade education have of being welcomed into that world?

Yet the boy was determined. First, he gained entrance to the grounds as a gardener. Then he began caddying and playing a few holes at dusk. He honed his putting skills by hitting balls with a soda bottle wrapped in adhesive tape.

Today no fence keeps Lee Trevino, two-time U.S. Open winner, from being welcomed into any country club in the nation.

Sure, Trevino had talent. But talent isn't what kept him from quitting after he placed an embarrassing fifty-fourth in his first U.S. Open. His secret was perseverance.

Persistent people know they can succeed where smarter and more talented people fail. . . . Successful people understand that no one makes it to the top in a single bound. What truly sets them apart is their willingness to keep putting one step in front of the other—no matter how rough the terrain.

The Spidier and the King

In the thirteenth century, there was a disagreement between Scottish leaders about which of them should be king. England's King Edward I stepped in and took the honor for himself, stripping Scotland of its crown, its royal regalia, and even the sacred Stone of Scone on which the kings of Scotland had always been crowned. The latter he placed in Westminster Abbey in London.

The outraged Scots secretly crowned Robert Bruce their king, but they seemed no match for the English army. Scottish troops were scattered, living in the mountains, living on eels and salmon and deer, and under constant attack from their enemy. Robert Bruce himself was wounded, and his capture seemed imminent. The English had even captured one of his bloodhounds and were using it to search for him.

After madly careening through the Scottish woods, exhausted, frightened, and bleeding, Bruce suddenly came to a stream. Plunging in, he waded alongside the bank until hoisting himself onto the limb of a tree. There he stayed, and the dog lost the scent.

Bruce spent the ensuing winter hidden away in a hovel in the mountains, keeping himself alive on a bag of old potatoes. One cold, gray afternoon, he felt almost hopeless, spirits badly draining. But he noticed a spider trying to weave a web in the corner of the window. The creature was having a hard time of it, because the wind kept blowing away his threads. Time after time, the spider gave another effort until finally the thread held.

"I might be that spider," said Bruce. "I, too, have failed. Like those threads, my lines have been broken and blown away. But you have shown me that there is always one more time—a time for one more attempt and, with persistence, a winning one!"

Bruce left the hovel to gather his scattered troops, and by the Spring he had an army that was tougher than ever. Battle after battle raged until their lines finally held and they drove the English out of Scotland.

Ever since that time no one by the name of Bruce, it is said, has ever killed a spider.

Holding On

Greg Asimakoupoulos tells of a commuter flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston. The pilot, Henry Dempsey, heard an unusual noise near the rear of the small aircraft. He turned the controls over to his co-pilot and went back to investigate.

As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff, and it flew open. He was instantly sucked out of the jet.

The co-pilot, seeing the red light that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport, requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that the pilot had fllen out of the plane, and he requested a helicopter search of that area of the ocean.

After the plane landed, they found Henry Dempsey—holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow he had caught the ladder, held on for ten minutes as the plane flew 200 mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet, and then, at landing, kept his head from hitting the runway. It took airport personnel several minutes to pry Dempsey's fingers from the ladder.

"Things in life may feel turbulent," said Asimakoupoulos, "and you may not feel like holding on. But have you considered the alternative?"

Keeping On

I've dreamed many dreams that never came true, 

I've seen them vanish at dawn; 

But I've realized enough of my dreams, thank God, 

To make me want to dream on.

I've prayed many prayers when no answer came, 

I've waited patient and long; 

But answers have come to enough of my prayers 

To make me keep praying on.

I've trusted many a friend who failed 

And left me to weep alone; 

But I've found enough of my friends true-blue 

To make me keep trusting on.

I've sown many seeds that fell by the way 

For the birds to feed upon; 

But I've held enough golden sheaves in my hand, 

To make me keep sowing on.

I've drained the cup of disappointment and pain, 

I've gone many days without song, 

But I've sipped enough nectar from the rose of life 

To make me want to live on.

—Charles Allen, The Secret of Abundant Living

An address at Harrow School, October 29, 1941: "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never give in." Then he sat down.

Winston Churchill

The life of Francis Thompson was a downward spiral that landed him on the streets of nineteenth-century London—a useless vagabond, an opium addict, a starving derelict. There, God caught him. Finally.

The son of a doctor, Thompson started out with great potential. His father sent him to study for the priesthood, and then to another school to become a doctor. But he failed at both professions and became a wastrel instead, running from responsibility, family, and God.

Eventually, this prodigal hit bottom. Wandering the back alleys of London, he was hungry, friendless, and addicted to drugs. With tattered clothes and broken shoes, he barely survived by selling matches and newspapers. Still, God did not relent in His dogged chase to capture the young man's soul.

A ray of hope came when Thompson began to write poetry. Wilfred Meynell, an editor, immediately saw Thompson's genius. He published his works, encouraged him to enter a hospital, and personally nursed him through his convalescence. This marked a spiritual turnaround in Thompson's life. In the poem "The Hound of Heaven," he writes of his flight from God and God's pursuit of him.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years; 

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him,

and under running laughter....

Still with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace, 

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

Came on the following Feet,

And a Voice above their beat— 

"Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."

With this same breathless pursuit, the Hound of Heaven once chased another running man. This person was not a vagrant; he was a well-educated Pharisee. Nonetheless, he stubbornly fled from Christ until, one day, the Hound caught him on the dusty road to Damascus.

—Frank N. Magill, Cyclopedia of World Authors

Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl,

One was an optimistic soul;

But the other took the gloomy view,

"We shall drown," he cried, without more ado.

So with a last despairing cry,

He flung up his legs and said, "Good-bye."

Quoth the other frog with a merry grim,

"I can't get out, but I won't give in.

I'll just swim round till my strength is spent,

Then will I die the more content."

Bravely he swam till it would seem

His struggles began to churn the cream.

On the top of the butter at last he stopped, 

And out of the bowl he gaily hopped. 

What of the moral? 'Tis easily found: 

If you can't hop out, keep swimming round.

—Walter Knight, Knight's Master Book of New Illustrations

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Sometimes it is very hard to keep on when we do not seem to be getting anywhere. When Thomas Carlyle had finished the first volume of his book, The French Revolution, he gave the finished manuscript to his friend John Stuart Mill and asked him to read it. It took Mr. Mill several days to read it and as he read, he realized that it was truly a great literary achievement. Late one night as he finished the last page he laid the manuscript aside by his chair in the den of his home. The next morning the maid came; seeing those papers on the floor, she thought they were simply discarded. She threw them into the fire, and they were burned.

On March 6, 1835—he never forgot the date—Mill called on Carlyle in deep agony and told him that his work has been destroyed. Carlyle replied, "It's all right. I'm sure I can start over in the morning and do it again."

Finally, after great apologies, John Mill left and started back home. Carlyle watched his friend walking away and said to his wife, "Poor Mill. I feel so sorry for him. I did not want him to see how crushed I really am."

Then heaving a sigh, he said, "Well, the manuscript is gone, so I had better start writing again."

It was a long, hard process especially because the inspiration was gone. It is always hard to recapture the verve and the vigor if a man has to do a thing like that twice. But he set out to do it again and finally completed the work.

Thomas Carlyle walked away from disappointment. He could do nothing about a manuscript that was burned up. So it is with us: There are times to get up and get going and let what happened happen.

—William Barclay, The King and the Kingdom