What is the metric for the value of perseverance?

I sometimes wonder how we get caught up so much with trying to 'monetize' everything we do on the web. I think people worry too much about trying to measure effectiveness, and not enough time on simply being effective. Some people are just afraid to get in there and get their nose bloody. How can you be effective if you don't try? Is it fear of failure? I'd wager it has something to do with that. But if you don't fail, how do you learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn that there are ways not to do things?

How do you measure perseverance?

Well, there's no analytical metric for it. You get kicked in the teeth, do you get up, or do you lie there and try to figure out how to get a million hits of the video some eager-beaver shot of the teeth-kicking?

Perseverance is simply the inner strength and drive to accomplish a task. I always laugh when the words "highly motivated" appear on a job listing. I do this because it's only a matter of time before someone invents a way to measure motivation and plot it on a scale.

The point is, being able to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or that 'something' that sets certain people apart from the rest, is what pundits and people who invent buzz-words call an "X-Factor." They invented the term a long time ago when nobody wanted to call it je ne sais quoi. I don't know what it was to make them come up with such a term. Maybe they needed something that instilled that "X marks the spot" visual that Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. told us never, ever works. Maybe they just flunked French. Maybe they hated the French.

Why do you think the term "X-factor" was invented?

One thing is for certain: both phrases are for describing something that cannot be measured. Only recognized. Maybe that's why Simon Cowell's new show is called "The X-Factor." Hmmm. Maybe it's because the people that eventually win have a certain unmeasurable quality that equals big bucks and success. It's sort of like the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart trying to define porn, "I'll know it when I see it." Such as it is with the quality of picking yourself up when you fall...of not quitting...of persevering. 

So, a test. You might know that some of the most famous people in the world had to overcome something to succeed. I wonder...can you guess them all?

My thanks to my friend Scott Pollak for bringing these to my attention. They're probably somewhere else on the web, as well. See if you can guess these folks. I bet you will have at least one "really!?" moment.

1) Teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." As an inventor, he made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" He replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." Who is this electrical pioneer? (and don't say Tesla just because it's cool)

2) He did not speak until he was 4 years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was "sub-normal," and one of his teachers described him as "mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams." He was expelled from school and was refused admission to the European equivalent of Vo-Tech. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math. Probably the most famous equation in history. Who is this famous scientist?

3) This entrepreneur failed and went broke five times before he succeeded. His success? The world's first production automobile line, with an awesome single color selection: black. Who is he?

4) An expert said of this legendary 
football coach: "He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation." In response to this description, he later wrote, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up." He went on to win the first two AFL/NFL Championship games...what we now know as the Super Bowl. Who is he?


5)  This man was cut from his high school basketball team during his sophomore year because he was deemed to be too short. He went on to become, arguably, the best player in NBA history, and that's nothing to wave your tongue at. Who is he?

6) This future cartoonist was fired by a newspaper editor because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." He went bankrupt several times before he built a magical theme park. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff. Who is the cartoonist?

7) This cartoonist had every strip he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and #6 wouldn't hire him. Good grief! Who is this cartoonist?

8) After this famous song-and-dance man's first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." This memo ended up over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home. He may have been slightly bald, but his dance partner was a ginger. Who is he?

9) After his first audition, this Oscar winner was told by the casting director, "Why don't you stop wasting people's time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" It was at that moment, he recalled, that he decided to devote his life to acting. He was the top box office star of 1967. Who is he?

10) When this fire-headed funny woman began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, "Try any other profession." She married someone outside her race and they starred together on television. Who is she?

11) The first time this man walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language. He stumbled through ninety seconds of material and was jeered offstage. He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause. He later starred in a television show that was famously about nothing. Who is he?

12) This famous British actor's headmaster told him, "You will be a laborer all your life." He did go on to become comic-dom's most famous butler. Does being a Gentleman's Gentleman count as being a laborer? Who is he?

13) Decca Records turned down a recording contract with this quartet with the unprophetic evaluation, "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out." After Decca rejected them, Columbia records followed suit. Epic fail. Who were they?

14) This famously self-mutilating artist sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn't stop him from completing over 800 paintings. Who is he?

15) Twenty-seven publishers rejected this man's first book, "To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." They did not like it, Sam-I-am. Who is he?

How did you do? I'll post the answers later. 


Keep on living the dream, folks. You only really fail when you stop trying.


Just remember that the quality that truly separates those who succeed from those who don't, is a certain je ne sais quoi. The X-Factor. Perseverence.


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