Topical Guide 168
Traits, of Character, of Personality: Persistence
I went to see Mr. Simone one day during my lunch period and asked to have my entries back.
“I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear what you said,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because nobody likes a quitter, my boy.”
“Oh,” I said.
“So you just get those ideas about withdrawing from the contest right out of your head.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. He showed me to the door.
“And as far as I’m concerned, none of this ever happened, okay?” He smiled quickly and held his hand out for me to shake. I shook it, with little enthusiasm, and left.
Little Follies, “Take the Long Way Home”
I’m surprised that Mr. Simone didn’t quote Calvin Coolidge:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people 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. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Perhaps Mr. Simone deserves credit for not quoting when he wasn’t convinced of the accuracy of the attribution. Although I had seen the remark attributed to Calvin Coolidge, I hadn’t been able to find a citation for the source until, while preparing this installment of the Topical Guide, I found a thoroughgoing investigation by the Quote Investigator. The report begins with
A closely matching text was attributed to Calvin Coolidge by 1929, but the passage did not originate with the former President. Instead, it evolved over a period of several decades. Interestingly, the original text located by QI emphasized the importance of “purpose” to success and did not mention “persistence”.
In 1881 the Reverend Theodore Thornton Munger of New England published a book of guidance for young people titled “On the Threshold”. The first chapter was called “Purpose”, and the author stated the following, Boldface has been added to excerpts:
A purpose is the eternal condition of success. Nothing will take its place. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb; the “mute, inglorious Milton” is not a poetic creation. The chance of events, the push of circumstances, will not. The natural unfolding of faculties will not. Education will not; the country is full of unsuccessful educated men; indeed, it is a problem of society what to do with the young men it is turning out of its colleges and professional schools. There is no road to success but through a clear, strong purpose.
The Quote Investigator goes on to document the evolution of this bit of fortune-cookie wisdom from 1881 to its appearance in the San Marcos Record in 1929, attributed to Coolidge. The brief article is well worth your time.
Have you missed an episode or two or several?
At Apple Books you can download free eBooks of “My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” and “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” the first six novellas in Little Follies.
You’ll find an overview of the entire work in An Introduction to The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy. It’s a pdf document.