Persistence and Hope – Recipe for Success

Famous poet and author Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s lines

लहरों से डर कर नौका पार नहीं होती, कोशिश करने वालों की कभी हार नहीं होती।
नन्हीं चींटी जब दाना लेकर चलती है, चढ़ती दीवारों पर, सौ बार फिसलती है।
मन का विश्वास रगों में साहस भरता है, चढ़कर गिरना, गिरकर चढ़ना न अखरता है।
आख़िर उसकी मेहनत बेकार नहीं होती, कोशिश करने वालों की कभी हार नहीं होती।

Explain excellently how persistence and perseverance is important for success. The engine of determination and will to succeed needs the power of persistence and hope. Some of us have read a story of The Little Engine that Could by Piper Watty in our schools, some of us might even remember it, but I would like to share it for the benefit of those who haven’t read it in the school.

This cute little story might bring some fine memories to some of us who have read this, and those who read it for the first time, would do well if they think about the steam engines which used to pull the train, the sound of steam and clanking wheel rhymes with “I think I can I think I can” when it starts to move, and “I think I could I think I could” when it is running fast on the track. (Some of you who still can’t imagine may please go to YouTube and watch a video of steam locomotive).

Now our story –

The Little Engine that Could
Piper, Watty

Chug chug chug. Puff puff puff. He little rain ran along the tracks. She was a happy little train. Her cars were full of good things for boys and girls. There were all kinds of toy animals. Giraffes with long necks, teddy bears with no necks, and even a baby elephant. There were all kinds of dolls. Dolls with blue eyes and yellow hair, dolls with brown eyes and brown hair, and the funniest toy clown you ever saw. There were toy trucks, airplanes, and boats. There were picture books, games, and drums to play. The little train carried every kind of toy that boys or girls could want.

But that was not all. The little train carried good thing to eat, too. Big, round oranges…fat, red apples…long, yellow bananas…fresh, cold milk…and lollipops to eat after dinner. The little train was taking all these good things to the other side of the mountain. “How happy the boys and girls will be to see me!” said the little train? “They will like the toys and good food that I am bringing.” But all at once the train came to a stop. She did not move at all. “Oh, dear,” said the little train. “What can be the matter?” She tried to start up again. She tried and tried. But her wheels just would not turn. “We can help,” said the toy animals. The clown and the animals climbed out of their cars. They tried to push the little train. But she did not move. “We can help, too,” said the dolls. And they got out and tried to push. Still the little train did not move. The toys and dolls did not know what to do.

Just then a shiny new engine came puffing down another track. “Maybe that engine can help us!” cried the clown. He began to wave a red flag. The Shine New Engine slowed down. The dolls and toys called out to him. “Our engine is not working,” they said. “Please pull our train over the mountain. If you do not, the boys and girls will not have any toys or good food. The Shiny New Engine was bit friendly. “You want me to pull you?” he asked. “That is not what I do. I carry people. They sit in cars with soft seats. They look out the windows. They eat in a nice dining car. They even sleep in a fine sleeping car. “I pull the likes of you? I should say not!” Off went the Shiny New Engine without another word. How sad all the toys and dolls felt! Then the toy clown called out, “Here comes another engine. A big, strong one. Maybe this engine will help us.” Again the clown waved his flag. The Big Strong Engine came to a stop. The toys and dolls called out together, “Please help us, Big Strong Engine. Our train is not working. But you can pull us over the mountain. “You must help us. Or the boys and girls will not have any toys to play with or good food to eat.” But the Big Strong Engine did not want to help. “I do not pull toys,” he said. “I pull cars full of heavy logs. I pull big trucks. I have no time for the likes of you.” And away puffed the Big Strong Engine without another word. By this time the little train was no longer happy. And the dolls and toys were ready to cry. But the clown called out, “Look! Look! Another engine is coming. A little blue engine. A very little one. Maybe this engine will help us.” The Little Blue Engine was a happy engine. She saw the clown waving his red flag and stopped at once. “What is the matter?” she asked in a kind way. “Oh, Little Blue Engine,” cried the dolls and toys. “Will you pull is over the mountain? Our engine is not working. If you do not help, the boys and girls will have no toys or good food. “Just over the mountain. “Please, please help us.” “Oh, my,” said the Little Blue Engine. “I am not very big. And I do not pull trains. I just work in the yards. I have never even been over the mountain.” “But we must get there before the children wake up,” said the toys and dolls. “Please?” The Little Blue Engine looked at the dolls and toys. She could see that they were not happy. She thought about the children on the other side of the mountain. Without toys or good food, they would not be happy either. The Little Blue Engine pulled up close. She took hold of the little train. The toys and dolls climbed back into their cars. At last the Little Blue Engine said, “I think I can climb up the mountain. I think I can. I think I can.” Then the Little Blue Engine began to pull. She tugged and she pulled. She pulled and she tugged. Puff puff, chug chug went the little engine. “I think I can. I think I can,” she said. Slowly, slowly, the train started to move. The dolls and toys began to smile and clap. Puff Puff, chug chug. Up the mountain went the Little Blue Engine. And all the time she kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” Up, up, up. The little engine climbed and climbed. At last she reached the top of the mountain. Down below lay the city. “Hurray! Hurray!” cried the dolls and animals. “The boys and girls will be so happy,” said the toy clown. “All because you helped us, Little Blue Engine.” The Little Blue Engine just smiled. But as she puffed down the mountain, the Little Blue Engine seemed to say…”I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.

The story conveys a truth that is equally applicable to both children and adults: if you persist, you will succeed. “I think I can” will become “I thought I could”. The trust in persistence lays foundation for the attitude of hope and vice versa. It is hope, positive and possibility thinking that makes one have never say die approach which ultimately is responsible for all the wins and achievements. The power is so immense that even if the person doesn’t win the first time, the hope of making it sometime, keeps him on to his goal, gives him reason, passion and energy to stay on course, stay put and persevere. This attitude makes one see challenges as new opportunities to learn to grow, to gain strength or to reach a higher goal. Founder of world’s largest direct marketing company Amway Enterprises, Mr. Rich DeVos in his book, “Hope from My Heart” says “Persistence is the single most important ingredient of success in life. It involves determination and the will to persevere, no matter what the obstacle. If you are willing to stumble and fall and still keep on going, then you will succeed.”

But one should be smart enough to know the difference between persistence and stubbornness, should be able to separate determination from mule-headedness. They are not the same, Stubbornness leads to dead ends of foolish and unproductive behavior; persistence moves you forward. Stubbornness disconnects you from reality and can result in paralyzing inaction. Persistence keeps you connected to life and helps you maintain momentum, and hope keeps you glued to persistence. Without hope and expectancy one cannot persist.

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin, who headed a commission in France to investigate the mysterious powers of Mesmerism, noted in the commission’s final report that, “Hope is an essential constituent of human life.”

“When I’m asked, ‘Can you die of a broken heart?’ I say… absolutely, yes, you can,” Johns Hopkins School of Medicine cardiologist Ilan Wittstein told NBC News in 2012. Wittstein has spent years investigating “broken heart syndrome,” which he and colleagues documented in a widely-cited 2005 article.

This research, in many ways, builds on the work of late Johns Hopkins professor Curt Richter. In the 1950s, he conducted a gruesome experiment with domesticated and wild rats. He first took a dozen domesticated rats, put them into jars half filled with water, and watched them drown. The idea was to measure the amount of time they swam before they gave up and went under. The first rat, Richter noted, swam around excitedly on the surface for a very short time, then dove to the bottom, where it began to swim around, nosing its way along the glass wall. It died two minutes later.

Two more of the 12 domesticated rats died in much the same way. But, interestingly, the nine remaining rats did not succumb nearly so readily; they swam for days before they eventually gave up and died.

Now came the wild rats, renowned for their swimming ability. The ones Richter used had been recently trapped and were fierce and aggressive. One by one, he dropped them into the water. And one by one, they surprised him: Within minutes of entering the water, all 34 died.

“What kills these rats?” he wondered. “Why do all of the fierce, aggressive, wild rats die promptly on immersion and only a small number of the similarly treated tame domesticated rats?”

The answer, in a word: Hope.

“The situation of these rats scarcely seems one demanding fight or flight—it is rather one of hopelessness,” he wrote. “[T]he rats are in a situation against which they have no defense…they seem literally to ‘give up.’”

Richter then tweaked the experiment: He took other, similar rats, and put them in the jar. Just before they were expected to die, however, he picked them up, held them a little while, and then put them back in the water. “In this way,” he wrote, “the rats quickly learn that the situation is not actually hopeless.”

This small interlude made a huge difference. The rats that experienced a brief reprieve swam much longer and lasted much longer than the rats that were left alone. They also recovered almost immediately. When the rats learned that they were not doomed, that the situation was not lost, that there might be a helping hand at the ready—in short, when they had a reason to keep swimming—they did. They did not give up, and they did not go under.

“After elimination of hopelessness,” wrote Richter, “the rats do not die.”

There are obviously many differences between humans and rats. But one similarity stands out: We all need a reason to keep swimming.

Keep swimming, you will definitely get ashore. Hard wire the attitude of hope in your psychology. Combined with persistence, you can achieve anything.

Happy swimming,


Hope from my Heart : Rich DeVos
The Little Engine That Could : Piper, Watty (1930)
Richter, Curt P. (1957). On the phenomenon of sudden death in animals and man. Psychosom. Med., 19, 191-8.

Contributed by
Mr. K.K. Bajpai
Associate Professor
SMS Varanasi


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