1: What is the one strategy that is the most effective to overcome the seemingly endless problems that affect us as individuals and as a group?
Odysseus leaves Troy for his home in Ithaca after ten long years of war. “If only he knew what was ahead of him: ten more years of travel,” Ryan writes. “That he’d come so close to the shores of his homeland, his queen and young son, only to be blown back again.
“That he’d face storms, temptation, a Cyclops, deadly whirlpools, and a six-headed monster. Or that he’d be held captive for seven years and suffer the wrath of Poseidon.
“And, of course, that back in Ithaca his rivals were circling, trying to take his kingdom and his wife,” he writes.
What was Odysseus’s secret? What allowed him to make it home and emerge victorious?
“Creativity, of course. And craftiness and leadership and discipline and courage. But above all: perseverance.”
2: My high school freshman daughter is reading The Odyssey currently in her English literature class. She is reading a book that was written almost 3,000 years ago. Think about that for a minute. Why is a book written in 700 B.C. still being widely read?
Because stories of perseverance stir the human soul.
What’s the difference between persistence and perseverance?
“Persistence is attempting to solve some difficult problem with dogged determination and hammering until the break occurs,” Ryan observes.
“But perseverance is something larger,” he notes. “It’s the long game. It’s about what happens not just in round one but in round two and every round after—and then the fight after that and the fight after that, until the end.”
Persistence is about energy and action. Perseverance is about our will and our ability to endure.
Odysseus and the other Greeks standing at the gates of Troy, trying every last strategy and tactic to win The Trojan War? That’s persistence. Everything directed at a particular problem until it breaks.
“But a ten-year voyage of trials and tribulations. Of disappointment and mistakes without giving in,” writes Ryan. “Of checking our bearings each day and trying to inch a little closer to home—where [we] ‘ll face a whole other host of problems once [we] arrive.
“Ironhearted and ready to endure whatever punishment the Gods decide [we] must, and to do it with courage and tenacity in order to make it back to Ithaca?
“That’s more than persistence, that’s perseverance.”
3: The lesson here?
“We don’t control the barriers or the people who put them there. But we control ourselves—and that is sufficient,” writes Ryan. “We can go around or under or backward. We can decide that momentum and defeat are not mutually exclusive—we can keep going, advancing, even if we’ve been stopped in one particular direction. . . Our plans—even our bodies—can be broken.
“But belief in ourselves? No matter how many times we are thrown back, we alone retain the power to decide to go once more. Or to try another route. Or, at the very least, to accept this reality and decide upon a new aim.”
Determination is invincible.
Reflection: What is the lesson here for me?
Action: Journal about it.