We all know the existence of Niagara Falls on the borders of New York State in the U.S. and the province of Ontario in Canada.

Niagara Falls is one of the largest and the most impressive waterfalls in the world. The sheer volume of water passing over the falls and the electric power generated from it is mind-boggling. By a simple and rough reckoning it is learnt that 3,40,000 cubic metres of water pours over the falls every minute, which is enough to fill about 700 Olympic-sized swimming pools or the equivalent to 3,85,000 tonnes of water every minute of every hour of every day. Such a vast amount of water generates enough power to accommodate six hydro-electric power plants which produce some 3 ½ million kilowatts of electricity.

From the foregoing what stands out strikingly clear is the fact that like Niagara Falls every water fall in the world started out in life only as a single drop of water. Think about it. A single drop of water mingles with another and another to form a small puddle or pool. The pool then converges with other pools and begins to trickle downhill as a tiny stream. Similarly other streams then come together and form a river. Finally as the river continues downhill towards the sea, it combines with others and the end result a massive expanse of water such as Niagara river and falls. And all this from a single drop of water and the relentless persistence of other similar drops.

The message that we can learn from the above narrative is that no matter where we start from or however little we start with, if we are heading in the right direction with relentless persistence, we too, over time can and will achieve amazing and impressive results provided we do not give up.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the famous former British Prime Minister was nick-named “the British bull dog” because of his stubborn tenacity, his will to win and his sheer persistence, especially in the face of overwhelming odds during the bleakest hours of World War II.

Referring to his media image as the “British bull dog” and at the same time defining persistence, Churchill once said “the nose of the bull dog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go”. Now that’s what we call a picture of tenacity and persistence. What I would want to say is that persistence is not an attribute that simply comes to us naturally. That is to say, persistence is not an easily acquired trait. It calls for enormous discipline and character to persevere in our endeavours. In a nutshell just as water or electricity follows the path of least resistance so too we as human beings have a tendency to do the same thing. Certainly we all desire to be successful in our endeavours but we are not prepared (including me) to put in the required efforts. Most of us have good intentions to be successful and we start out often well enough, but at the first sign of difficulty give up.

A humorist once put it this way. “Failure has been correctly identified as the path of least resistance”.

In this context it is worth recollecting the following simple yet very profound and inspirational verses of the English born but American-bred poet, Edgar A. Guest.

No one is beaten till he quits

No one is beaten till he quits

No one is through till he stops

No matter how failure hits

No matter how often he drops

See a fellar’s not down, till he lies

In the dust and refuses to rise.

Fate can slam him and bang him around,

And batter his frame till he is sore,

But it never can say that he is downed,

While he bobs up serenely for more

See a fellar’s not dead till he dies

Nor beat till he no longer tries.

In this context, it is worth recalling the “negative effects of persistence as brought out by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the U.S. Clergyman and educationist in the following anecdote.

On the slope of Long’s Peak in the rocky mountains in Colarado lay the ruins of a gigantic tree. Naturalists tell us that the tree stood for 400 years. It was a seedling when Christopher Columbus landed at San Salvador (Bahamas) and half grown when the pilgrims settled at Plymouth (Massachusetts). During the course of its long life, it was struck by lightning 14 times and the innumerable avalanches and storms of four centuries thundered past it. The tree survived them all.

In the end, however an army of beetles attacked the tree and levelled it to the ground. The insects ate their way through the bark and gradually destroyed the inner strength of the tree by their tiny but incessant attacks. A forest giant which age had not withered, nor lightning blasted, nor storms subdued, fell at last before beetles so small, that a man could crush them between his forefinger and his thumb.

Here also even though the effect of the attacks of the beetles on the gigantic tree was negative, the incessant attacks highlight the importance of persistence. IS IT NOT?

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