The Virtue of Persistence (Part I)

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

My next virtue would be in honor of my basketball idol, Kobe Bryant.  At the time of this writing, he just died from a helicopter crash along with his daughter and seven others on January 26, 2020, a Sunday morning.  I was comforted to know that he just attended Holy Mass with his family before riding that ill-fated helicopter to get to the basketball game of her daughter Gianna held at his own Mamba Academy gym.  Kobe was a practicing Catholic and I think he was ready to meet his Creator. Of all things in Kobe’s life, what is most important to me is his faith in God.  No one gets to escape in this world alive and the most important thing is to be prepared for the next.

Kobe was an inspiration not only with his basketball skills but how he approached the game.  He would wake up 5:00 in the morning (which is unheard of much in the U.S. since they are used to waking up much later) to start practicing.  When asked why wake up so early, he replied so that you could cover more.  He knew that other NBA players would practice also regularly but to get ahead of them he said you need to start earlier.  He reckoned that if you practice 4 hours longer than the other players on a daily basis by the time you stretch that to 6 months the gap you have with them would be insurmountable.  They will never be able to catch up because you already have been months if not years ahead just by starting early according to him.   The results proved it.  He was indeed way ahead of other NBA players with his skills that earned him the title the most-skilled NBA player of all time even more skilled than his idol Michael Jordan.  When we say most-skilled it refers to Kobe’s different shot making ways: post-up, driving to the basket, turn-around shot, fade-away shot, etc.  He had it all.  One of his fans said, that Kobe run out of skills to learn that he even tried shooting three-point shots with his left hand.  Not to mention his solid defense and earning the highest assist accumulated by a shooting guard.

What we can learn from Kobe is the virtue of persistence on a skill or goal that we want to achieve.  Persistence as the dictionary would define it is a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.  It is one of my favorite virtues because it gives a lot of hope (hope being another favorite virtue) to all, even to those who are just average in skills or intelligence.

The virtue that separates the successful from the unsuccessful is persistence.  The successful and unsuccessful meet the same obstacles along the way.  But the successful pushes through because he knows that success is doing the extra things that the unsuccessful person is not willing to do and one of those extra things is to never give up.  That’s why successful people are few.  Many are great when things are easy and manageable but that is not reality.  When you study math for example, sometimes you will have to try 20 times before you can get a solution.  The acid test of persistence is when you have been trying several times and the results seem to be the same.  The weak ones and the soft would soon give up.  But the gritty ones would see it as getting close to the solution and that the previous failures are just the necessary steps in getting to that final answer.  Once you get through the most dreaded subject for many i.e. mathematics, then you can get through with the rest of your subjects in college and later on in life.  As John Mason would say, “Remember that impatience is costly.  Your greatest mistakes in life will happen because of impatience and lack of persistence.”

In honor of Kobe, here’s what he said about planning to be great at what you do, “If you really want to be great at something, you have to truly care about it.  If you want to be great in a particular area, you have to obsess over it.  A lot of people say they want to be great, but they are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness.  They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out, and that’s totally fine.  After all, greatness is not for everybody.”  Heroes come and go, but legends stay forever.  Rest in God’s Peace, Kobe.  More of this virtue in the next article.