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Persuasion, like good example, perseverance is among, if not the most brilliant, at least the most active agents of influence. It is a faculty borne within them by men conscious of their power, those who, by virtue of faith in their own merit, advance to achievement with that confidence which gives birth to all notable successes and all productive achievements.

Perseverance is the triumph of willpower over the weakness of the will; it is the result of a profound study of the determining causes, the combination of which is bound to end in success; it is, in short, the slow but sure ascent toward a goal that assumes a more definite shape the nearer we approach it.

Few persons are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but everybody can aim at conquering fortune by a series of continual and rational efforts.

The man who would spring up thirty cubits at a single leap would spend his life in ridiculous attempts, but if he wishes steadily to mount the steps that lead him to that height, he will attain it, sooner or later according to the dexterity, the agility, and the perseverance that he displays.

The steps, it is true, are often made of shaky stones. They have gaps between them that make one dizzy, where they are so uncertain that it is difficult to keep a foothold on them.

This is the point where those who possess the virtue of perseverance make themselves known; by their unshakable will they can ward off every danger; they balance themselves on the shaky stones almost on tiptoe and advance onto the next step; they feel fascinated by the giddy depths beneath them quickly they raise their
heads, they proceed gazing on their star and they guard themselves against possible slips by making sure of one foot before lifting the other from the ground.

“For perseverance is the mother of many gifts; from her is born circumspection which clasps hands with application and patience. It is incredible to what degree the man who is gifted with patience is proof against the pitfalls of Fate; hope and cheerfulness are two unanswerable arguments under most circumstances; application comes to hold up their hands, and few undertakings can resist their combined influence.”

“It is related that the great scholar Yuan-Shi, plagued by the sour temper of his wife who was jealous of his knowledge, could find no way of working at home, for this termagant went so far as to throw his manuscripts about and burn the sheets of vellum on which he set down his thoughts.”

“He therefore resolved, when he was at home to divide his time between gardening and contemplation. But from the time that he got into the palanquin which conveyed him daily from his country house to the town where he was employed, he recouped himself for his enforced inactivity; in this way he produced, after some months, a work of great value, which was universally commended and admired.”

“News of this reached his wife, who asked him astonishingly how he found the time to write, considering that outside his professorship he was not engaged in any intellectual occupation.”

“Yuan-Shi was a simple soul; he related to her how he had managed to reconcile his work with her unreasonableness. She was so affected by this proof of his desire not to annoy her and so impressed by the calm and indomitable will of her husband that from that day she ceased to forbid him to engage in work which brought him distinction and shed its rays upon her in the form of caresses that saved her wifely self-respect.”

Our modern civilization boasts many examples of this assiduous application: Doctor Good translated Lucréce while visiting his patients; he had in his carriage all the material necessary for the translation of the book and in this way he made use of the minutes between each visit.

Doctor Darwin did the same; he wrote his notes while going his rounds, and upon returning home, he had only to classify them.

One may also mention a man named White, who was employed in a law office, who learned Greek while journeying from the office to his home. We know the instance of Aguesseau who employed the time that elapsed between the announcement of meals and the moment when the company took their places at the table to write an excellent book, which he smilingly presented to his wife as a practical lesson in method and perseverance. History is rich in similar anecdotes and this proves incontestably that saying of Bossuet:

“A little suffices for each day, if each day acquires a little.”

Do we reckon what might be the production of one hour a day won from frivolous pursuits to which we give so many drops of our life fallen into the gulf of eternity?

“He,” said the Shogun, “who should cut down a branch every day would end by clearing a way through the densest forest.”

He adds judiciously:

“But he should not think of going back, for the branches grow again and he would find the way closed.”

That is to say that perseverance must never slacken; return is not allowed to those who should widen the road for their disciples to follow and we cannot repeat too often: It is by the power of personal effort and of application that the most brilliant and solid reputations are slowly formed.

“Experience,” says G. A. Mann, “tells us that we must have, in order to succeed, method in everything that we do and also perseverance; if we do not possess these two qualities we should develop them, and that by thinking constantly of them and by contemplating the idea which represents them.”

“Persevere then! To what end do you say? Simply because by persevering you form your will, besides have the chance of attaining your end.”

“Persevere like a brute! Not at all. It is necessary, that in continuing what you have begun, your will, your intelligence, your sensibilities be ever on the alert.”

“It is this unceasing activity in yourself that is the reward of your effort. The road on which you walk may, perhaps, not lead you where you wished to go. But probably it will lead you to a better place. And for your walk you will become a good walker, which will be certainly due to the impulse, which you needed to be able to attain the goal, that is to say, success. Will without perseverance and without method could not exit.”

Perseverance admits of a combination of active qualities and of virtues that might be called passive, for they demand no apparent effort. Nevertheless, they are more rare than one might think, for they are not often the endowment of weak minds.

The latter can only with difficulty concentrate themselves on a task that requires a little application; they are the slaves of the instability of their impressions; beginnings, however arduous, always find them full of enthusiasm, but his fervor soon grows cold, and if success does not present itself immediately, they will hasten to give up their project and devote themselves to another which will soon have a like ending.

Unremitting action can also be reckoned in a number of these virtues, passive indeed but indispensable, of which we have just spoken. The practice of bending the will to listen to some purpose is sometimes a talent of a high order, for it is one of the best means of winning the sympathies of those who are speaking with us.

“I hate,” said Yoritomo, “the sort of people who let their thoughts wander blindly instead of seeking to glean profit from what they hear. Nothing is more disconcerting than to feel the attention of one to whom one is speaking to drifting away and wandering after his thoughts, while you would like to convince him by your words.”

“This lack of attention is always the mark of a vacillating will which cannot bring itself to follow an idea by concentrating its mental powers or an examination of the various aspects which it presents.”

"When dealing with inferiors, this frivolous inattention may pass as a sign of contempt; besides, it is always in opposition to the influence which we might exercise over them.”

"What should we think of a chief whom a poor man comes to consult and who instead of listening to him kindly, should busy himself as I have known them, in giving orders to his servants and arranging the hanging of his house and should let his musicians go on playing?"

"The unfortunate man would go out of the Lord's house with the bad impression, and if ever he had to seek help or advice he would take care or not betake himself a second time to the man who treated his request with steady disdain.”

"Influence over others is acquired especially by perseverance of the will and concentration of thought, the undulations of which, projected around us come to reach the minds which we wish to impress.”

And, entering once more into the domain of psychology, the Shogun speaks to us of this fascinating mystery of the contagion of thought, which according to have as a primary cause of influence and cannot fail by perseverance determination to produce it:

"There is no doubt,” he said, “that thought is a contagious factor of influence, good or bad.”

“Who has not had occasion to remark this in the case of fear?”

“In an assemblance composed of the bravest people that it is possible to meet, taken individually, one man stricken with fear or, if he can express his feelings in a forcible manner, will succeed in imparting to each of the rest, in different degrees it may be, the disquietude and uneasiness which he experiences.”

“There are a few doughty warriors who at the recital of something concerning the mysteries of the world beyond have not felt a slight shiver, which the site of wholesale carnage, together with the consciousness of the gravest perils, could not have caused them to experience.”

“This phenomenon, caused by the irradiation of thought, is an undeniable proof of the influence which it can exercise, for not only is it possible to penetrate the minds touched by the undulations of our own thought, but the thought of others, elicited by ourselves, comes back to us on the same undulations that are spread out from our brain.”

“This is why we often see one who wished to shed fear or around him feel that same fear by receiving the waves of thought that he has produced in his audience.”

“It is the same with laughter. Very few are they who can resist the infection of a burst of laughter; even with those least inclined to merriment laughter is infectious in a high degree; for at first involuntary, in a way mechanical, it ends by becoming natural, so that, at the moment it breaks out, the simplest expression, the most sedate words assumes in the imagination so comical an aspect that merriment increases to the point of not being able to utter them without provoking a fresh outburst.”

“But what happens if the next day we wish to relate to this incident?”

“No longer submitted to the attractive influence of the thought of others, no longer receiving from them the undulations, the vibrations of which had reached us on the previous day, our state of mind is completely different, we perceive the inanity (sometimes we should say the foolishness) of what had amused us so highly on the preceding day, and no longer laughing over it ourselves it is impossible for us to entertain others with it.”

“On the other hand, if the storyteller – either of set purpose or spontaneously - begins by laughing himself at the remembrance of what he is about to relate, it is seldom that this merriment, if it appears genuine, does not spread to others, who will laugh at first by infection, afterward of necessity, because merriment is the pervading thought.”

“What we have just said on the subject of fear or of laughter applies to everything else.”

“With perseverance, you succeed in causing effectively to penetrate the minds of your hearers the thoughts the emission of which will attract similar thoughts, and their undulations returning to affect you will increase your conviction, giving you the us the more power to spread its around you.”

It is from this standpoint that the Shogun sets out to oppose the emission of evil thoughts:

" It is,” said he, “a weapon which always recoils on the man who would make use of it.”

“The evil thought traverses the same cycle as the other and returns to us strengthened with hatred for others.”

“What can we expect from those whose minds we cause to germinate wickedness and the desire of evil?As soon as they believe themselves capable, it is against us first of all of that they will seek to exert themselves, and they will do it involuntarily by bringing back to us our thought, magnified and disfigured, so that we shall endure it without recognizing it.”

“You see why perseverance should only be applied to the gaining of good, and as soon as we think we have come into association with it, it will be our duty to inculcate its principles into those who, living around us, are subjected to our influence.”

“But we must not limit our efforts to this; we must aim farther and higher; it will not suffice to initiate them into good things, we must also give them the taste to cultivate them, and to that end arouse in them the desire of perseverance, which makes possible the most difficult undertakings and gives us a power that we cannot limit.”

“Like some steel implement, the drop of water perforates the rock, wears a way the hardest stone, and without slacking, pursues this work which the implement would have begun more successfully perhaps, but the breaking or wearing out of the tool would have interrupted, perforce, the work which the eternal drop of water accomplishes by the tenacity and perseverance of its action.”

“Do not then seek to force slow-moving minds, but surround them, penetrate them by your perseverance and its influence, sometimes obscure but always certain, will spread itself abroad in beneficent undulations, the continuance of which will create a power.”


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