Tag Archives: goals

Perseverance and public speaking: Arianna Huffington edition

Today is Arianna Huffington‘s 58th birthday – I know this thanks to Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac, which I get in email form every day.

You can read his post here, but I found two parts of her story especially compelling because they were all about having a goal and persevering despite obstacles. Ath this point in time she is an incredibly skillful public speaker – articulate, witty and quick.

Background: she’s Greek, born in Athens.

One day she saw in a magazine a picture of Cambridge University, and she decided that she wanted to go to school there. Many of her friends and family members ridiculed her, but her mother strongly encouraged her daughter, looked for a scholarship that she could apply for, found cheap airline tickets from Athens to London, and took the teenage Arianna for a visit to the campus. It rained the whole time, and they didn’t get to meet with any school officials, but she imagined herself going to school there. A few years later, she applied and was granted a scholarship.

In college she joined the debating team, a rather uncommon extracurricular activity for a young woman at Cambridge at that time. At first, she wasn’t very skilled, and years later said, “Sometimes I was called to speak after midnight because I was so bad.” But she prepared for each debate as if she were the featured speaker and she began to improve—so much so that in her final year at Cambridge, she was voted president of the debating society. She was the first non-British citizen to earn this position and only the third woman in the school’s history.

Perseverance #4 – a motivational parable

* At the annual sales meeting of a large corporation, the motivational speaker talked about the importance of persevering, despite obstacles.

He asked the crowd, “Did the Wright brothers ever quit?”

“NO!” the crowd answered.

“Did Helen Keller ever quit?”

“NO!” the crowd answered.

“Did Lance Armstrong ever quit?”

“NO!” they yelled, really getting into it.

“Did Thorndike McKester ever quit?”

The crowd fell silent. Finally one man near the front raised his hand and asked, “Who is Thorndike McKester?? We’ve never heard of him.”

The speaker snapped back, “Of course you’ve never heard of him; that’s because he quit!”

OK. That’s a silly story, which actually neglects the most important point. We don’t persevere to become well known; we persevere to accomplish something that is important to us.

Don’t expect you’ll be famous if you keep on keeping on – unless your goal is merely to become famous – which I say is a pity.

* Story adapted from one in the current Toastmasters Magazine

Other tales of perseverance here, here, here, here, and here.