Punch It Margaret!

How the Power of Persistence Can Supercharge Any Result

If you are going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. – Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio to become the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.

When Amy Purdy was 19 years old, she was on her way. She was a champion snowboarder. She dreamed of traveling the world. She had just started a job she loved as a massage therapist.

One day she left work with what she thought was the flu. The next day, she was in the hospital on life support with bacterial meningitis and less than a two percent chance of living. Over the next several months, she lost her spleen, her kidneys, the hearing in her left ear—and both of her legs below the knee.

Her first prosthetic legs were so clunky, painful, and confining that all she could wonder through her tears was, “How am I ever going to travel the world in these things? How will I live the life of adventure I always wanted? And how will I ever snowboard again?”

She was physically and emotionally broken, but Amy did not let this stop her.

She knew these truly unbelievable obstacles could do one of two things—stop her in her tracks or force her to get creative.

At 21, with a kidney from her dad and prosthetics she designed, she started over.

Amy went back to work, she enrolled in school, and she started snowboarding again. She founded Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit that supports youth with physical disabilities participate in action sports. She won two World Cup gold medals in snowboarding.

You may know of Amy from the 2014 Sochi Paralympics in which she won a bronze medal. Or you may have seen her in Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour. Probably you will remember the remarkable young woman dancing on metal legs with Derek Hough in ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, eventually becoming the show’s runner-up.

Amy says the secret to her astonishing recovery and subsequent success was her ability to imagine the life she wanted. I don’t doubt it.

I, however, would credit her with another quality—her unwillingness to quit, no matter what.

Dare to Be Unstoppable

This is something every single one of us can do. You, too, can be unstoppable.

If you read my book, Jungle: A Journey to Peace, Purpose, and Freedom, you will recall how I related in nearly every chapter a challenge that could have stopped me from achieving my dream to enjoy life on my terms. And, oh boy, did I want to quit sometimes. Many times!

Even when I finally arrived in Costa Rica to study at the United Nations University for Peace—reaching what I thought was the end of an arduous journey through emotional, professional, and health challenges to get there—I almost left when I saw the sorry state of the accommodation I had arranged, sight unseen. “Rustic” could not describe the dreadful living conditions I confronted in my charming but far from luxurious jungle casita. I found bats hanging from the rafters and spiders making themselves at home everywhere. The sparse furnishings included worn linens, overused pots and pans, and a miserable mattress set gingerly on plywood and bricks.

Even after a long day of travel, a thorough soaking in a tropical deluge, and a treacherous drive from the airport to my new home, I mustered what it took to acquire a decent bed and kitchenware and other requirements of a basic but comfortable lifestyle.

Here is what I learned about the power of persistence.

The Power of Persistence

From the morning I fainted in the elevator at work to the evening I landed in Costa Rica, I had to confront obstacles that tested my desire and proved the durability of my dream. I wanted to try something thoroughly new, I wanted the degree, and I wanted the future I expected this year would bring. My deep, compelling vision kept me pushing through every obstacle I encountered to complete my master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Studies. I wanted this experience more than just about anything, so I moved through each and every change, doubt, problem, and issue, one by one.

I chose to be unstoppable. You can, too. Here’s how.

First, determine what you want. It may be a dream, it may be something simpler like to complete a particular project, or maybe you just want to lose ten pounds. Once you tap into what it is you want to do, vow to have fun and just know that obstacles will appear.

Here is the practice. Notice in your life where, once you hit an obstacle, you stop. What happens? Do you just give up? Do you walk away and come back later? Do you change your mind and tell yourself you really didn’t want to achieve that goal after all?

Psst… Just Try Another Way

Allow me to suggest that hurdles are not meant to stop you in your tracks. They are interesting messages telling you to try another way. Challenges help you build muscle to climb higher mountains, reach for goals that are bigger than you, and assist you in discovering your own greatness. Don’t let them stop you.

Sure, you may need to take a break, a metaphorical step back to assess the better way to climb the mountain. But don’t give up.

If a project or a new life direction is important to you, you can make it happen when you choose to be unstoppable. Make that choice, and you will experience a shift in your approach to the goal. You will start to notice your momentum building and your energy growing because you have chosen to be unstoppable. All sorts of seemingly magical support will show up.

“Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something,” Meg Wheatley says. “We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.”

Vow to be unstoppable. The power of persistence is your secret superpower to achieving anything worthwhile. Try it and see. And let me know what happens!



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