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Let the Power of Determination Inspire You

A great book begins with an idea, a great life with determination – Louis L’ Amour

It is unsurprising that many triumphant real-life tales of determination have achieved folkloric status, being retold in bestselling books and uplifting films, since they tend to hold a mirror up to the universal struggle of the human spirit. It is both consoling and inspiring to know that a healthy dose of determination can be necessary in overcoming the obstacles and naysayers that life makes a constant supply of, obstructions that can damagingly impact our sense of self-worth and instill in us unhelpful behavioral patterns in endless self-doubt.

Determination therefore, implies having resolve in the face of hardship and carrying on regardless, of being safe in the knowledge that victory will be a certainty that the odds will be beaten, and balance (eventually) restored!

“If you don’t give up, you still have a chance”, is what the billionaire CEO and founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has said, and it is heartening to know of real examples of people who have gone on to great success because of their focused determination and self-belief.

The Story of Chris Gardner

Take for instance the story of Chris Gardner who, having survived an abusive childhood and stints in foster care, became intent on creating a good life for himself. After leaving the US Navy he wanted to become a clinical researcher but couldn’t afford it at the time and began selling medical equipment instead.

After one divorce and becoming a father from another failed relationship, Gardner decided upon training as a stockbroker to provide for himself and his son. Unfortunately, the low traineeship pay meant Gardner could not afford rent and he and his child were homeless for a year while he gained experience through long hours at work. They slept in parks, airport lounges, and even public bathrooms, until eventually Garner felt it necessary to leave his son at a women’s shelter while he accumulated enough savings. Garner’s tenacity paid off, however, and he went on to establish his own brokerage firm, which he later sold for millions of dollars.

Today he is a philanthropist, public speaker and bestselling author of his memoirs ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’, which was made into a successful film starring Will Smith.

Determination is essential to realizing one’s creative dreams also.

The Story of Sylvester Stallone

As an unknown actor Sylvester Stallone decided to write the script for the movie ‘Rocky’ after seeing Chuck Wepner fight Muhammad Ali, “and he lasted and knocked The Champ down,” said Stallone, “I thought, if this isn’t a metaphor for life….” Stallone was so poor at the time he had been sleeping at a bus station for three weeks, and with only $106 to his name he was forced to sell his beloved dog Butkus for $40. The ‘Rocky’ script was turned down by many studios until finally the actor was offered a deal that specified he not be the star. However, Stallone was so determined – and accustomed to poverty – that he had the courage to insist on his casting as Rocky Balboa.

He eventually won over the studio and the now legendary film went on to win three Oscars and make $200 million at theatres…and Stallone was able to buy his dog back – for $15,000.

The Story of Joanne (JK) Rowling

Author Joanne (JK) Rowling on the other hand suffered through poverty for her art but simultaneously battled depression also. At the time of writing the first ‘Harry Potter’ book, Rowling was divorced (allegedly from an abusive partner), a single mother, and on State benefits. However, she held on to her dream of writing the story of Harry Potter that she fervently believed in and spent hours in coffee shops writing the book. The manuscript had been turned down multiple times until she finally chanced upon the agent who realized the potential in her imaginative stories, and the rest, as they say is history. Rowling is estimated to be worth about £650 million and should be a billionaire were it not for her payment of taxes and charitable donations to a variety of causes.

Sheer determination, however, does not and should not necessarily have an end result in money making, nor is it the point. One of the most startling examples of what determination can yield proves how groundbreaking this potent character trait can truly be.

The Odone’s Story

Augusto and Michaela Odone’s story – dramatized in the film ‘Lorenzo’s Oil’ – is one that tested the limits of their determination. When their young son Lorenzo was diagnosed with the incurable genetic disorder ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy) they refused to watch him deteriorate to the point of death before his 10th birthday, as they had been informed. Adamant that their son would survive they took matters into their own hands and, without any prior medical knowledge between them, the Odone’s discovered a herbal mixture that they hoped would delay their son’s disease. They faced not just skepticism and doubt but ridicule, belittling and anger from the medical world and from fellow families of children with ALD who accused them of creating false hope. In the face of such intimidation the couple persevered and Lorenzo’s Oil, as it became known, eventually proved to keep symptoms at bay for those young boys who took the oil before the onset of severe symptoms.

The oil kept Lorenzo alive until 30 years of age but has since enabled many young men to live into young adulthood, keeping the prospect of innovations in stem cell research a very real possibility for a future cure.

Determination, it would seem, is a necessary trait in learning to navigate the hardships of contemporary society, and it possibly may move mountains too.

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