Tag Archives: Lines of Control

Consider this

Persistence saves the day

by Robert Sperber

I couldn’t help thinking, when I read about Vaclev Havel’s death last month, how short life is and how important it is that we use whatever time we have to stay true to what we believe in. Whether it’s fighting a totalitarian regime  ̶  in Havel’s case, the Soviet Union  ̶  or something smaller and more personal, like pursuing medical research or a legal cause you care about, the race goes not necessarily to the swiftest, but to those who stay the course.

Sometimes it seems hopeless.  And sometimes it is, at least for a while.  Havel, who became president of Czechoslovakia (later The Czech Republic), was a dissident award-winning playwright who spent years imprisoned by the puppet Czech government and then given menial labor jobs because he persisted in his dream of a free, independent country. That he succeeded in his lifetime may have been as much a surprise to him as to his countrymen, but I doubt whether he ever questioned that his cause would eventually succeed. 

In his heart, he knew what all who achieve their dreams know: we are here only so many years, those years go by quickly and we all eventually die. Better to die for something than die for nothing.

Persistence is the key.

Most of us, of course, are not engaged in global struggles.  Many fight smaller, but no less brave, battles: proving the innocence of those wrongfully convicted, proving the guilt of those who got away with crimes, persevering in breakthrough medical research, or helping a child with a learning disability make sense of processes the rest of us take for granted.

For some, it’s more personal: Overcoming a speech impediment, fighting alcoholism or drug addiction, standing up to bullies, winning over that girl (or guy), or excelling in javelin throwing. It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that we all believe in ourselves and the cause we fight for, get through those dark hours and carry on.

I face this myself as I write the sequel to my first novel.  Writing is a wonderful, yet agonizing, process.  There are days of exultation, when the words sound right and I can do no wrong.  And there are days when that doesn’t happen.  But I remind myself that I felt the same way with my first book, Lines of Control, now doing remarkably well.  So I persist, keep at it, and soon that second book, followed by others, will be out there.

My characters, particularly Charlotte Westbrook and her colleague Lewis Sullivan, are no different in their quest for justice. Charlotte doubts herself, gets herself in trouble for overstepping her bounds to the point that she risks her career, but she persists. And in the end (at least so far), she has won.

There’s a lesson there for all of us.  Moments of inspiration in your cause, whatever that cause is, are great, but you can’t wait for them.  Force yourself to move forward every day.  You’ll reach your goal and know that your persistence made all the difference.

Consider this

Just because you’re an outsider doesn’t mean you’re wrong

Have you ever noticed that most people follow the herd? They go along with the popular notion, the conventional wisdom, the prevalent opinions. It’s safe. It makes them popular, may help them with connections and relationships, and generally makes their lives easier.

But that doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, it’s those who stray from the herd who invent the latest computer innovation, compose a breakthrough song, create a new marketing campaign, or get elected with a radically different idea.

One thing’s for sure: If you take your own path, whatever’s at the end of that road will be yours.

There’s a price to pay, of course. Those who think differently tend to be awkward when dealing with other people and situations. They get socially ostracized and don’t share in the fruits of taking the conventional way, the easy way, through life. They’re considered difficult, or odd, or whatever. Sometimes they’re lucky and find others like them, which makes all the difference in the world because we all love and need support. But for most, it’s difficult to find that support.

Ever see the movie, Peggy Sue Got Married? I don’t know if he intended it or not, but director Francis Ford Coppola has several characters in the film who go their own way. My favorite is Richard, the science nerd. This poor guy is shunned or picked on by most of the in crowd in high school. He consoles himself with his experiments and the knowledge that he is right. And sure enough, at the high school reunion some 25 years later, he’s a mega-business giant, kind of a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, now worth a fortune. He carries a chip on his shoulder by this point, but we know how that got there.

Do I identify with Richard or with outsiders in general? You bet. And I bet many of you do, too. Those of us who didn’t quite fit in during our adolescence did much better as adults. Maybe that’s because we gained the benefit of being “apart” from the herd. We had a chance to observe others, to view life differently, to choose our own paths.

When I choose the heroes for the books I write, I find that I always settle on outsiders — characters who, because of circumstance or belief, see things differently than those who are content to believe in and follow the status quo. They take on the establishment because their way of looking at the world reveals different truths. The establishment fights back, but in the end, the heroes are right. Then everyone else, all the go-along types and hangers-on, throw their arms around them and tell them how great they are. But we know the truth.

Life can be like that. It’s important that you keep the strength of your convictions and follow your own expectations. In the end, you are your own guiding star.

Here’s the link to the heroes I created: http://www.charlottewestbrook.com/.