Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Running the Race with Perseverance

Holding course is not easy for most people. We are too easily distracted or discouraged. Yet, perseverance is a necessary and indispensable component of success.

Lou Gehrig owed much of his success to a stubborn resolve to not give up. I once read a biography entitled, "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig," by author Jonathan Eig. The book presents an in-depth and endearing look at the man who became one of America’s most beloved sports heroes.

Gehrig, of course, is known most for his consecutive games played streak: for over 14 seasons he did not miss a start. He played through slumps when his hitting and fielding were atrocious, he played through illnesses and injuries, he played the day after being knocked unconscious in an exhibition game, and he even played for an entire season while battling the onset of arterial lateral sclerosis, the fatal disease that now bears his name.

Gehrig was a clumsy child who found it hard to make friends, but who eventually found his way through participation in athletics. In high school, he began to excel in football, soccer, basketball, and baseball. In baseball, he could hit the ball a mile, but was quite awkward in the field. At the young age of 18 years old he secured a tryout with the vaunted New York Giants baseball team and their crusty, old coach, John McGraw. His session in the batting cage was impressive, but McGraw dismissed his big league potential when he saw Gehrig bobble ball after ball while covering first base.

Many would have become discouraged at the biting critique of a man such as McGraw. Some would have quit the sport all together and tried a different route, but not Gehrig. He enrolled at Columbia University with the goal of improving his play and of obtaining a degree (an incredible step forward for the son of German immigrants).

Gehrig did not earn a degree at Columbia; he only spent one baseball season there. A scout for the New York Yankees saw Gehrig play, and the 20-year old kid was signed to a Major League contract. His play at first base was still sub par, but Gehrig devoted himself to working on his fielding skills. Within two seasons, Gehrig’s hard work paid off: he replaced Wally Pipp in the starting lineup. The rest is history.

We must “run the race with perseverance,” says the Hebrews writer. Moments may be discouraging. There may be distractions. But, we must keep going. Let us hold the course. Our success depends on it!