The Constant Struggle to Keep Believing in Yourself

Robert Terson

My favorite writer, William Goldman, in his wonderful novel Boys and Girls together, has one of his characters, P.T. Kirkaby, a wealthy businessman from St. Louis who is full of deep regrets about his life and is trying to talk his adult son Walt out of going to New York to find fulfillment, offer this rather dark philosophy about life: “There’s only one thing that’s important and that’s this: I got through it. All this fulfilling stuff. Where’d you get that? Whoever told you it was supposed to be fulfilling? It’s not. You…just…get…through…it. That’s it. That’s all. That’s all and it’s what I want on my tombstone: P.T. KIRKABY. HE GOT THROUGH IT.”

I’ve often wondered if Goldman was having the character speak for him or not. I suspect he was, but I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think we’re here to “just get through it.” I think there’s a hell of a lot more to life than that; however, there’s no doubt that for most of us life is a constant struggle of epic proportion. And if we’re not alert, careful, life can beat us down to the point that all we want to do is give up and run away to someplace far far away, which, alas, never solves a damn thing.

So, what is the answer? How do we keep alive the dream to find fulfillment, to attain our outrageous goals, without going mad, without the struggle doing us in, without having a nervous breakdown?

We do it by believing in ourselves, that’s how. Nothing is more important. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Gail Devers said, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

Ah, but to those who are in the depths of despair, struggling mightily to juggle jobs with bosses they despise, difficult relationships, not enough money to pay the bills, constant rejection (writers and salespeople, for example), caring for a sick loved one, and on and on I could go, it’s a Herculean effort to keep the faith, to keep believing.

If that’s you, I want to put my arms around you and give you the biggest hug I have in me. I want to tell you to hang in there—you can do it. We all can. That’s what 80% of success is: hanging in there; doing whatever it takes for as long as it takes; never giving up, never surrendering.

I once saw a fight, 46 years ago in San Diego, between a huge Marine and a puny Sailor who was outweighed by at least 100 pounds. I never saw a bigger mismatch. The Marine beat the living hell out of the Sailor—just kept pummeling him, knocking him to the ground. Every time the Sailor got up, the Marine knocked him back down. People in the crowd starting yelling to the Sailor to stay down, but he wouldn’t do it, kept getting back up, only to withstand more punishment. It was brutal. On and on it went. That fight lasted a good 15 minutes. When it was over the Sailor’s face looked like mashed potatoes and gravy; the Marine?—not a scratch on him. Only it was the Sailor standing over the worn-out Marine at the end—the Marine who had fallen to the pavement, exhausted from all the punishment he had dished out, unable to continue because he could barely catch his breath. “Gung ho,” the Sailor said sarcastically, as he turned and staggered away from his “beaten” adversary, who was looking up at him in utter disbelief.

I learned a great lesson that day.

Hang in there!

You’re going to make it!


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