Welcome to the first 2019 installment of the What a Thing Chronicles!

I’m not going to talk about resolutions after all, but this post might help you in staying the course. This chapter is all about persistence, persistence, persistence.

Recently, I watched an old episode of A&E’s Biography series. It was about writer Stephen King who grew up extremely poor. His father abandoned the family early on but left behind rejection slips from publishers. It seems that at some point King’s father wanted to be a writer. King asked his mother, Ruth (who was working three jobs at the time to support King and his older brother) about it, and she told her son that his father did not become a writer because he lacked persistence.

In the field of psychology, persistence is considered a personality trait, and it means that if you’re fatigued or frustrated, you keep going.  A persistent person’s brain says, “I know you’re tired, but don’t stop.” Don’t think of fatigue in the sense of being sleepy, but rather exhaustion at trying to break into a particular field or maybe you’ve worked for weeks practicing and running lines in preparation as one of seven dwarves. It’s opening night. Are you going to let a little stage fright or some sniffles get you? Nope, you’re going to go out there and give it your all. This is your moment, and you will have it—no matter what.

You have to start somewhere.

Yuvi and Erika in a mentor meeting

If you want to see a lesson in persistence, study the trajectory of a career in Hollywood. You know Octavia Spencer? She’s everywhere, but in 1996’s A Time to Kill, she was a nurse. In 1999’s Being John Malkovich, she played the elevator operator with just a few lines. Take a look at her IMDB page, and you’ll see she had steady parts, some with names and some without. It wasn’t until 2011 after starring in The Help that she hit stardom. Even then, it took Hollywood some time to give her diverse roles.

Are you a Breaking Bad fan? Of course, you know Mike Ehrmantraut—real name Jonathan Banks. His first credited acting job was in 1974’s Linda’s Film about Menstruation. Then he proceeded to be in everything from Simon & Simon, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop and even an episode of Matlock. Then, in 2009, Breaking Bad came along, and he’s now one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. Think about the years Spencer and Banks had to keep persisting at their dream to be an actor in order to have the privilege to choose quality parts.

You were on a roll and now, you’ve hit a wall.

Michael K. Williams starred in the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire from 2002-2008. After the show ended, he was credited as “Harlem Bystander” in The Incredible Hulk. After playing an iconic gay character, he accepted a role playing a bystander. I don’t know Williams personally, but I imagine he took that role because he realized that he had to keep working. He understood that if he wanted to continue to be an actor he must be persistent.

And let’s not forget the tale of John Travolta. He was one of the hottest stars in the late 70s and 80s, with movies like Carrie, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Urban Cowboy. Then something happened, and he started making Look Who’s Talking movies. He made three of those movies.  Three, y’all! And I’ve seen ‘em all. It seemed like his was career was over. Then Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction, and Travolta’s career revived itself.

Perhaps you were doing well working on your degree and hit a snag. Maybe you have a project that’s boring or doesn’t seem worth your time. Know that it is possible to push through to the other side. Also, know that you don’t have to do it alone. You have a CCC, peers, a whole peloton – and don’t forget to add a dash of growth mindset and grit. Toni G. says her mother would always tell her to keep swimming. It’s a line from her mom’s favorite movie Finding Nemo. Keep swimming!

Never stop learning.

Harvey Deutschendorf writes in his post 7 Habits of Highly Persistent People that persistent folks are lifelong learners. Learning and growing is what keeps you in the game. If you’re unwilling to learn new skills, processes and information, you might be tempted to give up. Things change, and you should, too.

Robert De Niro is described on his IMDB page as “one of the greatest actors of all time.” He’s starred in films such as Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter, GoodFellas and This Boy’s Life.  Look, I don’t know why Robert De Niro was in Dirty Grandpa with Zac Efron or The Intern with Anne Hathaway. People watch his movies to learn about acting. If I take a guess because I don’t talk to De Niro, I think he realizes that his industry is constantly changing, and he wants to remain sharp. Going through the process of trying something new offers a priceless gift. Dirty Grandpa is a different type humor; he’s working with a group of people from various backgrounds and skill sets. He has the ability to stretch himself in a different way. If Robert De Niro has to learn new stuff with Zac Efron, so can you.

It’s too late for me.

It’s not over until you’re dead. Many actors and actresses start young and find fame. However, that does not mean that the opportunity for an acting career has passed you because you’re not a twenty-something. Viola Davis is fan favorite and critically acclaimed actress, but it wasn’t always that way. She was in her 40s when she starred in Doubt with Meryl Streep. Believe me, 40 is not old. But a lot of people subscribe to the myth that you have to be young and spry to accomplish dreams and goals. Not true. Navid will love this tidbit. Betty White started her career in 1945, but wasn’t until 1985 that the television show, Golden Girls cemented her place in TV history. Read more about other actors and actresses, who did not let age stop them here.

In Conclusion

Understand that my intention is not to oversimplify the dedication, focus and grit it takes to earn a degree. I encourage you to chat with your peers, who are right there with you, about how they stay in the game. Ask your CCC about her experience – I have all sorts of anecdotes about my college years. Try picking the brain of someone you admire who earned their degree or stuck with something hard until they succeeded. Even reflect on other parts of your life where you’ve persisted and see how you can apply those skills to school There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience you can gain from having these conversations.

Persistence. What a thing.

Let’s roll the credits on those persisting. Checkout what you and your peers are doing.

  • Jorge M-R earned his associate degree! So did the Cerda sisters – DeeDee and Christina. Congratulations!
  • Maria A mastered Develop a Budget on the first try!
  • Yaremi C is at 50% of her degree!
  • Debbie M is at 50% and she also completed a marathon!
  • Kelsey M is at 75%
  • Raul M stays focused by writing “School First” on his game controller!
  • Stephen L hit 25% of his BA at WGU!
  • Gene just hit 75% of his BA at WGU!
  • Mariana P is at 50%!

What a thing.

Until the next time, y’all. We’re cheering for you.

Ashley + the PelotonU Team