When JK Rowling began to write her first novel, she was a single-mother pent up in a tiny flat in Edinburgh, Scotland. Struggling to make ends meet, she scraped by on a meager public welfare check provided by the state. In the solitude of her desperate situation, Rowling even contemplated suicide.
Rowling’s saving grace and source of inspiration was her infant daughter. Determined to support her child, she resolved to put her talents to work. While her baby napped, Rowling would pull out a pen and paper to compose ideas for a book. Laboring under a lingering cloud of poverty, she would try to clear her mind in order to sketch out characters and plotlines. In spare moments here and there, week after week, Rowling toiled away on her story.
Demonstrating a remarkable will to persevere, JK Rowling eventually secured a grant from a local arts council and published her first novel. Before long, the Harry Potter series became a worldwide sensation, and Rowling an international celebrity.
What can JK Rowling teach us about perseverance?
1) Perseverance springs from having purpose.
Even the most ambitious leader’s willpower eventually fails her in the absence of passion. Passion stems from having a clear sense of purpose. Furthermore, the most powerful passion comes from a desire to provide for, or serve, others.
2) Perseverance necessitates discarding the belief that life is easy.
When it comes to chasing our dreams and exercising our potential, we are quick to point to the obstacles in our path. We cite adverse circumstances as excuses for playing small in life, or we blame a lack of time, resources, and energy. To step into a life of influence, there comes a time when we must drown out the excuses and get to work. Our dreams aren’t magically delivered to our doorstep; they must be tracked down by persevering through life’s trials and tempests.
3) Perseverance means not stopping because you’re tired, but because the task is done.
For an author, inspiration may come in a moment, but carrying a manuscript to completion takes thousands of hours of work. In struggling to convert the creativity in their minds into imaginative prose, many writers grow weary and give up. Rowling faced the additional fatigue of raising a child as a single parent. Yet she refused to let the tiresome process of fleshing out her ideas, and the weight of caretaking her daughter, deter her from finishing her books.
Questions for Leaders
Look back to a time in life when you had to persevere. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome them? What did you gain by persevering?