November 2011 column contained a
poem I wrote for 300 freshmen leadership students at Troy
University—“Five P’s for Leaders”—Priority, Positivity, Preparation,
Perseverance, and People. The July 2010
column was on Priority; December 2011
on Positivity; January 2012 was on
Preparation. This month’s column is on the absolutely crucial quality of
Consider Fred Coulter. Growing up in Iowa, I had always known Fred E.
Coulter. Mr. Coulter had to learn to walk four times during his
seventy-seven years. First, as a toddler; second, after he was hit by
two potentially fatal illnesses at once. Doctors gave up on him and
proclaimed his death was imminent. But after months in bed, he rose on
feeble legs that would not support him—yet he persevered. After several
months, he walked and became an expert hunter, walking the fields daily
to strengthen his legs. When he was in his fifties, arthritis of the
spine felled him, and doctors again said he would never walk again.
After a long time in bed, he rose and began to walk with the aid of a
twisted buckhorn cane.
By the time I came to know Mr. Coulter, he walked with a funny gait, but
he did so quite briskly. Then in 1957, misfortune struck again as a
driver ran a stop sign and hit his bright yellow truck. It was before
the days of seatbelts, and Mr. Coulter was propelled through the
passenger side window. He remained unconscious for three days, hovering
between life and death. But within two years he was walking and swimming
in the pool in our home town—one that he had championed and raised money
to build a few years earlier. In 1964, his heart finally gave out. But
whenever I consider giving up, I think of Mr. Fred Coulter—and many
others like him—who refused to quit.
These lines from a poem by an unknown author stress the importance of
perseverance: “Don’t quit when things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill . . . , you never can
tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems so far. So stick to
the fight when you’re hardest hit—it’s when things seem worst that you
must not quit.”
Great leaders persevere!