When I was a kid, I lived in the high desert of California. We lived down a dirt road, and we had no fence around the six acres we lived on, nor any of the surrounding neighbors. Animals could walk freely along our property.
One day, I was standing in the kitchen and right outside our window were two coyotes fighting. The look in their eyes was ferocious. Angry. Aggressive. Ugly. Dangerous. Vibrant.
As they were rolling around right outside the window, biting and clawing each other, they weren’t trying to persevere. Perseverance is just a nice, gentle and fancy word. “Keep on keeping on”, they say. But this soft language hides the harsh reality of what those words truly mean.
In reality, this perseverance is ugly, angry, and aggressive. True perseverance, real tenacity, is obsessed with survival in order to make it through the hardest times.
Those coyotes were living a much harsher reality then we are willing to recognize. In order to live, they needed something much nastier and uglier than our pretty word “perseverance”.
After they finished their fight, I heard them howling wounded for several hours, out of sight. On a normal day, I was allowed to roam the desert without question. On this day, I was told not to go outside. Why? A wounded animal is much more dangerous than a healthy one. An animal that has just been on the edge of death is the most dangerous. Why? He has most tenacity after such a close brush with death.
The majority of stories told, be it movies or books, feature an underdog who manages to overcome. Our culture loves that story. Someone who has the odds stacked against them, is repeatedly beaten down, and stands victorious at the end. Often times, the character that overcame started out weak, yet forged ahead regardless. The hero isn’t always the strongest, fastest, smartest, or most gifted. Or even if he is the “Chosen One”, he still has the odds stacked against him. How does our hero always win? Tenacity.
Rocky gives a pretty good summary of what it means to have tenacity:
“But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”
Having tenacity doesn’t mean you are the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest, bravest, handsomest, richest, or most gifted one out there. It means you’re the one that no one can beat down. Your safety net is knowing you can only fall so far, because you’ve fallen before. Rock bottom is your solid ground. The mighty fear the tenacious, because they fight on long after they should have been defeated.
You learn your strengths when you are weak.
As long as you are alive, you will be given another opportunity to succeed.
However, that opportunity may be hidden behind hunger, rejection, pain, and even blood.
The struggle will awaken a very brave and powerful part of you. The wounded animal within will heal to become a mighty lion.
Do not settle with normal and safe. Grow to be a stronger man.
A man who takes the hits.