A note on perseverance

On March 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm my friend erroneously sent a text to my home phone, “Have you read Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up? Really good”

Of course I never received the text.

Below my cool dad facade I’m a book nerd. I love reading. In fact, dare I say, I like reading more than I like watching a movie (Okay…maybe not Die Hard). Anyway, there are always books piled on my living room end table, next to my writing chair, a pile of books that no doubt drives Cindy nuts.

Here is a real-time picture of the end table as I write this post.

So on July 26, 2020, at 3:29 pm my friend realized the text, from three years ago was never received (I’m not sure how he came to this realization), sends me a picture of the original text and says, “Still a good book if you haven’t read it”

The next day I went out and bought it.

I’m only four chapters in however, there is a stunner of a sentence in the third chapter we both need in our lives right now. Talking about his young desire to be a magician, Martin writes,

“Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”

After reading that sentence I underlined it, put an asterisk in the margin like I do with sentences that kick me in the gut or the heart or the ass. Whichever body part needs kicking that day or kicking in future days.

Before he graduated high school, Steve Martin realized he was not ultra-talented. He had an awful singing voice, an awkward stage presence, and he wasn’t very gifted as a comedian or a magician. And yet Martin went on to become one of the most successful performers of all-time.


Martin learned that talent without perseverance is doomed talent.

Chances are we are not the most talented parent or friend or spouse or teacher or student or writer. Chances are, if we’re old enough, we realize talent is overrated. (Hey…what happened to all those talented kids in high school???)

Our willingness to stick with a problem, solve a problem, and prepare for the next problem is how we become successful.

A few months ago I meet one of my writing heroes, Tim O’Brien, and asked him what piece of advice would you give a high school senior.

O’Brien responded, “Be a donkey. Be stubborn. Don’t let them tell you that you can’t do something.”

We are lead to believe that talent is sexy. Perseverance and donkeys are not (unless you have an Eeyore thing). But hard times come and our willingness to work under less-than-ideal conditions will do more for us than talent ever will.

As you know, the last few American months have shown us things do not go as planned.

Side note:

As I write this post from my couch today, if it wasn’t for the plague, Cindy and I and a bunch of our friends would be tanning on Mexican beach, kid-free, with cold beer in our hands. But instead I’m listening to my kids play Fortnite while I sip on coffee that has turned too cold for my liking.

End of side-note.

And when things don’t go as planned like failures, setbacks, obstacles, and plagues– talent will not help us overcome.

Perseverance–a Eeyore-like determination to keep going or to resend to the text you meant to send three years ago– is what allows us to advance when times are hard and when you want to quit and run away from your problems–to a Mexican beach and drink cold beer all day.

Be well,


You know what I need??? A new t-shirt. Click here and order a limited-edition, super-soft Write on Fight on supporter t-shirt!

If you like this post, you may also like:

Do you believe in signs?


I’ve got good news and bad news


Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.


Jay Armstrong is a writer, blogger, speaker, and an award-winning high school English teacherDiagnosed with a rare neurological disease that resulted in a hole in his brain– Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_3810.jpg

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.