Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Great, Almost Great and Perseverance

Over the past week I've encountered the famous, not-so-famous, and possibly-going-to-be famous and I've been reminded of probably the most important factor in greatness: perseverance. Our perseverance might just determine how successful we will be in unleashing our personal greatness.

Last week, Bruce Springsteen walked right by our window in Asbury Park checking out a courtyard that is next to our bookstore. There was no one with him, no hordes of crowds following him and he seemed a bit lost. Yet later, on the street with his wife, we saw the Bruce that everyone knows waving to people and shaking their hands. A police officer who has been in Asbury Park for years told me he remembers Bruce sitting outside of the stores on Cookman avenue with his guitar case open playing for quarters. Tough to imagine but Bruce persevered and became "The Boss."

On May 2nd we hosted Junot Diaz, author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" which won the Pulitzer Prize. Junot shared the reality of coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic not knowing the language, putting himself through college and then spending 11 years writing his book. There was one point where he stopped and couldn't write for years. But he persevered and finished his book. Junot said "As a Hispanic, I have to do everything three times better than the next guy just to get noticed."

Freddie Vargas, who was also present on May 2nd, is a film writer and producer and is also from the Dominican Republic. He came to the States, learned English, put himself through college and still works multiple jobs so he can pursue his passion: making movies. He just won an award for his short movie "Hispaniola." When I asked Freddy how he succeeded he told me "You have to have a passion for what you do. And you have to persevere through everything that's thrown at you." He persevered and is now working on his first full length film.

Sometimes I think that as a privileged white male I haven't really learned about perseverance. It is easy for me to gain access to people and put my ideas out there. What would happen if things got tough? How about you? Got a dream you've put aside because it was difficult? Or are you still pursuing it in the face of all obstacles? Persevere!

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