Such a simple word. Only two syllables and yet the definition is much more complex. When you go to the Oxford dictionary, the definition is listed as, “the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.” The definition, originally a mental health term, is now only relegated to legal battles and extreme workout programs.
However, when most people are asked what the definition of insanity is, most people will respond with the same statement: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, expecting different results.” The phrase, attributed to Einstein, Franklin, and Twain is so commonly known that everyone uses that as the generally accepted definition.
So when I ask you: “Steadfastness in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” is the definition of what word, everyone here should say:
Perseverance. Confused? It’s okay, just keep trying…
Perseverance is defined, by the Oxford Dictionary as, “Steadfastness in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Nothing in that definition seems to be negative in any way. Even the word perseverance elicits images of great achievement and brilliant minds as they toils away at thankless research and countless defeats to finally achieve the goal that they set out for. Even when an athlete achieves something incredible, the interviewer always seems to ask the same question. From daredevils and thrill-seekers to intellectuals and professors, the question is the same:
“Everyone thought you were crazy to do this. How’d you pull it off?”
The answer, surprisingly enough is equally predictable: “I just kept on pushing, kept on trying and refused to give up and finally saw my opportunity and I took it.”
What’s the difference between perseverance and insanity? Success. That’s all. Succeed and you doing the same thing, over and over, expecting different results is applauded as evolution, learning from your mistakes. Your refusal to give up, when things seem impossible is heralded as many things, dedication, devotion, fortitude and persistence. Not once will anyone ever doubt that person’s conviction in achieving their goals.
But if you spent the same amount of time and then quit, then you’re insane. Simple as that. You’ve said it to someone before, I’m sure of it. A friend tells you that they’re doing something that seems to be outside of their normal reach. Maybe it’s that cute bartender at your favorite restaurant or maybe it’s running a half-marathon. I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, “I never called them insane! That’s not something that I’d do to a friend!” And there are some of you that this may be a completely true statement. But a large majority of people will respond with the statement, “You’re doing what? You’re insane! (Or crazy or nuts or psycho or whatever term for the sudden and extreme loss of sanity)” And yet, if they succeed, you compliment them on their perseverance. But if you ask them months later how that endeavor went, and the y tell you that they quit, the commonly prevailing thought is “I told you that you were crazy to try that!” And therein, I believe is the problem.
In our daily lives, we all have things that we are doing or not doing that we can’t help but ask ourselves, “Why?” We question everything about our daily lives at some point and why we’re not doing something, anything else instead. Why work this job when I wanted to write a book? Why continue to waste time and money to go to law school when you would rather be for culinary? The answer to that question, ironically enough, is simple. We’re too afraid of failure to try. We don’t want to take the risks involved with making that leap and then learn in midair that we can’t fly. And for most people, that realization will hide behind things that are plausible enough to warrant no investigation by anyone, including you after further analysis:
“I can’t quit my job to write because I have bills that I need to pay, no free time and if I’m not successful, then I wasted a year of my life.”
I’m sure that someone somewhere is reading this and thinking that there are millions of writers out there who were never published. I respectfully retort that I wonder how many of them are not published because they believed they would never get published before writing word one? The only real difference between perseverance and insanity is not success, but quitting. That’s the only way you can ever fail at anything. To simply stop trying and give up on the thing that you once dedicated so much time to.
I believe that the real definition of insanity is a simple truth.
- Talking yourself out of success for fear or failure, sometimes before an attempt is even made.
- Quitting in the pursuit of a goal, either personal or professional, for reasons other than death
Because remember, in my lifetime alone; a man with no legs finished 2nd in the 400m qualifier in the Olympics, a woman ran 103.1 mi. with a total elevation gain of 9400 m in twelve hours, and Felix Baumgartner leapt from a height of 24.21 miles above Earth, falling at a speed of 843.6 mph in 119,431 foot free-fall and all of those events happened in the span of 72 days…
I believe Wesley, the main character in Wanted, said it best:
What the fuck have you done lately?