The December 2009 issue of Vogue featured a profile on one of my all-time favourite people: Hilary Clinton. As celebrity profiles go, Jonathan Van Meter’s was a strong one, if a little fawning at times. (She’s pretty! In real life she’s pretty!) But what impressed me most was less the article than a fabulous photo of Clinton in her Washington D.C. office.
On a shelf behind her is a small statue of a pregnant African woman. Clinton keeps it to remind her that most of the world’s work is done by women, who day in and day out do the (unglamorous) chores that our civilization is built upon: taking care of the little’uns, making sure everyone gets fed. And on her desk is a small ceramic block with Winston Churchill’s famous words: Never, never, never give up.
To me, these touchstones in Clinton’s office are symbols of humility and perseverance. Perhaps the top two underrated virtues in today’s world. I mean, why bother with perseverance when we should have everything we desire right now?
You are special parents tell their kids, and so we are, but how often it is that our very “specialness” translates into a sense of entitlement. This insidious sense that if we really were that special, things would come a little easier than they do. When in fact, so much of life is comprised of simple, humble tasks, the repetition of which can in turn breed success.
I’m dealing with this right now in my writing career. I've written a novel, and I’ve given it to some smart, best-selling authors who loved it and have given me their support. But the road to publication for a first-time novelist can be a long and rocky one. The journey is littered with rejections, revisions, re-submissions and the sometimes painful task of showing up at a blank page day in and day out. You have to be humble. You have to keep the faith. You have to keep working at it, especially when you feel like giving up.
Humility and perseverance, people. Look where they got Hilary.