Two Saturdays ago I sat and watched tennis star Maria Sharapova win her first ever French Open title. Even if you’re not a tennis aficionado, you may have heard of Ms. Sharapova. She’s the 6-foot, gorgeous, Russian born, Americanized blonde who has won many titles, including several Grand Slams. Several, that is, except for the aforementioned French Open. Her most recent tale of tennis triumph can be summarized in three powerful words: “never give up.” It’s a mantra we should all live by.
Rewind to 2008, the year Sharapova was sidelined by what could have been a career ending shoulder injury. The process the former world #1 went through to rebuild that shoulder was both slow and painful. What’s amazing is not so much that she did rebuild it, but that she even tried. You see, at the time Sharapova could already boast of an envious career. She wonWimbledon at 17, was #1 at 18, won the U.S. Open at 19, and the Australian Open at 20. She had it all…fame, fortune and a fabulous life. Then, her shoulder gave out and she fell to a ranking of 126. The shoulder gave out, but Sharapova never gave up.
“I could have said I don’t need this. I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have Grand Slams. But when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it’s freezing outside, when you know that it can be the most difficult day, when nothing is working, when you feel like the belief sometimes isn’t there from the outside world and you seem so small.”
Sharapova pressed on though and believed in herself; something I have impressed upon my daughter since day one. For her perseverance, Sharapova not only won the French Open, she became only the 10th woman in history to win a career Grand Slam, and guess what? She’s once again the world’s #1.
Maria Sharapova did it. Gymnast Kerri Strug also did it when she literally vaulted into American sports history on a bum ankle during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Competing on what was later learned to be a third-degree lateral sprain, Strug’s courage and heroics pretty much guaranteed the Americans the coveted all-around gold medal. All because, painful ankle and all, she didn’t give up.
Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything” and was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”
Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, received a “C” on a Yale paper describing his idea for an overnight delivery service.
Michael Jordan was cut from their high school basketball team.
12 publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s book about a wizard boy.
Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7 and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”
Fred Astaire kept a memo over hisBeverly Hillsfireplace that read “can’t act, can’t sing, slightly bald, can dance a little,” the words he received following his first screen test.
Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh all went winless their first seasons as NFL head coaches.
Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre chemistry student and was once told his theory of germs was “ridiculous fiction.”
“We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out,” is what Decca Records of the Beatles.
Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.
Both Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana’s first NFL passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking “imagination and had no good ideas.”
R. H. Macy tried and failed seven times before his store inNew York Citycaught on.
When Lucille Ball was once told to “try another profession” when she began studying to be an actress.
Vince Lombardi was one thought to “possess minimal football knowledge and lack motivation.”
Beethoven’s teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.”
The first time he went to bat professionally, Hank Aaron went 0 for 5.
Charles Schultz’s high school yearbook rejected every cartoon he submitted.
Julie Andrews was told she “was not photogenic enough for the film” following her first screen test.
The first time Jerry Seinfeld walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language.
A manager of the Grand Ole Opry once told Elvis Presley “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
27 publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
In the world of history and politics, a popular urban myth has it that Winston Churchill once gave a speech in which he said nothing but “never give up, never give up, never give up.” The tale is somewhat true, but what the British Prime Minister actually said was “Never give in, never, never, never, never, never” during a 1941 speech at theHarrowSchool. The Allies still today can thank Mr. Churchill for practicing what he preached.
Never give in and never give up. I supposed they could be considered somewhat similar, but at the same time, totally different. I strive to never give in to prejudice, pettiness and pessimism. At the same time, I vow to never give up trying to lose weight and get in better shape or on my 26-year-long marriage even though we are empty nesters and the “nest” is not quite as exciting as it once was. I will also never, ever give up on the people I love, regardless that “sometimes you have to give up on people not because you don’t care, but because they don’t.”
Instead, I will work hard at turning my cant’s into cans and my dreams into plans because “we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. God never abandons us. We get knocked down but get up again and keep going,” 2 Cor 4:8.
Never give up my friends. You never know what’s down the road!