Two Important Ingredients for Success


happy businessman holding success text and jumping on the green field

I’ll never forget the day, just after church, when a friend pulled me aside and said, “My son can’t find a job and he needs to make some money fast. So he’s going to write a book. Any advice for him?”

Yeah, well, the advice I had wasn’t for him, it was for her: “Don’t ever say anything like that to me again.”

Whatever gave people the impression that writing was a get-rich quick scheme? Or that there was anything quick about it? Those of us who’ve been working at this for more than a few days know that very little happens quickly in publishing. So let me point out two things you have to have if you hope to succeed at this writing game: patience and perseverance.

But then, those two gems are necessary for success in most fields. So for those who are growing weary, who feel it’s taking too long, who wonder why they ever jumped into this pool to begin with, let me encourage you with a few stories of success that finally came—but only after substantial patience and perseverance:

  1. Emily Dickinson: One of the best-loved writers of all times, Dickinson crafted 1800 pieces of literary beauty. And, while she lived, guess how many were published? Less than 1 percent. And many of those dozen or so pieces were altered big-time to fit contemporary poetic rules. (Rotten editors!) Her first book of poems was published in 1890, 4 years after her death, by a group of friends. The first complete collection of her poems wasn’t published until 1955. Today? She’s read worldwide and considered by many to be one of the most important American poets ever.
  2. Vincent Van Gogh: One of his paintings recently sold for $149.5 million. And yet, while he lived, he sold…wait for it…one painting. One. To a friend. For the equivalent of pennies. So what did he do in the face of no sales? He kept painting. In fact, he created over 800 works. That, my friends, is perseverance.
  3. Dr. Seuss: Oh yes, Theodor Seuss Giesel was not an overnight success. In fact, his first book was rejected by 27 publishers. But thank heaven he kept trying, and ultimately we all benefited from The Cat in the Hat and the discovery that we do, indeed, like Green Eggs and Ham!
  4. Harland David Sanders: I’m especially fond of this one because Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame actually helped send me to college. No lie. He grew up in the same denomination I did, and gave scholarships to children of pastors and missionaries in that denomination. So not only did I receive one of those scholarships, the Colonel, decked out in his white suit and hat, came to my college once a year to say hello. And guess what the food service folks served him every single time. Yup, fried chicken.
             While KFC is, today, a clear success, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it. Now that’s finger-lickin’ perseverance!
  5. Jack London: Speaking of rejection slips, this author of White Fang and The Call of the Wild received six hundred rejections for his works. Six. Hundred. Nuff said.
  6. Oprah Winfrey: Arguably one of the most recognizable people in the world, right? Revolutionized talk TV. Launched numerous writers’ careers with her book club. And, like many who are now successful, took hit after hit before she hit it big. In fact, she was fired from her job as a TV reporter because—ready for this?—they declared her “unfit for television.” Yeah, okay. Good thing she didn’t believe them.
  7. Thomas Edison: Okay, so today we equate this name with invention and brilliance. But when he was a kid, Edison’s teachers were less than encouraging. Said he was too stupid to learn anything. So, adulthood was better, right? Yeah, not so much. He was fired from his first two jobs. Enter his inventor years, during which he invented the light bulb…after 1,000 failed attempts! Perseverance, thy name is Edison!
  8. Abraham Lincoln: We all know Lincoln as one of the most successful and revered presidents in history. But that didn’t happen until he’d been demoted from captain to private while in the military, he’d started any number of businesses that failed, and he ran for public office—and was defeated. Over and over. So glad he kept at it!

This is just a short list of folks who have had to overcome adversity, opposition, rejection, and failure to reach the heights of success. And I believe they made it because of those two special ingredients: patience and perseverance. They didn’t let failure derail them. And they didn’t expect success NOW. They just kept at it, doing what they knew to do, believing in themselves and their calling.

Let’s follow their lead and stay the course.


19 Responses to Two Important Ingredients for Success

  1. Beth Durham March 12, 2014 at 5:46 am #


    Galatians 6:9 encourages us not to “be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

    As a Christian author, it is certainly my mission to not only write entertaining fiction but to inspire and uplift my readers.

    As an unpublished author, weariness seems always around the corner.

    Thank you for your encouragement today!

  2. Robin Patchen March 12, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    It’s funny how we think our need to be patient and persevere is somehow unique to publishing. How many years does a concert pianist study and practice before playing professionally–assuming he ever does? How many years does a painter study his craft before finally selling a painting–if he ever does? Why do we think publishing should be different. It’s a craft, but it’s also an art. If you want guarantees, get a job at 7-eleven. It probably pays better.

    • pamela black March 12, 2014 at 6:56 am #

      Great comment Robin. So, 7-eleven has openings? Because hocking Slurpee’s is looking pretty good this morning…

  3. Jennifer Sienes March 12, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    Amen, Sister! Thanks for the reminder, Karen.

  4. Rene` Diane Aube March 12, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    Just the medicine I needed this morning.

    As Robin Patchen said, there are so many things that require patience and perseverance. Our personal lives also require these fruits of the Spirit; our marriages, children, and elderly parents we care for sometimes bring us to the point of giving up. Hopefully we don’t.

    Hopefully, if you are feeling called to write, you persevere and plow forward with patience, too. God will be faithful and do His part in His time.

    Thank you, Karen. Have a wonderful day. 🙂

  5. pamela black March 12, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    And thank you for making me cry on what feels like the fifth Monday this week…and THANK YOU! for reminding me that greatness is not a product of being recognized and revered, but the other way around. If we don’t write as a simple response to Gods calling, and instead focus on the end product, discouragement has eaten our lunch before we even begin.
    This. Is. SO. HARD! Even if you take away all the publishing struggles, fighting to follow your calling is to be a salmon swimming upstream. Sure, there are moments of bliss, and beauty, but they swim amidst difficulty and discouragement.
    Thanks, Karen, for being a voice of encouragement when I am drowning in a sea of confusion. I really needed to hear this today.

  6. Cristine Eastin March 12, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    Thanks, Karen, for the reminder! It would be easy to dismiss these examples as the especially gifted ones, the mad ones—and therefore, not me—but they became special through their patience and perseverance. Only the Lord knows what we’ll become through sticking with it. He has “plans for us,” which likely includes teaching us a whole lot through being engaged in a process with Him.

  7. Julie Surface Johnson March 12, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I’m printing this off and tacking it to the wall beside my computer. Thanks for this, Karen.

  8. Ron Estrada March 12, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    It’s one of those rules that everyone knows but few follow: perseverance will win out over talent and intelligence every time. Failure only happens when we quit. Never quit and you can never fail.

  9. Jeanne Takenaka March 12, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I love this post, Karen. It sparks hope and the courage to keep moving forward, writing, fulfilling the calling God placed on me. I especially loved the line: “They didn’t let failure derail them.”

    If I (and all writers) choose to stay on the tracks, keeping our thoughts and hearts focused in the right place, we’ll be able to get back up after a rejection or setback and keep moving forward. Great truth for this morning. Thank you!

  10. Effie-Alean Gross March 12, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Karen, Thank you so much for this post. If ever I needed it, I do now. Even though I’ve had over 200 articles sold and three books containing my work or biography, I still have not gotten a book contract. Today, I wondered if I should quit. You answered my question. Bless you.

  11. Nancy Farrier March 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you, Karen. I am willing to be patient, but there are limits. lol In this microwave, texting, email age, patience seems so hard. I appreciate your reminder and loved the stories of the “greats” who had to persevere.

  12. Nancy Emmick Panko March 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Thanks Karen, I needed this!

    • Hamza Hassan December 1, 2014 at 12:14 am #

      Hello Ms. Nancy Emmick,

      I hope you are doing well. I’m not sure whether or not you are the same Nancy Emmick Panko who wrote the wonderful story “A Journey of Healing,” from a very recently published book for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The story, however, touched my heart and soothed my soul in a very positive way.

      Best wishes,
      Hamza Hassan
      Saudi Arabia

  13. Davalynn Spencer March 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Marvelous pep talk, Karen. Thank you. So glad I didn’t listen to the author who told me years ago that it was too late for me. Five novels later and with a new contract under my belt, I am living proof of what you’re saying. Along with all those other more famous people!

  14. Janet Ann Collins March 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Karen, you must have had Divine inspiration to post this today because I’m one of the many who needed to hear it right now.

  15. Dave Fessenden March 14, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Karen, when I read, “Don’t ever say anything like that to me again,” I started laughing, and I can’t stop!

  16. Susan Rehberg March 14, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Thank you, Karen, for the encouraging words I so need! This week I, too, considered handing in my laptop and pen after writing and publishing poetry for the past 13 years. How glad I am that Marlene Bagnull mentioned your blog in her latest email for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference! Hopefully our paths will cross at the conference. I plan to read more of your blogs!

  17. Jackie Layton March 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Thanks for the encouraging post today!

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