Success, failure and Demosthenes

Let’s be honest: exam time can be pretty stressful, not least because it raises the spectre of potentially not getting the results we wanted. While natural talents and abilities can certainly help make things easier, the importance of hard work on the path to success really can’t be overstated.

Sir Edmund Hillary demonstrated this point very well. As he put it, “In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed.”

For Hillary, success in reaching the top of Mt Everest was literally a matter of taking it in steps. Metaphorically, though, the same was true for the Greek orator and politician Demosthenes insofar as he undertook a regime of action intended to help himself improve and progress.

According to reports, Demosthenes attempted to overcome the effects of a speech impediment by rehearsing speeches with pebbles in his mouth. He built an underground room so he could avoid disturbing others in his home, and practiced orations against the sound of crashing waves in order to strengthen his voice. He is even said to have fixed a sword to the ceiling and stood underneath it so that he could train himself out of a tendency to lift one of his shoulders while speaking.

Perhaps no less important than hard work on the road to success, though, is the way in which we perceive failing—and there are definitely better and worse ways of perceiving them!

If you would like to learn more about success and failure and helpful ways to think about them, we’ve collected a set resources and videos together. You can check them out here.

Tōku toa he toa rangatira.

My courage is the courage of chiefs.

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