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Never give up

There is a proverb attributed to Oliver Goldsmith that says: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

It is a motivational aphorism that describes the glorious comeback of Tiger Woods, who recently won the 2019 Masters Golf tournament after an 11-year slump without a major championship, six years of shameful, self-inflicted mishaps in his personal life, and more than 10 years of health issues.

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Woods’ physical injuries were worse than his marital infidelities. He had four lower back surgeries and pain so debilitating that his kids once found him face down in the backyard. He used to keep a urine bucket next to his bed because he couldn’t carry his battered body to the bathroom. Coming back and playing golf was never in his thoughts. His main concern was how to get away from his pains and live a normal life again. Not a few mortals would have given up in sheer defeat.

There were moments in recent years when Woods wanted to give up. He reportedly told his friend Mark O’Meara that he didn’t think he could ever play again. There had been too many humiliations and a total of seven operations; the last was a spinal-fusion surgery three years ago. Back then, Woods could not bend over to tie his own shoelaces. Once, he had to send his daughter to fetch help because he fell flat on his back and could not get up.

But Woods persisted playing, and last year he finally won the Tour championship. And if he did not quit then, he was not going to now. So those bogeys in the last round of the Masters were not going to stop him. He made a birdie at the 7th and another at the 8th. Then suddenly he was in the lead. In the 18th, he played it safe and won his fifth Masters championship with a meaningless bogey.

Whether he will be No. 1 in the world again is anybody’s guess. But let us admit that he made his 81st title as a different human being, a kinder and gentler person than the golf predator he used to be. He has mellowed a lot with age, offering the head nods and eye contact he rarely bothered to do during his prime.

He didn’t change because the fans had fallen hard for someone else. He changed because his staggering physical and personal breakdowns inspired him to reassess his tee-to-green purpose, and because he never gave up.

The Goldsmith proverb aptly describes another well-known celebrity, J.K. Rowling. Many people simply know Rowling as the woman who created “Harry Potter.” What they don’t know are her tremendous struggles and what she went through prior to reaching literary stardom.

In 1990, Rowling first had the idea for “Harry Potter” and began writing furiously. However, later that year, her mother died after 10 years of complications from multiple sclerosis. In 1992, she moved to Portugal to teach English where she met a man, married and had a daughter. In 1993, her marriage ended in ugly divorce and she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be closer to her sister. At that time, she had three chapters of “Harry Potter” in her suitcase.

Rowling saw herself as a failure at this time. She was jobless, divorced, penniless and with a dependent child. She suffered through bouts of depression, eventually signing up for government-assisted welfare. It was a difficult time in her life, but she pushed through the failures.

In 1995, all 12 major publishers rejected the “Harry Potter” script. But a year later, a small publishing house, Bloomsbury, accepted it and extended a very small £1,500 advance. In 1997, the book was published with only 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. In 1997 and 1998, the book won awards—the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize and the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year.

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After that, it was one wild ride for Rowling. Today, Rowling has sold more than 400 million copies of her books, and is considered to be the most successful woman author in the United Kingdom.

On a related note, the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates are also not giving up. With less than a month before the May 13 elections, their winning is not impossible.

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Carlos A. Agatep is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep.

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TAGS: Inquirer Commentary, J.K. Rowling, persistence, Tiger Woods
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