Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill

Courage. I’m becoming well-acquainted with the word now that I’m past midlife because I see it all around me.  From a friend who is fighting a valiant battle against cancer to another who is a hard-working and loving care-giver to a seriously disabled spouse; from the acquaintance who has been actively seeking work for months since his layoff to the single father who works graveyard shift but drives hours each weekend to spend time with his young son.  

Courage comes in many flavors. Just look around: the world is full of people who refuse to give up.

And then there are those who do. Giving up is effortless. We don’t have to do a thing. It’s the path of least resistance. No risk. No rejection. No entering the fray day after day.  

Life can be hard, no joke. Challenges abound, some of them completely unexpected.  We look around and sometimes wonder why our own lives seem so hard while others appear to get a free pass.

But here’s the thing. Any one success doesn’t make a happy life. Some of the most “successful” people I know are some of the unhappiest.  And any one failure doesn’t doom you to a life of failure. A successful life is all in how we meet its challenges: how we pick ourselves up and go on.

Did you know that Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything? And yet he went on to invent products that changed our loves. Like the phonograph and the light bulb.

Lucille Ball’s first films were failures but she ended up winning four Emmys (among other entertainment awards) and becoming the first woman to run a major TV studio.

Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old and had learning problems. Teachers thought he was lazy. Yes, Einstein, the very same brilliant mind who won the Nobel prize in physics.

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Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times, but he kept submitting. Now, his books have sold more than 350 million copies.

And most of us know the story of author J.K. Rowling, who was a single mother on welfare before Harry Potter became a big hit.

What if any of these people had given up?

Most of them had no money, no emotional support and many obstacles to overcome. And yet, they persevered, and now we look to them for inspiration.

Any time I wonder how I’ll muster the strength and courage to try one more time, I consider these folks—successes by anyone’s measure—and know that they’ve been in the same place. The difference is that they took that one more step that made the difference.

So can I.  And so can you.


Carol Cassara is a writer and ordained minister who believes in living fully in every color of the rainbow. Her essays have appeared in Skirt! magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, on public radio and other venues. After a long career as a corporate communications executive, she is enjoying having more time to write, travel and just enjoy life. When she's not traveling the world, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and crazy little maltipoo. Her daily blog inspirations for creating our best lives can be found at