On Perseverance, Gradeschool Math… and Just Doing the Thing.

Persistence can grind an iron beam into a needle. ~Chinese proverb

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. ~Calvin Coolidge

You might have heard that Liz Warren is persistent.

It’s been a few years since the Republican Senate voted to silence her (way back in 2017!), as she read from a letter that Coretta Scott King (Martin Luther King’s widow) had written to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in the 1980s opposing then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ judicial appointment.

Warren was ordered to take her seat, which she did. Under protest.

Then, after the vote to silence her, McConnell took the floor.

In his famously patronizing tone, he explained: “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

That rallying cry has, indeed, persisted.

And while it’s been adopted as shorthand for women’s struggles to be heard and taken seriously (and for our refusal to back down), I also value it as a more general statement: persistence (and having guts) pays off.

In our microwave-speed society where all the world’s information rests in the palm of your hand and you’re annoyed if something takes longer than one day to ship to you, persistence is a superpower.

When an attention span lasts 15 seconds and a tweet can be too long to read, staying at something for weeks, months, years on end is the exception, not the norm.

Now, you’re reading this. That means, by definition, you’re persistent – because even after Joe Biden took residence at the White House, you’re still engaged.

That’s the kind of stick-to-it-iveness that I’m talking about.

I’ve always been hard-headed and unwilling to give up. You may recall the Michele vs. The Kite story, in which I went up against a flimsy dime-store kite that was tangled high up in an ancient tree.

My arms went numb from the effort – but I freed the darn thing.

Heck – the whole concept behind Small Deeds Done is grounded in persistence. Continued effort, even when it’s difficult. A steady push, a “press on!” mentality that – after years, now – hopefully has become habitual.

So at this point, we’ve all persisted.

Our struggle now is perseverance – the longevity in our persistence. And truthfully, that’s harder to maintain when the assault on democracy isn’t highlighted and punctuated with regular twilight tweets. As we continue on through these first two years of the Biden administration, there’s a danger of the slower news cycle lulling us into a false sense of security.

And so, I pored over some articles and books about persistence and perseverance. (Because as you know by now, I’m a nerd at heart). I thought about the advice I saw – ‘remember your why!,’ ‘make a set plan with five achievable goals,’ ‘improvise more!,’ ‘engage in self-reflection….’

Frankly, they all felt a bit … hollow.

And then I sat down to do math with my son.

Now, at the beginning of the school year, he wasn’t doing very well in math. (That’s a bit of an understatement, to be honest.)

Then we started homeschooling. And much to his dismay (or, really, horror), we do math every. single. day. Without fail, and without exception.

He’s now above grade level in math.

That’s not because I’m a better teacher. (I’m not.) It’s not because he’s suddenly developed into Albert Einstein. (He hasn’t). It’s because we spent time with it, made it a habit, and kept doing it … even when we didn’t want to.

We … persisted.

We didn’t ‘remember our why,’ or create a complicated plan, or reflect all that much. We just … did.

And that struck me, as we sat at the dining room table practicing three-digit subtraction with borrowing.

You know, as a group, we Democrats are pretty cerebral – we’re thinkers and planners and lets-talk-it-through types. A friend once joked that a Democrat would bring a white paper to a knife fight. (He’s not wrong.)

So it made sense that my first instinct was to study perseverance … until math practice reminded me of the power of simply doing the thing.

Sometimes success isn’t really given to the one that’s the smartest, or the best, the most clever or beautiful.

It goes to the person who starts something, then stays at it the longest, and refuses to give up because of sheer stubbornness and because they want it the most.

It’s not complicated.

It’s just hard.

So cheers to you for being part of the community of doers that we have created … and that just won’t quit.

And on that note …

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of December 7, 2021

Call the White House to Ask: Hey – Do You Care About Democracy or Not?

This week there is a worldwide summit – hosted by the State Department – that will address the status of democracy worldwide.

Reading the agenda boils my blood. (https://www.state.gov/schedule-the-summit-for-democracy/)

Truly, we have no right to direct other countries on how to develop, preserve, and protect democratic institutions when we aren’t following our own advice here at home. (For a great two-minute explanation of how critical this is, check out David Pepper’s newest whiteboard video: https://twitter.com/DavidPepper/status/1468273433440133123?s=20)

That’s why this week we need to call the White House line and say that the best way for us to promote democracy around the world is to practice what we preach and be serious about filibuster reform, holding those responsible for January 6 accountable, and passing voting rights.

Get out your phone! The White House comment line is 202-456-1111. You can also email your comments by going to https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

Script: Hi, I’m calling because I saw that the State Department is sponsoring a global summit for democracy. Although I appreciate the State Department’s commitment to democracy abroad, I want to see more democracy at home. States are chipping away at voting rights and civil rights, but the White House doesn’t seem to be treating it like the emergency it is. The best way to promote democracy around the world is by our own example. Get serious about filibuster reform. Pass voting rights legislation that will stop the anti-democratic actions of the states. And hold the people who were responsible for a literal insurrection on January 6 accountable. These are obvious things, but we’re not seeing action. That needs to change. Thanks!

No Recess Without Action on Voting Rights:

Only in the Senate would it be acceptable – if not expected – for people to skip town and go on vacation before tackling their biggest job.

Right now, we’ve got a number of states that are behaving very undemocratically. That impacts those of us that live in those states, of course, but it also impacts the rest of the country via our elections for Congress and President. This is not just a red state issue.

I have two actions for you here. The first is to read an excellent Atlantic article that will convince you that democracy reform/protection needs to be our #1 priority, if you didn’t think so already. Set aside a bit of time for it, because it’s lengthy and worth reading in full. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843/

The second is to get out your phone and call your Senators. Ask them to support voting rights. Ask them to take a stand here – for the sake of democracy. Explain to their staff that – yes, this is that important and they should stay however long it takes to get this done.

This is especially the case if you live in a Blue state. It’s so important that they hear from us about the need for democracy reform legislation so they understand this is an issue so many people care about.

Hey Senators: Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that will gut – if not overturn – Roe. But here’s the thing. Regardless of what the Court does, Congress can act. The Supreme Court does not necessarily have the final say on this… if we can get Congress to act. Actually, the House has already passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, so the Senate needs to follow suit and do so now. (The bill is S.1975)

Call your senators. And if one of them is Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, please don’t delay on this. Their votes put justices on the current Court that will gut reproductive rights, and if they don’t want that to be their legacy they need to act now.

Script: Hi, my name is ___, and I’m calling from [zip]. I want the Senator to support the Women’s Health Protection Act right now. I refuse to allow half of our population to lose their right to make decisions about their own body, and urge the Senator to vote to protect the independence of people across our state.


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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