The Courage to Continue
Posted Wed, Nov 17, 2010

Many professional athletes these days seek the help of sports psychologists to achieve elite levels of success in their field. One popular technique they employ is visualization: see the success in the mind’s eye and translate that positive image to specific action. I imagine this would be a productive confidence-building approach to plays that produce instant results like making a10-foot putt, kicking a field goal or landing a triple Axel.
Thinking about this notion of instant gratification reminded me of a story about Thomas Edison. Edison, of course, is one of history’s greatest inventors, but his inventions did not always come easily. The light bulb, for example, took him 2,000 tries before it actually worked. A reporter once asked him how it felt to fail so many times before ultimately succeeding. “Ah,” Edison said, “But I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000 step process.”

Edison understood that there are many kinds of endeavour that don’t yield obvious and immediate feedback. While having some standard or criteria to gauge long-term success is important, all of the instant positive-imaging in the world will not help when results are measured incrementally over extended periods of time. There are times when you need to take the long view and keep your eyes on the prize with patience most assuredly a virtue.

Gandhi once observed that, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

In Jewish tradition, this notion is summed up more succinctly by the wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon who said in Pirke Avot that, “It is not our duty to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

Planting trees from which you might not enjoy the shade is a well-understood concept to those involved in advocacy or lobbying. On occasion, something you push for sees the light of day in short order, but typically it takes time and consistent effort to achieve success. There are generally no quick fixes.

Advocacy is not like manufacturing widgets, where production and sales bottom lines dictate success or failure. Instead, it is all about communication and relationship-building, with key interlocutors especially in government and the public service. Today’s backbencher may well be tomorrow’s parliamentary secretary and that parliamentary secretary could well be next year’s cabinet minister. Today’s opposition shadow critic may one day be on the front bench of a new government. The time invested in creating and nurturing those relationships is usually what helps carry the day, even if that day is far down the road from where you began.

Brick by brick the wall is eventually built. Giving up at the first sign of resistance or apathy toward your objectives is not an option.

To use another sports metaphor, you may not score a touchdown every time you undertake an initiative or promote a particular cause, but you may move the yardsticks a little further down the field. These incremental, sometimes barely observable, steps forward often add up over time to get you where you want to be.

A great example of such “delayed success” is CJC’s effort to partner with the government to erect a memorial to Canada’s refusal in 1939 to land the vessel S.S. St. Louis, as the most visible manifestation of Canada’s “None is too Many” exclusionary immigration policy. After Canada’s denial of entry ended their quest for haven, the ship sailed back and many of the 900-plus Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe were swept up in the Holocaust.

CJC began lobbying for such a memorial several years ago, based on the notion that Canada needed to face up to its past injustices to move forward. Next January, this effort will at last come to fruition. CJC’s “Wheel of Conscience”-S.S. St. Louis Historical Monument, a magnificent sculpture by renowned designer Daniel Libeskind, will be unveiled in Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum in Halifax as a fitting reminder of this dark chapter in Canadian history.

Not surprisingly, the Torah gives us guidance in the life lesson of delayed gratification and success. In this week’s parsha, Toledot, Jacob leaves his family and heads to the land of his uncle Laban to seek a wife. We know how this eventually ends: Jacob winds up toiling for fourteen years until he finally gets want he wants, marriage to Rachel. Time, patience and hard work, indeed.

I have quoted a couple of heavyweight historical figures already so why not end with another for inspiration? “Success is not final, failure is not fatal,” Winston Churchill said, “It is the courage to continue that counts.”
My advice? Be of good courage.

BY: Eric Vernon, Director of Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

One of Canada's leading experts on antisemitism and human rights, Bernie M. Farber is the National Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC).

Mr. Farber has spent more than 20 years with CJC, battling hatred and racism and strengthening relationships with police services, government and other ethnic and faith communities across the country.

The recipient of countless awards, Mr. Farber is an associate member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and was recently selected by the Ontario government to serve as a member of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group. He also serves with the city of Vaughan Mayor's Task Force on Community Safety and Security and the York Regional Police Community Crime Prevention Advisory Council.

Mr. Farber is a published author and has contributed numerous articles on the Jewish political scene, human rights issues, the Holocaust, hate crime and white supremacy to newspapers and periodicals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Toronto Star, and many others.


Eric Vernon was born in Toronto in 1953. He was educated at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Ohio State University, in history and political science.

For over twenty years, Mr. Vernon has been the principal lobbyist in Ottawa of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the lead advocacy organization for Canada's Jewish communities and UJA Federations.

In 1987, he established the Ottawa Advocacy Office of Canadian Jewish Congress and is currently the Director of Government Relations for CJC. In these capacities he has written numerous briefs, op-eds, position papers and correspondence on national legislation, public policy, and international issues affecting Canada and its Jewish community, including antisemitism, Israel and Holocaust commemoration.

Mr. Vernon has performed a wide range of advocacy duties with federal Members of Parliament and Senators, senior public servants, government agencies, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of other non-governmental organizations. In conjunction with these duties he has staffed several Congress committees, represented CJC at inter-faith tables, organized conferences and been involved in legislative and social policy development for CJC on a variety of domestic and international issues.