Calvin Coolidge, the 30th US president, once said, “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. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

I’m a big Tivo junkie.  I love the idea that I don’t HAVE to watch commercials… EVER.

One of the things that’s ended up on my Tivo is the Fox Sports Amazing Sports Stories which airs on Sunday evenings at 8pm.  These are incredible stories of survival, perseverance, and beating the odds.

In browsing for things to watch this weekend, I stumbled across the story of “Billy Miske: Dead Man Fighting”.

“It was a moment for a miracle, but death was closing in.  Billy Miske, one of the top fighters of his era, who was knocked out only once by the legendary Jack Dempsey, was struck down by a fatal illness.  But his family’s future was at stake.  So Billy kept on fighting, risking everything, including his life.”  So the show started, and I wasn’t planning to watch the whole thing, but it held my attention, and it’s an amazingly inspiring story.

Billy Miske, known as The Saint Paul Thunderbolt, was born in 1894. calls his final career record of 77 wins (33 by knockout), 15 losses (1 knockout), 14 draws, with a total of 103 fights, and 782 rounds boxed.  He was considered to be an underrated, fast, and dangerous fighter.

I found a Sports Illustrated article that tells the story, between that and the Fox Sports show, here are some of the highlights:

In 1918, when Miske was 24 years old, Doctors diagnosed him with Bright’s disease, now called acute or chronic nephritis.  This is a severe kidney disease, accompanied by back pain, vomiting, and fever.  Doctors told Billy that he had five years to live… if he quit boxing.

For many reasons, Billy’s sole method of supporting his family was boxing.  He recognized his commitment to his family, and reportedly witheld the severity of his sickness from them.  You see, he had run up somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 in debt in a failed auto dealership business, and believed in both paying his debts, and providing for his family.

Billy fought in 30 more bouts after the doctors ordered him to stop, among them was his single knockout by Jack Dempsey in a 1920 title fight.

In 1923, Jack realized he was too sick to fight, and retired.  However, as Christmas drew near, and as he knew he would not live much longer, all he wanted was to provide his family with a Christmas to remember.  So he asked his manager, Jack Reddy, to set up one more fight for him.  Even though Jack knew Billy was sick, he understood his plea, and set him up with a fight with Bill Brennan, who later went six rounds with Jack Dempsey.

Though he was too weak to train properly, Billy knocked out Bill Brennan in the fourth round on November 7th, 1923, and won the fight.  He used his purse to provide money for his family, and a Christmas they all remembered, including a piano for his wife (a singer & actress), and all the latest toys for his kids.

The day after Christmas, he woke up in excruciating pain, was rushed to the hospital, and died on January 1, 1924.

Maybe it wasn’t always the smartest choice (healthwise), but what an example of not quitting.  Of doing whatever it took – to follow through on his commitments, to take care of his family, and to leave a legacy.  What’s your legacy?

Another great quote on perseverance comes from Dan Rather, “Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow”.

And it’s true.  It’s not luck, talent, or genius that makes success, character, or high moral value.  It’s perseverance.  Hard work.  “Chopping Wood”.  Being the best you can be.  Working to the best of your ability, and not being afraid to challenge yourself or those around you.  Leading by example.

When I make a commitment, I want it to always be known that I gave it my all.  That I pushed forward until it was done, done right, and when I looked back, I far exceeded even my own expectations.