The Two Most Powerful Words in the Dictionary


Seven years, nine months, 21 days. That’s how long it took me to start and finish my doctoral degree. Sometimes 1,100 miles a week to and from work, classes and home. A dissertation committee with different opinions about what needed to be included/excluded inserted/cut/shared/not shared.

When I wanted to make a U-turn in the middle of the street and never return to class, those two words, DON’T QUIT, haunted me as surely as the ghosts of Christmases past plagued Ebenezer Scrooge. When I stayed up all day, all night and all day again trying to get my statistical equations to make sense, I heard DON’T QUIT.

Today I am telling you that these two words plus the other 196 that follow may be more important and powerful than smarts, good looks, status, a really cool car, or a fancy job title. I believe they may mean the difference between victory and defeat, giving up or going forward, hope and utter despair.

It’s been almost 14 years since I finished my degree and happily added those three letters after my name but I am confident that this poem and the simplified version my Grandma Clara always quoted: “If a task is once begun, never leave it til it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all” helped me get there. I’m not sure who the DON’T QUIT poet is (I’ve included the rest) but here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Passion, perseverance and purpose are always more powerful than difficulty. Whether you’re building a house, a career or a life, be totally committed to your ideals and dreams. There are no perfect plans but have faith and at least a well thought out Plan A.
  • Listen to the experts and learn from their mistakes and be willing to make  some of your own and learn from them too.  Mistakes+time=experience. Have a self-imposed deadline and keep it come hail or high water.
  • A final word from former UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold: “Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Begin. You can’t finish if you don’t start. Build as much success into your process as possible to improve your chances of completing what you start.


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit-

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a fellow turns about

When he might have won had he stuck it out.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man;

Often the struggler has given up

When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –

The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It might be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

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