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 Example Lesson 

Although our lessons reside in the premium (paid) section of our site (hey, our children have to eat too!), I've given you a free example below.  Yet, each lesson is unique and may vary widely as to percentage of time devoted to discussion, activities, illustrations, etc. 

Obviously, each lesson must be tweaked to meet the needs of your unique class or child. That's why we offer tons of optional illustrations and activities in our resource section. (For some reflections on how to instill character qualities in a variety of students, click HERE. )

For a student handout (with blanks to fill in), click HERE.

For an overhead sheet (with blanks filled in), click HERE.

Hang in There!
(Endurance: A Secret to Success)

PURPOSE: By the end of this session, I want my students to realize their need to endure difficulties and commit themselves to endure in some specific areas of their lives. 

Materials Needed: For object lesson: roll of wide paper or plastic (about 5 ft. wide by 8 ft. long), masking tape, a super ball (small, hard rubber ball), three raw eggs, two Tootsie Rolls (or other prize). For film clip: Mission Impossible II. 

Facilitator Hint: Before looking at my ideas, think about illustrations from your own life. Are there hard knocks or failures that you've had to endure to get to where you are now? Remember, students may respect you for your successes, but they love you when you're vulnerable about your failures and hard times. Our purpose is to reach students who are discouraged and close to giving up. Your own failures and setbacks can help them identify with you. 


Do you want to succeed in life? How many of you have written this life goal: "By 30 years of age I want to be a complete failure?" (Leader: be prepared for some to raise their hands just to be funny. The following transition will help you recover.) Okay, let me clarify a bit. Your idea of success and my idea of success may not be exactly the same, but Iíll guarantee you that there are areas of life in which youíd desperately like to succeed.

Discussion: Within the next 10 years, what are some areas of life in which you'd like to have succeeded? [For bashful classes, you may need to lead them with questions like, "What's a vocation you're interested in?"  "What success would you like in relationships?" (successful marriage, satisfying friendships)]

But many people are flunking out in life. Now Iím not saying that Iím THE great example of success, but Iíve lived long enough to see that a lot of people give up on life when the pathway gets rugged. Many fail simply because they fail to endure through the hard times. You see, whether youíre talking about the successful people in business, acting, music, or relationships, the great misconception is that they were just incredibly talented from the start and got there by merrily skipping from one success to another. 

Today I want to share with you a couple of things Iíve learned about endurance and use the lives of some famous people youíve heard about to help you remember. Iíll get you involved with a video clip and some interaction. I hope it will be fun and worth your time. You may even want to take some notes on the handout I gave you.

HINT: In your preparation, read these illustrations until you can tell the story naturally while keeping regular eye contact with your audience. If you need notes, highlight certain main points or key words so that you can keep eye contact with the students. Eye contact is critical.

I. Learn From Lifeís Hard Knocks.

People Illustration: Any one who has seen the Star Wars series or the Indiana Jones trilogy knows the incredible excitement that producer George Lucas can pack into a movie. But itís doubtful that Lucas would have made anything at all out of his life, had he not first given up his old dreams. You see, during his teen years, a lot of people considered him a loser who was going nowhere in life. He never applied himself in school and dreamed only about racing cars. But his dreams all ended just a few days before his graduation. While driving home from the library in his Fiat, he prepared for a left turn by glancing in his rearview mirror. But as he started the turn, he heard the sound of another car, a blowing horn, and the impact of speeding Chevy crunching into the driver side of his car. It should have killed him. The little Fiat turned four or five complete flips before it wrapped around a solid oak tree. The impact was so great that it actually moved the entire tree a couple of feet over, leaving a huge hole in its former position.

But miraculously, George survived. Get this: during the Fiatís third flip, his regulation racing seat belt snapped, throwing him out of the open top and onto the ground. He was close to death, but recovered slowly through two weeks in the hospital and months of physical therapy. His Fiat didnít survive, ending up in the junkyard.

After the accident, George was a changed person. He decided there must be some reason he survived, and set his mind to get his act together and make something out of his life. He left his racing dreams behind and decided to go to college. There, he developed an interest in literature and writing. And instead of driving racecars, he began filming them. Today, heís glad for his decision to let his old life and his old dreams die, so that he could go a new direction. You see, without giving up his old life, he would have never found his niche in the film industry, and no one would have ever seen Star Wars. (Facts from Skywalking: The Life And Times Of George Lucas, by Dale Pollock, Harmony Books, 1983, pp. xiii-39. Wording by Steve Miller, found in Reach Outís Illustration Database at

For many people, the car wreck would have been nothing more than a tragedy. But for Lucas, it was a wake up call. You see, some students see only the grief in their heartaches, whether it be the breakup of their family, their failure in a sport or a class, or a breakup with a boyfriend. Successful people like Lucas had these problems too. But the difference between them and people who lose in life is that the successes learn from their tragedies and setbacks. They become better people.

Listen, you can become either "bitter" or "better" from tragedies. And the only difference between these two words is the letter "i". "I" have the choice as to whether to grow or wither from my tragedies.

II. Bounce Back From Your Failures

Activity: To illustrate this point, I want to give you a test. (Options: Use as either handout or overhead or Powerpoint.) Perhaps use as an overhead or powerpoint as well.) Look at the back of your student sheet. As I read the statements about each person (these are all real people), I want you to decide whether you think the person was a success or failure in his field. Write either the letter "F" for failure, or "S" for success before each one. (If you copy and paste this into your word processing program for copying onto paper, you might want to change the font to something more "youthy," like "Andy".)


____ Politician: Ran for political office seven times and was defeated each time.

____ Cartoonist: All he wanted to do was to sketch cartoons. He applied with a Kansas City newspaper. The editor said, "Itís easy to see from these sketches that you have no talent." No studio would give him a job. He ended up doing publicity work for a church in an old, dilapidated garage.

____ Writer: His first childrenís book was rejected by 23 publishers.

____ Inventor: In the first year of marketing his new soft drink, he sold only 400 bottles.

____ Actor: He went to Hollywood as an 18 year old, and after a couple of parts was unemployed for two years. As he ran out of money, he sold off his sectional couch, one section at a time, and lived on macaroni. He had no phone. His office was a phone booth at Pioneer Chicken.

____ Athlete: As a baseball player, he struck out more than any player in the history of baseball: 1,330 times.

____ Politician: Flunked the sixth grade. As a sixteen-year-old in Paris, a teacher had written on his report card, "Shows a conspicuous lack of success." He wished to become a military leader, or a great statesman. As a student, he failed three times in his exams to enter the British Military Academy.

____ Athlete: As a high school student, he felt so unpopular with the girls that he thought he might never be able to find a wife. That's why he took a cooking class. He thought he might never have anyone to cook for him. 

The answers to the test? Whether you answered success or failure, you all made a 100%! Each of these people were both failures and successes. 

Letís look at these people, one by one.

HINT: By getting some interaction, you keep students involved. Allow several to guess on each one. They like to be involved.

Would you have given up on politics if you had been defeated 7 times in your run for political office? Any guesses as to who it was? Iím glad that Abraham Lincoln didnít give up. He was defeated for legislature, defeated for speaker, defeated for nomination to Congress, defeated for Senate, defeated for nomination to Vice Presidency, defeated again for Senate. Yet he hung in there and succeeded in becoming the 16th, and one of the most respected, presidents of the United States.

And what about the cartoonist whom no one would hire? The one who was told that he had no talent? The old garage he worked in was in such bad shape that it had mice. One day, he sketched one of those mice. Any guesses as to the name of that mouse? The mouse one day became famous as "Mickey Mouse." The artist, of course, was Walt Disney.

The writer whose childrenís book was rejected by 23 publishers? Take a wild guessÖ. Dr. Seuss. By the way, the 24th publisher sold six million copies.

The soft drink that sold only 400 bottles its first year? Coca Cola.

The 18-year-old actor who couldnít land a part for two years and lived off macaroni? He finally got a part with a popular, long-running show called "Family Ties." Iím glad he didnít give up. Can you imagine "Back to the Future" without Michael J. Fox?

The baseball player who held the strike-out record? He also held, for many years, the home run record. His name is Babe Ruth.

The student who showed a "conspicuous lack of success" on his report card? Who failed three times to enter the British Military Academy? Many of us would have given up after one rejection. But Winston Churchill stubbornly refused to accept defeat and became one of the greatest men of the 20th Century. Though he was rejected many times by the voters of Great Britain, he finally became the Prime Minister, standing between Hitler and the free world.

The athlete who was so unpopular with the girls that he took a cooking class in case he never found a wife? The one who was cut from the Varsity team his sophomore year? The cut may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. Angry and embarrassed, he began to get up early each morning to practice with the Junior Varsity coach. Eventually he not only made the Varsity team, but became the most popular athlete in the world: Michael Jordan. (Sports Illustrated, Kids Edition, Aug/Sept, 1998)

Object Lesson: Since object lessons involve more senses than a verbal illustration, I like to choose a relevant object lesson. It won't soon be forgotten. 

Materials Needed: 

  • Roll of large paper or plastic
  • Masking Tape 
  • A super ball (check the entrance to Walmart in the gumball machines)
  • Three raw eggs
  • Two Tootsie Rolls (or other prize)

Tape a very large section of paper to the wall. Put another large paper on the floor to catch the broken egg. Draw a set of concentric circles on the wall paper, making a target. Without explaining the point of the illustration, get six volunteers. The first three take the super ball and throw it at the target, trying to get the closest to the center. Give the prize to the winner. The second three throw the raw eggs. Give the prize to the winner. Then, proceed to explain the object lesson as I have it written out to the left. (NOTE: Inevitably, an attention seeker may throw the egg outside of the paper on purpose, acting like it was a mistake. Don't let it frazzle you! Calmly reassure him that not everyone has good aim and assign him clean-up duty.)

Illustration or Object Lesson: When I reflect on these people who refused to let their failures make them quit, I think of the difference between a super ball and a raw egg. (A super ball is one of those very hard rubber balls that bounce so high.) If you take a super ball and  throw it against the wall, what happens to it? (It bounces back.) What happens the harder you throw it against the wall? (The faster it bounces back.) What happens to a raw egg when you throw it against a wall? (It splatters.) What happens the harder you throw it against the wall? (The worse it splatters.)

This defines two types of people: raw egg people and super ball people. When raw egg people hit an obstacle, they splatter. The harder they hit, the harder they splatter, giving up on their goal. When super ball people hit an obstacle, they bounce back. The harder they hit, the harder they bounce back. 

Discussion in Small Groups:  The people we just talked about were super ball people. With every failure, they kept bouncing back. Get with a couple of people around you and discuss this question. Why do you think they kept bouncing back, whereas many people would have given up? (Allow a few minutes for their insights.)

Now, share with the class your thoughts. (Answers may include: #1 - Their goals were extremely important to them. Some of our goals aren't really that important to us, so we give up easily. #2 - They may have had tenacious, stubborn personalities. #3 - Perhaps they had enough successes in their lives to balance out their failures. #4 - They believed in themselves in spite of their failures.) 

I want to leave this discussion emphasizing that their goals were extremely important to them. Do have some goals that are worth enduring for? 

Endurance - youíll never be successful without it. Do some of you feel the need for more of it in your own life? Perhaps academic work doesnít come easy for you. Perhaps your home life is in shambles and beneath your cool expression youíre wondering if youíll ever make it in life. I want to end with one more illustration.

I canít make it through the grocery store line these days without noticing Tom Cruise staring at me from a magazine cover. How many of you saw him play Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible or one of his many other movies? His accomplishments are pretty incredible. At 37 years of age (in year 2000), he has starred in blockbuster after blockbuster, is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, has been recognized for his achievements in acting by a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination, and has the physical agility (and guts) to perform 95% of the stunts in Mission Impossible II, including dangling off that cliff at the beginning of the movie. Itís easy to look at Cruise and assume that he probably always had everything going for him. He must have been very successful in high school and popular with the girls. Think again. His life is actually the story of a survivor who learned to turn his shortcomings into assets.

IDEA! Show a clip from Mission Impossible II on video. The wild rock climb at the beginning might be a great attention-getter! The point is to show Tom Cruise as cool, which lets other troubled kids realize that even though they feel geeky now, there's hope for them if they can endure.

Do any of you struggle with family problems? Tomís dad was consumed with his work and finally abandoned the family when Tom was 12. Some of you know the gut-wrenching feelings he must have suffered through in middle school.

Do you ever struggle with financial problems? Tom couldnít afford some of the things other kids had because his dad refused to pay child support for his four children. He and his sisters had to work to contribute to the family income. They sometimes survived on food stamps.

Do you ever struggle with social problems? His social life was disrupted regularly by moves that forced him to change schools an average of once a year (8 elementary and three high schools). Lots of kids made fun of him. He was always the new geek, never the cool guy that girls flocked to. Lots of kids made fun of him.

Do any of you ever feel dumb? As if Tom didnít have enough problems to deal with, he was always in remedial classes for slow learners. He was later found to have a learning disorder called Dyslexia, which makes it incredibly difficult to learn skills like reading. Not knowing what was wrong, he just thought he was dumb and would often come home crying. With dyslexics, their brains often tell them that things are backwards. He couldnít even distinguish his right hand from his left.

Do you often fail at sports? Concluding that academics werenít his forte, he plunged into athletics. He played football but was too small to excel. Wrestling, however, is divided into weight classes, giving him the opportunity to compete. But when running some stairs (trying to lose a pound to compete in his weight class) he slipped on some papers his sister had left and tore a tendon on his leg. So much for athletics. Unable to wrestle on the team, he tried out for a part in their high school play. He landed a starring role and fell in love with acting. A theater agent just happened to be in the audience the night of the performance and encouraged him to go into acting. The rest is history.

Iíd like for you to reflect for a moment on Tomís life. It would have been so easy for him to grow bitter, conclude that life sucks and hate all the people around him. But instead, he learned from his shortcomings. He draws from the heartache he experienced as a child to express emotion when he acts. He learned to work harder than others by having to learn with a disability. He says that his school difficulties were a character course that made him a better person. As a result, he goes the extra mile for his producers and has the people skills that make people love to work with him. (Sources: 1 Ė "Cruise Control" (excerpt from 'Cruise')( Cosmopolitan ) Frank Sanello; 12-01-1995; 2 Ė "Man With a Mission," ( The Calgary Sun ) Lisa Wilton, Calgary Sun, 05-21-2000; 3 - "Conversations With Cruise," Vanity Fair, June, 2000; Tom Cruise, by Phelan Powell, Chelsea House Publishers, 1999)

Action Points

On the bottom of your student sheet, youíll find a place for "Action Points." The point of these character sessions is not head knowledge, but life change. I urge you to write down a couple of areas of your life in which you feel that you have need of endurance. It may be a class that you just donít get. Write down that youíll make an appointment with a counselor or your teacher to try to make your way through it. Maybe itís a family problem that you came in this morning ready to give up on, but now you think you should hang in there. Iíll give you a few moments of quite to reflect and write.


There are two things I want you to come out of this session with:

1) Donít be discouraged by your failures. Remember, the road to success is paved with failures.

2) In order to succeed in life, youíve got to endure.

Iíll leave you with the words of Winston Churchill, the one who had written on his report card, "shows a conspicuous lack of success," the one who failed the test three times to enter the British military academy, but the one who became one of the greatest men of the 20th century. One day he was invited back to his old school to give the commencement address. This great, eloquent man stood before them and said simply this:

HINT: Say these three sentences slowly, deliberately. Look at your students in their eyes. This is your final challenge to them.

"Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up."

And then he sat down. Thank you. (If you're a guest speaker, go sit down.)

(Copyright August, 2000, by Legacy Educational Resources. All rights reserved. Copies can be made within your own class (individual subscription) or school (school subscription) free of charge. Not for resale.)

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