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Don't give up

by Philippa Rae

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To show that if we keep on going we might just get there.  

Preparation and materials

  • Gather images of J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe as the character Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight series, Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip with Snoopy and friends, Kentucky Fried Chicken logo showing Colonel Sanders, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Samuel Goldwyn, the film producer, and Albert Einstein and have the means to show them during the assembly. You may also add images of other people who have persevered, such as Olympic athletes, and collect together physical objects that corresponds to each of these famous people, such as a Harry Potter book, Kentucky Fried Chicken packaging, a toy Snoopy, adverts for films and so on.

  • You will also need a volunteer to read out the poem in Step 3.

  • Find ‘Search for the hero’ by M People and have the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. An important measure of success is how many times someone keeps going despite being turned down.  Learning to deal with failure is character building.

    Show images of J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and/or hold up one of her Harry Potter books.  

    I am sure that this character and his creator need no introduction. We all know who they are and the globally successful phenomenon the stories have become. He is, of course, Harry Potter, created by author J.K. Rowling. 

    Many people know the story behind the creation of the Harry Potter books – that J.K. Rowling took six years to write the first book and was motivated to finish it to earn money as she was struggling as a single mother to look after her daughter and cover her bills. She wrote some of it in a café in Edinburgh during her daughters naps, making one pot of tea last as long as possible. She was turned down by several publishers and then, even after she was offered a publishing deal, was told to get a day job as there was no money in children’s books!

    She isn’t the only one. The list of authors who have faced rejection in a big way is long. For example, Stephenie Meyer, who created the Twilight series, and Charles Schulz, who created the Peanuts comic strip with Snoopy and friends. 

    Show images of Stephenie Meyer and Charles Schulz.

  2. It’s not just writers who have looked failure in the face and kept going. Let me tell you about someone else  . . . 

    Show image of Kentucky Fried Chicken logo with Colonel Sanders and/or packaging.

    You, I’m sure, recognize this face – you can see it on most high streets anywhere in the country. Colonel Sanders was the entrepreneur behind the global success of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. He started his dream at 65 years old! He got a social security cheque for only $105 when a new road stopped customers coming to his petrol station and restaurant and he was angry. Instead of complaining, though, he did something about it.

    He thought that restaurant owners would love his fried chicken recipe, he could franchise it, sales would increase and he’d get a percentage. He drove around the USA, knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, wearing his white suit. Within ten years he had more than 600 KFC franchises then sold his interest to a group of investors for $2 million. Pretty good as he started the business when most people are thinking of retirement!

    He isn’t the only person to have experienced hard times. 

    Show image of Steven Spielberg.

    Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was turned down by his dream university three times.

    Show image of Walt Disney.

    Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of imagination.

    Show image of Richard Branson.

    Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, was not always successful – he, too, experienced business failures.

  3. There are many others, from all walks of life, who have experienced failure, but the one thing all these people have shown is sticking power – in other words, tenacity. 

    Invite the volunteer to read.

    Reader When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
    When you’re feeling low and the goal seems 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 failure 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,
    Success is failure turned inside out –
    The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
    And you never can tell how close you are,
    It may be near when it seems so far,
    So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit –
    It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

  4. To achieve the big things in life involves sticking at the little things, as every little step is a step on the right road to winning. That is the meaning of tenacity.

    In today’s society of reality television celebrities and ‘get famous quick’ talent shows, it seems that people can be plucked from obscurity for doing the simplest or easiest of things.   

    It’s good to remind ourselves that for every one person who appears to be an overnight success, it may not be so and for thousands of others it was hard work that got them there in the end. 

    Show image of Samuel Goldwyn.

    The film producer Samuel Goldwyn famously said, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ Of course, Mr Goldwyn was talking about actors and directors in the film industry, who seem to arrive on the scene overnight. He was referring to the fact that it seemed like they had had a lucky break, but often they had been working away quietly, learning their craft for years, without ever having been noticed before.

  5. This rule applies to anything that is worth achieving – we need to stick at anything we want to achieve, whether it is ten A star GCSEs or an Olympic gold medal. 

    There is nothing wrong with setting the bar of achievement high, but it is the little steps that will get you there. To become a university professor you must first work at school to get good grades.

    Show image of Albert Einstein.

    Albert Einstein couldn’t read until his was seven. He turned out to be a Nobel Prize winner and the face of modern physics. The same is true of all those Olympic athletes who won gold medals – they started their journeys towards those medals when they took that vital first step of joining their local sports club.

  6. Not everyone dreams of or wants such big successes, but most of us want to achieve or do something in our lives and tenacity will play a part in that.

    It’s important to learn that, nearly always, you have to fail in order to progress towards achieving a dream or an ambition. Indeed, without failure, achieving your goal would mean nothing.

    It’s important to not give in to failure but learn from it and try again. If you don’t get good grades in your GCSES then you can take them again, but strive to do much better.

    As J.K. Rowling told students graduating from Harvard University:

    It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

    Failure is not the end of the world. It’s your reaction to it that’s important – that you learn from it, pick yourself up, take stock and try again.

  7. So, we have seen how everyone makes mistakes but we can get there in the end if we are tenacious. Another important thing to remember about being tenacious is to pay attention and know when to change tack if something isn’t working. This isn’t giving up – trying a different approach to the same problem may well bring success.  

    Show image of Charles Schulz.

    Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was deemed a loser whatever he did, so he changed tack and created a character like him. So it was that Snoopy was born. 

Time for reflection

Consider the following words from Reinhold Niebuhr.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Dear Lord,
Thank you for helping me.
Thank you for helping my friends.
Thank you for all the good things you give.


‘Search for the hero’ by M People

Publication date: February 2014   (Vol.16 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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