What we can learn from Green Eggs and Ham?

5 min readFeb 18, 2021
Author: Dr. Seuss Originally published: 12 August 1960

What are the most valuable life strategies essential for survival and resilience? What are the most common traits shared by successful athletes and CEOs? More importantly, what are the virtues most important in living the good life?

What is the critical character trait that underpins success? Persistence.

Courageous persistence is the one quality more than any other that can guarantee success. And success is something we all want, isn’t it? But to be successful takes persistence. Whether you want to lose a few pounds, get an A in a class, developing a world-class brand identity (talking from personal experience) or any goal that you want to succeed in, you need to be persistent. It is the difference between a successful outcome and a failed one.

There are troves of self help books, pop-psychology executive leadership books, and self affirmation posters. But, there is one book that ascends them all — Green Eggs and Ham.

Dr. Seuss, also known as Theodore Geisel, wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet that he couldn’t write a book with 50 or fewer words. The bet was made in 1960 with Bennett Cerf, the co-founder of Random House, and was for $50 (estimated $380 today). Of course, Dr. Seuss won the bet and created an all-time favourite and his best-selling work. he also helped prepare children for dealing with rejection and how to think creatively to find another approach.

The book follows Sam-I-Am as he offers an unnamed character a plate of green eggs and ham where he refuses, repeating, “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.” while Sam persistently follows him, asking him to eat them in eight locations (House, box, car, tree, train, dark, rain, boat) and with three animals (Mouse, fox, goat). SPOILER ALERT: Finally, the character accepts the offer and samples the green eggs and ham, happily declaring that he likes them and ends the story, saying, “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you. Thank you, Sam-I-Am.”

In the story, Sam-I-Am is so enthused about his green food that he wants others to enjoy his ham-and-eggs combo. His combination of food is not normally green. In fact green can be associated with mold and toxins. An yet Sam-I-Am never resorts to undermining his food by pushing boring facts such as the calorie count or the amount of protein or the price. Sam-I-Am persists in an array of new and interesting rhyming scenarios to take a taste test. The friend refuses to try it in (“in a box,” “with a fox”), until finally relenting.

The hidden message is deceptively simple and easily missed.

I had the pleasure of meeting the inspiring Flo Jo

I had a personal experience with the value of persistence. In my youth I was a rising track star in the 400m hurdles and was selected to compete in America. I had the privilege of meeting Carl Lewis, Butch Reynolds, and trained with Merlene Ottey at UCLA. On the same team was a shy indigenous track athlete, Cathy Freeman. While at Mount San Antonio College Relays in Walnut Ca. (Mt. SAC Relays) I sat with Florence Griffith Joyner on the grass that hugged the 200m bend. I noticed that Cathy Freeman was sitting by herself and went and invited her to come and talk with Flo Jo. Flo Jo said to both of us that “persistence is what gets you out of bed to train when it is cold. Persistence is what helps to keep going when youre tired. Persistence doesnt care about race or creed, just the need”.

What separates winners from losers is how they persist in situations when most mortals would give up.

Those who outlast everyone else will have spent time persisting. Refusing to be deterred by problems or discouraged by setbacks, they forge ahead, limping and crawling, towards the goal. Whatever their aspirations and life goals, their capacity to persist is their key to success.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not;
Genius will not;
Education will not;

The bigger importance of persistence.

Persistently working towards your goal (underpinned with a moral compass and ethical backbone).

Persistence is a motivational phenomenon. Dr. F. Flach (2003) has spent years studying how people cope with major catastrophes and terrible hardships, as well as potentially dangerous major turning points in their lives. He has discovered that three the most common traits of resilient people are 1.creativity, 2. the ability to tolerate emotional or physical pain, and 3. the ability to discover new ways to approach life.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Devastatingly, many African Americans still face vile discrimination and oppression. Many of the freed men and their next generation were seeking education as a means of acquiring better work and a higher status in society. With the first black men to acquire a higher education and degrees, rates of lynching in the South were not dropping and groups such as Ku Klux Klan were forming to preserve white beliefs through means of terror and violence. December 24, 1865

Nearly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans in Southern states still inhabited a starkly unequal world of disenfranchisement, segregation and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence. “Jim Crow” laws at the local and state levels barred them from classrooms and bathrooms, from theaters and train cars, from juries and legislatures. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine that formed the basis for state-sanctioned discrimination, drawing national and international attention to African Americans’ plight. In the turbulent decade and a half that followed, civil rights activists used nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to bring about change, and the federal government made legislative headway with initiatives such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Many leaders from within the African American community and beyond rose to prominence during the Civil Rights era, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Andrew Goodman and others. They risked — and sometimes lost — their lives in the name of freedom and equality.

And yet, we still need to persist!

If we aren’t reaching toward big goals, which is core to getting ahead, we will soon find ourselves lagging. Don’t stop striving, reaching, changing.


The key attitude to achieve great achievement is to be persistent on making progress towards a higher goal. To drive forward. You will face challenges and obstacles. You will have people try and hold you back, but the payoff comes when you refuse to give up. If your goals are not achieved today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year — persist, because being persistent will pay off after a while. Success will come to those who have the courage to want it.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” — Benjamin Franklin




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