Stay the course?

2012-03-20 11:18



Stay the course?

Reader question:

Please explain “stay the course” in this sentence: “You can reach long-term goals if you stay the course.”

My comments:

In other words, if you go the distance you may win.

Go the distance? Yes, go the full distance, not quitting midway.

Take the “course” as the course of a river. The river zigzags its way from the mountains to the sea. Or the course of a car race, or horse race, or a running race, such as the marathon.

Indeed, the marathon race is a good example of why it is important to “stay the race”. Unlike the 60-meter dash, which runs along a straight line, the marathon has a distance of 42.195 kilometers, covering different terrains. Like it is with the course of a river, the marathon has its twists and turns, sometimes over flat and smooth territory, sometimes over the hilly and the rough – at least that was the case in olden times when the race was run in the country. Even today, with the race run in the city on asphalt, the marathon course may still consist of slopes and sharp turns.

At any rate, the course is so long and tortuous that it is impossible to predict its degree of difficulty from the onset.

Hence the advice for one to “stay the course”, i.e. to persevere.

Persevere, and that means keep doing what you do in spite of setbacks. There will be problems for in the marathon for different athletes. At the 20-km mark, for example, some may experience breathing difficulties, while others may be running out of legs. Some, finding the difficulties too painful to suppress, drop out. Others choose to persist and somehow, somewhere along the line, are able to get their wind back and get their legs under them again. These are ones who are able to finish the race. They are the ones who “stay the course.”

In short, he who stays the course does not quit in face of obstacles. He succeeds.

Alright, here are media examples of what happens when people stay, or quit, the course.

1. More than a month after the disaster that began sending oil streaming into the Gulf of Mexico, the energy industry is struggling to hold fast to its strategy that turned that region into a crucial part of the U.S. energy supply.

Executives from the top energy producers are calling for calm and expressing their sadness at the loss of life caused by the drilling rig explosion -- even as they double check their own operations and weigh the consequences of new, tighter government controls.

But the impact has been felt, and the giant companies that feed oil and gas to the world's largest energy consumer are for now staying the course and publicly saying they see little long-term change in their offshore drilling strategies.

“The (offshore) U.S. has historically been a very attractive province for our customers, and I don’t expect that this will change that in the long term,” Steven Newman, the chief executive of Transocean Ltd RIGN.S. The company owns the rig that exploded and now sits a mile below the Gulf's surface, told a conference call on Friday.

Transocean faces uncertain financial liability in the disaster, but investors have already punished it, slicing nearly 40 percent off its market value since the April 20 accident.

BP Plc (BP.L), which must pay for the cost to clean up the worst-ever oil spill in the United States, has seen its shares fall by nearly a quarter, wiping off almost $50 billion in its value.

- Rattled, oil execs try to stay the course, Reuters, May 28, 2010.

2. Media boss Rupert Murdoch has urged the government to “stay the political course” on deficit reduction.

In a speech in honour of Lady Thatcher, he said “toughness is necessary” and he was encouraged by Prime Minister David Cameron’s response.

He repeatedly praised ex-Conservative PM Lady Thatcher, who is in hospital, saying she had “inspired the world”.

It was billed as the chairman and chief executive of News International's first major UK speech since 1989.

In his speech to the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-of-centre think tank, he set the challenges in modern Britain alongside those faced by Lady Thatcher in the 1980s.

Mr Murdoch said: “The new prime minister has come to office inheriting a daunting deficit. I am encouraged by his response. Many rightly applaud the coalition government for maintaining a tough fiscal line.

“We must be clear why this toughness is necessary.

“It is not a numbers game. It is about livelihoods and eventually rebuilding opportunities and greatness.

“Strong medicine is bitter and difficult to swallow. But unless you stay the political course, you will be neither robust nor popular. So, like the lady, the coalition must not be for turning.

“The financial crisis was a shock to the system. While the effects linger, it must not be used as an excuse by governments to roll back economic freedom.”

- Murdoch urges Cameron to ‘stay the course’ on cuts,, October 21, 2010.

3. The White House said Monday that President Bush was no longer using the phrase “stay the course” when speaking about the Iraq war, in a new effort to emphasize flexibility in the face of some of the bloodiest violence there since the 2003 invasion.

“He stopped using it,” said Tony Snow, the White House press secretary. “It left the wrong impression about what was going on and it allowed critics to say, ‘Well, here’s an administration that’s just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is,’ when, in fact, it is the opposite.”

Mr. Bush used the slogan in a stump speech on Aug. 31, but has not repeated it for some time. Still, Mr. Snow’s pronouncement was a stark example of the complicated line the White House is walking this election year in trying to tag Democrats as wanting to “cut and run” from Iraq, without itself appearing wedded to unsuccessful tactics there.

Democrats have increasingly pressed a case this fall contending that Republicans are stubbornly proposing to “stay the course” in a failing effort to stanch violence in Iraq. Strategists in both parties consider the Democrats’ approach to have been fairly successful, especially as violence has continued to mount in Baghdad.

- Bush Abandons Phrase ‘Stay the Course’ on Iraq, The New York Times, October 24, 2006.

4. The Heat made 12 of 18 shots in the first quarter, running out to a 31-22 lead that had Van Gundy lamenting in a television interview between quarters that his team “didn’t do anything well—nothing.”

His assessment had to change from there, thanks to what Orlando started doing on the defensive end.

It took Miami the next 19-plus minutes to match what it scored in the opening 12, as the Magic steadily made what was as much as a 13-point deficit disappear. The Heat lead was only 50-47 at the break—a three-point play by Wade with inside of a minute left provided that margin—and Miami went on to miss eight straight shots early in the third quarter.

Even then, it was still nip-and-tuck, the Magic unable to take full advantage of the Heat going cold.

Jason Richardson’s basket and foul with 8:26 left in the third gave Orlando what was then its biggest lead, 57-54. Then it was Orlando’s turn to sputter offensively, scoring just six points in the remainder of the period, which was capped by James banking in an 18-footer with just under a second left for a 67-63 Miami lead.

Then Wade gave Miami just enough in the fourth, and the Heat didn’t mind another grind-it-out evening.

“You have to weather a lot of storms when you play the Orlando Magic,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And you have to stay the course.”

- Wade, Bosh carry Heat past Magic, 91-81, AP, March 18, 2012.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


The meaning of war is lost on him?

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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)



















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