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Mastering persistence:  Finding patience and hope while you struggle with steno

By Lee Leigh “Lili”

Staying motivated seems to be a running theme for many court reporting students. A quick glance at any website ad shows how our entire world has bought into goal-driven lifestyle choices. Whether it’s getting in shape or saving for financial goals, working on a degree or starting a new business, it seems that most of us need some encouragement, guidance, and accountability to keep our head in the game. You aim to be a court reporter or captioner, but like everyone who has a new desire or ambition, you struggle with the discouraging obstacles in your path.

When I was in court reporting school, I was told to think of something that inspired me before sitting down at my machine. For 20 years now every time I start a realtime file, I write: “Do or do not. There is no try.”  Yoda, the little green guy in “Star Wars,” knew a thing or two about overcoming preconceived notions of what’s possible. I know it’s just science fiction and these characters aren’t real, but there’s a reason George Lucas’ story speaks to millions of people around the world. You have to move the rocks (barriers) to your progress, even when you wholeheartedly doubt that you can. I believe that the real lesson in “Star Wars” and steno is mastering persistence.   

Passing a graduation or certification test is no small feat, and let’s be honest about the hundreds of tests you failed before reaching the end of this trilogy (Jury Charge, Literary, Q/A).  Every day you spend on your machine, you are attempting what may be the most difficult endeavor of your life, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome the odds. Getting to 225 wpm may be disheartening, but don’t despair. Don’t let fear and anger overpower you. If you do, you will start to hate doing this and be more inclined to give up.  “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” – Princess Leia. Like Leia, I challenge you to have hope even when you can’t see it. But have you looked in the right places? Let’s break down some ways you can do this, including how NCRA programs and professionals are here to help. 

What is motivation?[1] 

There are a lot of studies and content out there about this, but the gist of it is there are many different ways to use it and two main types: Intrinsic and extrinsic. Since I’m limited on how much detail I can go into here (check out the footnote link to the page I’m summarizing), I’m going to center on the components of the “impact of motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity. The degree of each of these components of motivation can impact whether or not you achieve your goal. Strong activation, for example, means that you are more likely to start pursuing a goal. Persistence and intensity will determine if you keep working toward that goal and how much effort you devote to reaching it.” 

  1. Activation
    Enrollment in court reporting classes started your commitment to this captivating career. I have no doubt that all of our students out there have strong reasons for pursuing this profession. Remember why you started down this path, because that will help guide you when you feel like you want to quit your training.
  2. Persistence
    You’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again: “Practice, Practice, Practice.” But there is more to mastering this skill than just training. You need to be guided by mentors and advised about your future. 
    The NCRA Virtual Mentor Program does not require membership. If you are a padawan (apprentice) without a master, please sign up for virtual mentoring. It’s career coaching, skills support, and professional advice. It’s an advocate and accountability buddy. You’re one click away from a free life coach who will share wisdom and be a role model – and, if they’re like me, they will likely send you cheesy sci-fi memes for encouragement. A mentor is there because your family and friends may never understand your struggle with school, but someone who went through the trials is the perfect person to help you find your purpose and persistence. Plus, a solid support structure helps big-time with the last motivational component.
  3. Intensity
    This program is intense, and we unfortunately hinge our happiness on every pass/fail. But whether we like it or not, we need that perspective to see how our skills are progressing; so assessment and accountability play a key role in all of this. The job you are training for requires hours of concentration and a willpower to keep going. The reason the training is hard is so that you are prepared to write a 30-speaker voir dire that goes through lunch and isn’t off the record until six that evening. “Patience you must have.” You can do this. You just have to keep trying.

Your willingness to participate in the rigors of this process can make or break you. Keep up the effort. Good or bad, make peace with the feedback.  Have patience with yourself.  Seek out guidance. Master persistence. It may be your only hope.

Lee Leigh “Lili” (she/they), RPR, CRI, is an official reporter and captioner from Madison, Wisc. She can be reached at