Abraham Lincoln. Let's look at the man's record: He was born into a poor family. He only had about eighteen months of formal schooling, becoming what he was almost entirely by self-education. His mother died when he was young, and he was never close to his father. As an adult, he tried to run for state assembly. He lost. He later opened a store with a partner. It failed, and went bankrupt. He became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was considered a failure as a member of that group, and didn’t try to run for a second term. He tried to run for vice president. He lost the nomination to someone else. Yet, he never gave up, and after all that, he had a LOT to show for it.
"Even though large parts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."
Also attributed to Churchill is the adage, "If you're marching through Hell, keep marching."
King Edward VII was in poor health after staying in France to help mend ties with the nation. One week after returning, he suffered many heart attacks while performing his kingly duties, repeatedly uttering "No, I shall not give in; I shall go on; I shall work to the end." while refusing to rest. He did not stop to the very end of the day upon hearing his horse won a nation race. He then reportedly said "I am very glad" and then passed out. He was pronounced dead fifteen minutes later.
Charles de Gaulle. An officer of an army which had completely collapsed and who saw one half of his country occupied while the other half was turned into a puppet state, he was never really taken seriously by Churchill and Roosevelt. Though he started with a lot of handicaps, he still managed to organize the French Resistance, recreated from nearly nothing a French army — hundreds of thousands of men strong — and thus accomplished that France, though defeated earlier, was considered to be one of the victors after the war.
Theodore Roosevelt. He was actually quite sickly, but forced his body to be more powerful and athletic than most through sheer willpower. Was once shot right before a speech and kept on talking, with a bullet in his chest, for an hour and a half.
Tone (after the British government has sentenced him to death by hanging): From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced, that while it lasted, this country would never be free or happy. In consequence, I determined to apply all the powers which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not able, of herself, to throw off the yoke, I knew. I therefore sought for aid wherever it was to be found… Under the flag of the French Republic I originally engaged with a view to save and liberate my own country. For that purpose I have encountered the chances of war amongst strangers; for that purpose I have repeatedly braved the terrors of the ocean, covered as I knew it to be with the triumphant fleets of that Power which it was my glory and my duty to oppose. I have sacrificed all my views in life; I have courted poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children which I adored, fatherless. After such sacrifices, in a cause which I have always considered as the cause of justice and freedom - it is no great effort at this day to add the sacrifice of my life.
Alexander Hamilton. Practically the only American Founding Father not to come from a land-wealthy family. Hamilton went from a poor orphan boy in the West Indies to Revolutionary War hero and father of American finance.
Pick any African-American who's broken the color barrier in any field, be it business, the military, sports, whatever. We're talking real men and women who've taken abuse that would reduce whole platoons of Marines to tears. Famous examples: The Navy's first Black Master Diver Carl Brasher, as portrayed in Men of Honor, Malcolm X, and most obviously Martin Luther King.
Mohandas K. Gandhi, on whom King & others drew for inspiration.
The Little Rock Nine. Made even awesomer by how relatively young they were during their ordeal.
Nelson Mandela. 20 years in government jail makes the average tough person into an empty shell, provided he/she survives. 20 years in government jail made Nelson Mandela the President of South Africa, as well as a hero the world over.
William Wilberforce was determined to see slavery abolished and the character of the British people reformed. And he never faltered, though it took his whole life; he was in the final stages of a terminal illness when Parliament finally voted to outlaw slavery.
Muammar al-Gaddafi. he faced both a rebel army and the might of the air forces of NATO, and he simply refused to give up his power over Libya to anybody. He fought right to the end, and you've to respect the man for his determination and fighting spirit, whatever if you supported him or not.
Many in Canadian Politics, but an especially memorable example is Jack Layton of the NDP; several elections in a row he had been campaigning as federal NDP leader for the job of Prime Minister, and most times popular opinion dismissed him as the guy who didn't have a chance. But he kept going anyway, and managed to make it at least to official opposition leader status in the 2011 election; but died a couple months afterwards.
Despite his opinions. Strom Thurmond's 24 hour, 18 minute filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 deserves credit for his sheer determination.
Artists, Entrepreneurs and Scientists
Walt Disney was one of the most ambitious men in screen entertainment, going through the failures of two studios, losing his first successful star character, finally getting some success from 1928 to the early 40's, which despite making his most ambitious works yet, he wound up going through major financial problems and loss of staff due to the war effort, which was not helped by the disastrous 1941 studio strike which robbed Walt of many valuable animators. It wasn't until 1950 when he finally got back up to his former stride with Cinderella, and even then he had to contend with the flop of Sleeping Beauty, which was such a costly failure that Walt had to lay off his entire inking department and switch to xeroxing, as well as produce black & white films (during the early 60's, no less!) just to stay in business.
Almost any actor who has to go on a press tour needs steel resolve to finish them. For one example, there's a good chance that Doctor Who star Matt Smith doesn't have to sleep. Simply filming the show seem like no easy task on its own. Aside from that, he's hosted the Doctor Who prom, filmed two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, done voice recording for the Doctor Who Online Game and audio books, films behind-the-scenes segments for Doctor Who Confidential, and has gone on a two-continent press tour that would leave most people curled in the fetal position.
Sarah Bernhardt was the original modern theatre Large Ham, even taking on Large Ham male roles. Not even being one-legged with almost no mobility could stop her from being an acclaimed actress.
Guitarist Jason Becker. Regarded by many as one of the best players to play the instrument, in 1989, after recording two albums in the band Cacophony and building a cult following, playing on friend and bandmate Marty Friedman's first solo album, releasing his own solo album, and gaining arguably the biggest, highest-paying guitar spot at the time as Steve Vai's replacement in David Lee Roth's solo band - worth mentioning he did all of this before his twenty-first birthday - a visit to a doctor for an odd limp in his left leg ended with him being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which wouldn't just kill him in three to five years, it'd also cripple his muscular ability, robbing his music as it killed him. So what did he do? He started using lighter, easier instruments, finished the 1991 Roth record (Though he couldn't join the tour), jumped right by that "three to five years" mark with a grin on, releasing two more albums in the 1990's, an enormous feat with his condition, stabilized in 1997, and nearly twenty years after he was told he'd lose his ability to make music, then die, communicating and still writing through a computer even now that he's fully-paralyzed, save for his eyes, in 2008, he released a new album, with the music he wrote played by nearly thirty friends from his early career and fans who'd grown up since his debut in 1980, including his boss at the time he was diagnosed, and an immensely busy man in the midst of a gigantic reunion tour, David Lee Roth. Screw you, ALS.
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help. The woman received 60 rejections. And that's from agents. Usually with good books it's after you get the agent that the rejection letters start piling in from uninterested publishers who are more driven by the bottom line and potential sales than quality writing, but the fact that Stockett kept believing in her story after being repeatedly told it wasn't up to snuff qualifies her.
J.K. Rowling. She worked on the first Harry Potter book for five years, writing as she dealt with her mother's untimely death, a failed marriage, hand-to-mouth poverty and being a single mother. Then she went from living off benefits to multi-millionaire status in five years.
Many musicians count, especially the black musicians of the 30s, 40s, and 50s who started/changed it all in jazz: Charlie Parker, who was embarrassed at jam sessions one time too many (culminating in the legendary story of a drummer throwing down a cymbal to stop him playing), got sick of it, and practiced 15 hours a day for several months to a year before breaking onto the scene and becoming the most important musician in jazz history, and receiving recognition as one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Partway through Parker's career, Miles Davis arrives, who in addition to being determined to adhere to his own musical concept despite several years of harsh criticism before breaking out on the jazz scene, quit heroin the first time by locking himself in his father's guest house and suffering cold turkey until it was done. John Coltrane, similar to Bird, was a guy lacking in natural talent who practiced incessantly, practicing in the bathrooms during a break on gigs, and fingering the keys until he fell asleep with his horn in his hands in hotel rooms late at night, never going out to hang out, just playing the gig and going straight to practicing. The list goes on, really, nearly every great jazz musician has had some aspects of the Determinator. It's what led them to greatness, or at least wide recognition. And don't get me started on the difficulties related to other styles of music: the difficulty of getting a job in a major orchestra as a classical player, of breaking onto the over-saturated pop and rock scenes, etc.
Yoshiki Hayashi. The major labels in Japan wouldn't take his band at the time, so he made his own label. His band became the first Heavy Metal band in Japan to top the charts in competition with non-metal genres. He experienced several health crises and the death of his father from suicide as a child and lived on through them, and experienced even more health crises as a result of his drumming... and still kept on playing. He played through an almost broken neck twice, he survived suicidal feelings and overwhelming grief after the disbandment of the band and the death of hide in 1997 and 1998. He managed to reconcile with the singer Toshi and eventually get him out of a cult that was destroying him, reuniting the band in the process. His neck injuries led to drastic surgery during which he almost died - he would recover to play drums at the same level he had pre-surgery. During the surgery, a cancerous thyroid growth was discovered - and he still went on with touring in 2009 and 2010 while suffering from hyperthyroidism and other illnesses. Despite an ongoing bad physical condition, he completed a world tour in 2011 and plans to tour again - as he works on music for a major project, finishes an album, and manages a charity campaign...
Steve Jobs during the 1990s could be seen as a case, given that after being fired from Apple he went on to create other companies, one of which would eventually become the NeXT Apple.
Stephen Hawking. Hawking was diagnosed with the degenerative nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when he was 21 years old, and was given three years to live. Apparently, he disagreed. Nearly five decades later, and with only a muscle fiber or two still under his conscious control, he continues to re-write the world of theoretical physics, and uses his other time to publish best-selling books. Not bad for a guy who can require between five and ten minutes to write a long sentence.
German film director Uwe Boll keeps making multi-million dollar movies ("Dungeon Siege" cost 40 million USD) despite every one of them being a spectacular box-office bomb and critical failure.
Though to be fair, he achieves this through German tax-loopholes that reward investments in the film. Any investors can write off the investment as a tax deduction, and only pay taxes on the profits made by the move. So basically, if the movie doesn't break even, the investor gets a tax writeoff.
Donald Pleasence, famous for playing Dr. Blofeld in James Bond and Dr. Samuel Loomis in the Halloween series, worked until his death in 1995, and doing many of his own stunts even at an advanced age.
Recently deceased Norm Borlaug. He spent decades interbreeding plants in a process even he admits nearly drove him insane with tedium. However, the result was the Green Revolution which increased crop yields to such an extent as to save more than a billion people from dying of starvation, about 10 times more people than died in World War II.
Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live. The man's backstory practically defines "Woobiedom": Horribly abusive parents, struggles with Alcohol and Cocaine, and starting stand-up at a comparatively late age (Twenty-six) all worked against him. This is not even taking into account his severe mental health problems which have included Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and a long history of self-harm. He struggled for thirteen years to achieve his dream of going on Saturday Night Live before finally achieving it at an age when most would have given up. He stayed on the show for fourteen years, longer than any other cast member. If that is not determination, I don't know what is.
Mountaineers and Survival Ordeals
Project Unbreakable. In October 2011, Grace Brown began taking pictures of sexual attack targets holding posters bearing quotes from their attackers - often quotes from during the assault itself. Quote content ranges from the otherwise-innocuous out of context to the brutally explicit and profane. The Project features male targets as well as females, and each one is a living embodiment of the will to survive.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Joined the British Army, got into the SAS, got kicked out of the SAS for 'improper use of explosives', was awarded a medal for bravery by the Sultan of Oman, and went on to become, in the words of the Guinness book of Records, the 'greatest living explorer'. This is a man who cut off the ends of his frostbitten fingers in his garden shed with a power tool because he was fed up with them hurting, ran 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 continents when he was 59 and didn't know how that affected the heart condition he had at the time because he forgot to pack the monitor, climbed the Eiger in his 60s despite a fear of heights, and climbed Mount Everest at 65. Clearly doesn't know how to give up.
Joe Simpson, mountaineer and author of the book (and later award-winning documentary film) Touching The Void. After completing an ascent of the west face of Siula Grande in Peru, reaching the 6,344 metre peak, he fell during the descent, his calf bone splitting his knee. Working together with his climbing partner, Simon Yates, they descended - until Simpson fell again, ending up hanging over a crevasse with no way to climb up or anchor himself - and with his body weight slowly pulling Yates after him. After a long time, Yates made the only possible decision - to cut the rope. Simpson, close to hypothermia by this point, fell again and ended up inside the crevasse, unable to climb back out the way he'd fallen; so he climbed down into the crevasse instead, and found a way back out onto the mountain. Then, with no food, water, or painkillers, he worked his way down the mountain - including an unroped crossing of a glacier - over three and a half days, finally arriving back at his Base Camp the night before Yates was planning to leave. He lost a third of his body weight during the ordeal, and he needed multiple operations before he could walk again. Then he started climbing again, and - later - broke his other leg while climbing in the Himalayas. He's now an author and motivational speaker.
Mountain man Hugh Glass was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. He awoke 200 miles from civilization, with a broken leg, exposed ribs, festering wounds, and no food, water, or weapons. Glass set his leg, wrapped himself in his death shroud, and began trekking through hostile Native American territory. He survived on berries, roots, and carrion, and stove off infection with maggots. After six weeks, he reached the Cheyenne River, fashioned a raft, and floated to civilization. After a long recuperation, he hunted down his two former companions, but chose to spare both of them. He did, however, take his rifle back.
Another mountain climber, Aron Ralston, was forced to amputate his own arm with a cheap, dull multi-tool after a rock fell on it and trapped him for five days without food and water. After that he had to rappel down a 65-foot wall and walk for miles until he found help. There's a movie about his ordeal now. Hearing him relate the event in his own words is staggering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2XLoQ1xYB0
Chris Ryan (pseudonym), the SAS member that during the First Gulf War walked over 200 miles in the Iraqi desert over 8 days with no supplies, evaded detection and capture, survived the weather and even drinking water contaminated with nuclear waste in what is by far "the longest escape and evasion" by any soldier to date.
Sir Douglas Mawson. An Australian scientist who lead a fateless expedition in the south pole. His entire team starved to death after a blizzard forced them to stay in their tents, waiting to die. Mawson on the other hand walked the 100 miles solo, back to base camp in horrid Antartic conditions of 90 mile per hour winds and freezing temperatures.
Molly Craig: A young girl who escaped from an internment camp and walked 1500 miles across the Australian Outback twice, the second time with an infant in tow.
Sir Ernest Shackleton and the other members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. They planned to cross the antarctic continent when on the way there their ship got stuck in early ice, was crushed and eventually sank. They survived more than a year on the floating ice cut off from the resupply posts established for them inland. But they weren't rescued then — that was just when the ice melted and started to break apart. So they got into their lifeboats and paddled past drifting icebergs to the nearest island that was 100 miles away. After almost 500 days they were finally on solid land again but so far off any shipping lines that they would never be found. So after this whole ordeal and despite having only some rudimentary tools left they retrofitted one of their lifeboats for an open sea journey. Six men split off and sailed 800 miles across one of the most dangerous seas through a hurricane, having only three opportunities to determine their position. When they finally got to South Georgia they had to land on the uninhabited side of the island. So after a year on the ice and almost a month on the boat they got up and crossed the unexplored island with little more than a couple hundred meters of rope in a 36 hour non-stop trek.
Everybody on the travel survived. The only grave casualty was a teenager who had to have his toes cut because they were frostbitten.
Shackleton was so Bad Ass that many explorers said:
Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.
Sherpas in general. They did the work carrying whole caravans of equipment up Mt Everest on their backs.
Dr. David Livingstone made a habit of wandering Africa for years at a time. The explorer faced incredible dangers, including disease, deadly animals, starvation, weather, cannibal tribes, bandits, and other horrors. This was bad enough, but at least he had his Africa companions Chuma and Susi. When Livingstone died in Africa, Chuma and Susi did not abandon him. Instead, they carried his corpse for one thousand miles over the same deadly and inhospitable terrain.
War and the Military
The Ur-example is the Zealots, who were were so good at this that the word for "uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals" is named for them.
Any man who can complete the two year Pararescue Jumper program, also known as "Superman School". It includes becoming a qualified paramedic, going through SERE training, Military freefall, and Combat Dive school — all before the start of the PJ specific training. The pass rate is ~3%.
Spartacus. Made a Slave, trained as a gladiator, led a successful revolt in the heart of a slave-holding Empire, built a 70,000 man army and destroyed two of Rome's legions. When the situation had become hopeless, he preferred to die in a final battle against eight legions, rather than trying to flee.
When the island city of Tyre refused to surrender to Alexander the Great, knowing that Alexander didn't have a fleet to invade with, Alexander reacted by cutting down all the trees near and far and grab all the rocks and spend eight months ''turning the island into a Peninsula!
Pretty much any US Soldier who has earned the Medal of Honor. You can find them all along with a description of the actions that earned them the medal here.
During the American Revolutionary War, Colonel Henry Knox seized the British fort at Ticonderoga and was tasked by Washington to transport the artillery from the fort to relieve the siege of Boston. Knox gathered together the sledges required for the task and wrote to Washington, estimating the time needed for the task at just over two weeks. For the next three months, Knox and his men dragged sixty tons of cannon across three colonies, from Ticonderoga near Lake Champlain to the Boston area, where they were used to fortify positions in Cambridge, Roxbury, and Dorchester. Between November of 1775 and January of 1776, those guns were hauled through snow, dug out of muddy roads again and again, fell through the ice into frozen rivers, but when they arrived, some ten weeks behind schedule, not a single gun was lost.
Victoria Cross recipients also qualify (being the most rare of all millitary decoratons, regardless of country) — indeed, most recipients of any nation's highest military honour probably do.
World War One: The French garrison of Fort Vaux at Verdun, under Major Raynal, held out for about a week against repeated assaults after their water supply was destroyed. They were so desperate for water, by the end they were licking condensation off the walls. It was customary for a commanding officer to hand over his sword when surrendering, but the German commander (the Crown Prince, no less) was so impressed with the garrison that he instead gave Major Raynal a sword to replace his, which had been lost or destroyed somehow.
Also, the Royal Italian Army. Underequipped due the political class screw-ups, the efforts to equip it hindered by the Italian low industrialization and lack of resources and their allies having to arm themselves first before giving help to Italy, saddled by an officer corps composed mostly by Neidermeyers, and led by the greatest General Ripper in Italian history (whose only redeeming trait was that he somehow managed to equip his troops decently in spite of all the problems, and gave them the second most extensive artillery of the Entente), they were pushed back at Caporetto... And then stopped the Austro-Hungarian offensive on the Piave river for a year, before counterattacking and causing the collapse of the whole Austro-Hungarian Army (no other army had collapsed in the war, not even the ones of Serbia and Romania, who had been completely occupied by the Central Powers), opening the way for Vienna and even Berlin.
Belgium. Fucking Belgium. Outnumbered ten to one, with a vastly outclassed army, they faced down the Germans trying to bypass the Maginot Line for three months - giving the French and the British time to mobilize - before capitulating, when the Germans had (reasonably) calculated that they would last two to three days.
The Red Army in WWII. The infamous order #227 is known as Not a step back, because of the lines it contained: "Not a step back! This should be our main credo. Each position, each meter of Soviet territory must be defended to the last drop of blood, each patch of Soviet soil must be clinged to and made a stand for."
Best shown by the troops defending Stalingrad. Their only way to retreat was to pass the Volga. Their motto was "There's no land on the other side of the Volga".
Sadly, this was an Enforced Trope. Order 227 ordered the use of "barrier troops" to gun down any fleeing units from their own side. The order also established penal battalions of soldiers with disciplinary problems to put on the front lines as canon fodder. Order 270 ordered that anyone who surrendered was a malicious deserter to be immediately shot and for their family to be arrested. As Stalin commented, "There are no Soviet prisoners of war, only traitors."
Jan Balsrud. The whole story is too long to lay out here, but damn.
Rome in the Second Punic War. Every time Hannibal wiped out a Roman army the Romans just formed a new one from scratch and were in the field next year. This was the reason that the Romans won the war in the end — even though defeat had seemed unavoidable only a few years earlier.
Even better, the army that in the end defeated Hannibal and won the war was what remained of the one Hannibal had previously defeated at Cannae, that, after being forbidden to return in Italy until Hannibal was there as punishment, decided to attack Carthage to draw him out of Italy and then handed him his only defeat ever.
Thermopylae. The Greeks (predictably) lost, but if Herodotus is to be believed, the fight they put up, together with their Heroic Sacrifice, inspired the whole of Greece to stand together and finally fight off the Persian invasion.
As described in the documentary, The Fog of War, Robert MacNamara said he only learned how determined the North Vietnamese were to win during The Vietnam War when he met a major Vietnamese leader of that war. In their conversation, he mentioned how the US won most the battles, but the Vietnamese leader noted that they were prepared to accept many, many more losses in that war as a price for victory. Illustrated by this famous quote of Ho Chi Minh: "You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it."
Sir Douglas Bader. The man nagged his way back into the RAF when World War II broke out, in spite of having lost both his legs in a plane crash 7 years earlier, and proceeded to: win 22 aerial engagements, get promoted from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel, turn the 242nd Canadian Squadron from one of the worst to one of the best units in the RAF and recieve the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, before being forced to bail out behind enemy lines in 1941. He then proceeded to attempt to escape so many times the Germans threatened to take his legs, including attempting to build a sailplane out of bed-bottom boards, potato glue and bedsheets to fly out of castle Colditz, and when Colditz was liberated he requested to be sent back into action.
Hiroo Onoda. He fought WW 2 until 1974, holding out on his own (the rest of his squad died or defected) and dismissing things like newspapers and pamphlets as tricks designed to demoralize him. It took a Japanese student on a world trip to get him to surrender and only because the student visited him, took a picture, then talked to the Japanese government who in turn got Hiroo's commanding officer (now a librarian) to find him and specifically order him to put down his weapons and surrender. At the time of his surrender, his weapon was still functional after 30 years and he still had 500 rounds of ammo left among other supplies (some of which he got by raiding local cities).— The best part about all of this was that his commanding officer (Major Taniguchi) fulfilled a promise he made back in 1944: "Whatever happens, we'll come back for you".
Oddly enough, Onoda is accidentally the second longest serving Japanese soldier after Teruo Nakamura who went through extremely similar circumstances but was discovered only several months later. (He served the Japanese army as Taiwan was under Japanese rule at the time.)
The Gurkhas. One of the best examples can be found here.
Canadian Private Leo Major got his first taste of Determination when he took out a German Half-Track and lost his left eye to burning phosphorus. He demanded to be put back in the field, reasoning he only needed his right eye to aim his rifle. But that is only a precursor to his historic bravery: In 1945, he spent an entire night and most of the following morning defending the entire village of Zwolle with two rifles, a machine gun, and a burlap sack full of grenades, all by himself.
Yakov Pavlov and the Battle of Stalingrad. Two-dozen men, Yakov, and a one five-story partially-bombed-out apartment building versus everything the entire German Army could throw at them, and prevailing. Infinity Ward made the battle into a level and let Pavlov get an appearence on the very first Call of Duty game.
Anyone who passes UKSF Selection has a claim. To elaborate, the selection consists of a basic personal fitness test and combat fitness test (which usually screen out half the candidates already). Then they start a training regimen that ends in a test where they have to march up and down a mountain for 14 miles (with full equipment, of course), after which they start with the real test, a 4 mile cross country run and a 2 mile swim (still in full equipment). If they pass, they are shipped off to South East Asia, to learn navigation and survival skills in the jungles. Then they are shipped back to Hereford for extra weapons and tactics training, plus more survival training, culminating in a week long escape and evasion. And ''then'' they are put trough 36 straight hours of interrogation. About 15% of the candidates that start it make it through this training.
Audie Murphy. Given promotions like they were rations and every American decoration for valour up to and including the Medal of Honour.
One cannot join Special Operating Force without being one.
Muammar Gaddafi: Through the 42 years he was in power, he was able to survive everything the Americans threw at him, and even to the end he fought on and refused to surrender to neither the NTC or to NATO. His loyalists in Sirte likewise. Even though they were cornered to a tiny part of the city, they still refused to give up until the very end.
The Continental Army. Which hardly won a battle but won the war simply by staying in the field despite incredible hardship and shortage of supplies.
The Last Of The Philippines: during the Spain - United States war in 1898, the Siege of Baler took place. Filipino revolutionaries laid siege to a fortified church manned by colonial Spanish troops in the town of Baler, Philippines for 11 months. That war ended in December 1898 with Spain's surrender and annexation of the Philippines to the United States. Funny thing is, the Spanish defenders didn't receive any news, and so kept defending the church until 1899, much to the Filipino's confusion. They even had to make their own shoes from rope and a plank of wood.
The guards of the United State's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located at Arlington National Cemetery. Each guard is is a determinator of the 1st degree. The weather could be torrential rain, high winds, extreme heat, extreme cold, a blizzard, or even a hurricane, but the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will always be guarded 24/7. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge is awarded to the guards and is the second rarest award in the US Army (rarest is the Army Astronaut Badge). Only 604 people (as of October 2012) have received it.
Indeed, any country with a constantly guarded memorial will have a crop of these. Take this◊ picture. At first sight, all it seems to be is a Greek man in a silly hat crying. The story behind it? That man is one of the Evzoni, who are the Greek Army's most elite unit. They dress like that because that is how the klephts, who fought the Ottoman occupiers dressed. So why is he crying? Because he is standing in a cloud of tear gas during a riot, and, as a guard of the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, he is not permitted to move. So he ain't budging.
Half the point to basic training in any military worth its salt is to pump out strong minded and bodied determinators.
Simo Häyhä, the Trope Codifier for a Cold Sniper. An ordinary Finnish farmer, when the Winter War broke out took his iron-sighted Mosin Nagant and went to town with the Russian Army, killing 542 Soviet soldiers with his rifle and 200 with a submachine gun. He was able to survive counter-snipers, enemy platoons, artillery barrages sent only to kill him. When one Soviet sniper got lucky and hit him in the chin, he managed to kill him and return with his unit before fainting. He was in a coma for 11 days and when he woke up, the war had just ended. He lived until 2002, at the age of 96. Was nicknamend The White Death by the Soviets.
The army of Harold Godwinson. It marched all the way accross England to wipe out the Vikings at Stamford Bridge. Then marched all the way back to meet William I at Hastings. Then fought him all day in a Last Stand.
The Animal Kingdom
Squirrels that raid birdfeeders. Capsaicin powder in the seed, slinkies on the poles, greased poles, and a hundred other ploys will not keep these Magnificent Bastards from the birdseed for long. It gets really aggravating. You can buy birdfeeders that spin and they still hold on for dear life, and try again. You would think they would get the message, considering how smart they supposedly are. People who want the birds to have a chance have produced the aforementioned contrivances and more. "Sorry, squirrel, this feeder's inaccessib- Oh Crap. Maybe this will work..."
Dogs will find ever more brilliant ways to destroy/rip up/eat/break new toys.
There is a reason why a Determinator is said to fight like a cornered rat. Cornered cats are even more vicious.
Honey badgers have an admirable stubbornness when it comes to getting food. They will rip open a beehive and eat the honey inside, oblivious to the stings of the angry bees. One individual saw a puff adder eating a mouse, so it stole the mouse from the adder's mouth and ate it. Then it turned on the poor snake in spite of being bitten, eating until the prey's venom worked its way into its system. After that, it fell asleep due to the venom (many larger animals would have been killed), only to wake up hours later and continued to eat the snake. They often keep on fighting without realizing that they're grievously injured*
Though their thick, loose skin prevents them from being injured too easily.
, which sometimes gets them killed. Some badgers have been found with torn-open beehives, stung to death by the bees.
Honey badgers are the only animals the lions shun. Not only because of their viciousness in fight, but because they don't fight fair. They are known to eat any snakes found in the South Africa - even the four-meter long African rock pythons.
Many colony insects (ants, termites, bees) will fight on despite grievous injuries against foes many times their size. Termites and ants in particular will fight on despite having lost legs, their abdomen, even their entire bodies in order to complete a task or protect their home.
In sport, Helio Gracie was an incredible Determinator. One of the founders of Brazilian Jujitsu, in 1955 he had two incredible matches that very much earn his title here. In the first, against Masahiko Kimura, he had two of the bones in his arm broken, and would have kept going, if not for his brother throwing in the towel. In the second, against Valdemar Santana, he fought for 3 hours and 42 minutes, only losing when he collapsed from exhaustion. The second was the longest fight in Mixed Martial Arts history.
Kimura himself was pretty tough customer. Upon his second visit to Brazil he was bullied into fighting aforementioned Santana, who was younger and in top condition, whereas Kimura suffered from an injury at the time. The two beat the shit out of each other for forty minutes with the fight ending in a draw:
That night, my face was badly swollen. I had a number of cuts on my face. Every time I breathed, an excruciating pain ran through my belly, and I could not sleep. (...) However, I learned a very important lesson in this fight. That is, one must never fear death. If I had not had the iron will to fight despite the possibility of getting killed, his head butts would have torn my intestine into pieces.
Perhaps only rivalled by Kazushi Sakuraba's epic 90-minute fight with Helio's son, Royce Gracie in the PRIDE FC. Sakuraba is the Determinator here, as shortly after that fight he showed up for the next one, against the 50 lbs heavier, much better rested, and feared striker Igor Vovchanchyn (pretty much his worst nightmare if you would choose one)and went the distance for another 20 minutes - fighting well enough for the match to be considered a draw. His corner decided to throw in the towel at this point before the extra round was on, just as Royce's corner had done earlier.
Not to be outdone (in what is now considered a classic rivalry), a few months later another Gracie, Renzo, faced off with Sakuraba and refused to submit to an armlock to the point where his elbow was broken - and beyond, until the referee had to stop the match because of the injury. Renzo paid tribute to his opponent after the fight.
When Royce Gracie fought Matt Hughes, Hughes put him in an armbar to get a submission. However, he soon realized that Gracie wasn't going to submit even if his arm was broken. So since he didn't want to injure his opponent, he had no choice but to release the hold.
An uncountable number of boxers belong here, since many will often fight on with broken hands (and continue to punch with those broken hands), broken noses, ripped muscles, etc. Like Danny Williams, whose right shoulder was dislocated twice in his 2000 bout with Mark Potter. The first time his corner popped it back in between rounds. The second time it came out just 30 seconds into the 6th round. For the next minute and a half, Williams somehow survived while Potter assaulted him, until the right handed Williams knocked Potter out with a single left uppercut.
For boxing, the Trope Codifier here is probably Joe Frazier, who simply did not know how to fight going anyway but forward, no matter who he was fighting or how. His heart was absolutely second to none and this is probably best exemplified in his most overwhelming loss against George Foreman. Facing a man who was the worst possible matchup for him (bigger, taller, stronger, harder punching, and with an iron chin), Frazier refused to back down despite getting pummeled from post to post and suffering 6 knockdowns in 2 rounds (the first of which was the famous "Down goes Frazier!!" call). Each time, Frazier got up and kept going back for more, noticeably looking more angry than anything when his corner waved off the fight. Even after his epic third fight with Ali, an old, worn down Frazier wanted nothing more than a chance to redeem himself against Foreman, a fight no one thought he could win. Frazier lost in 5 rounds, but he went out in trademark fashion, going forward no matter what the cost and swinging the entire time. It should be noted in the Third Ali fight that he was effectively blind at the end of the fight having his good eye shut and his other eye permanently damaged from a sparring accident. And he didn't want to end the fight, instead his corner called it. To this day he is still angry about that thinking he could have won the fight.
George Chuvalo embodies this trope almost if not as much as Joe Frazier. In his entire boxing career, he was never knocked down. Not "never knocked out"; never knocked down. Muhammad Ali described him as the "toughest guy I ever fought", and George Foreman and Joe Frazier were the only boxers to ever even defeat him by technical knockout. And in the case of the former, when the fight was called for that reason, Chuvalo famously asked the referee, "What are you, nuts?"
Heavyweight champ Gene Tunney managed to survive an absolute 15 round Curb-Stomp Battle against the great Harry Greb that would be against the law now a days. Gene had his nose in two places, two giant gashes over both his eyes, and lost 2 quarts of blood by the end of the fight. It was a miracle he even survived. They fought another four more times and Gene won them all.
American Olympic Games runner Lopez Lomong, who was abducted as a young child in Sudan and forced to become a Child Soldier. After seeing dozens of other children die in the training camp, Lopez and some of his friends escaped under the cover of darkness, running almost nonstop for 3 days and nights until they crossed the Kenyan border. His Olympic ability to run literally saved his life.
The British 400 metre runner Derek Redmond has to be mentioned here. 250 metres into his semi final at the Barcelona Olympics his hamstring snapped. But would he give up? Hell no. He hobbled in absolute agony for a few more metres and collapsed on the ground only to pick himself up and continue. Eventually his father Jim barged past the security and supported him as he moved down the track. Together they hobbled the last 100 metres and finished the race. One of the most gutsy things you will ever see and probably counts as both a Tear Jerker and Crowning Momentof Awesome.
French (or more accurately Basque) rugby player Imanol Harinordoquy also counts. He played an entire game with his nose broken, wearing an impressive mask. During the first half of the game, he had two ribs broken. And he still played three quarters of the second half — all the time as a member of the melee. See here.
For all of his faults, Eric Lindros could be argued to be one of these. A center in the NHL, playing for the roughest team in the league at the time (and still), and playing on the most feared line of the 90s, went through 6 concussions, including 3 or 4 that happened WITHIN WEEKS of recovery from the previous one. And the major reason he retired? Many teams were allegedly worried about picking up, not only his overpriced salary, but his gratuitous medical bills as well.
Going along with the NHL, Ray Bourque, full stop. If you can go 22 seasons long, just to finally get your name on Lord Stanley's Cup, you are more than worthy of this title. That's not even mentioning that he has the record for most goals, points, assists as a defensemen and the record for most shots on goal period.
One more for the NHL. Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oft-plagued by injuries, he retired due to a cancer scare. However, he returned a few seasons later because he wanted his son to see him play. By the way, did I mention that around the time, of all of this, he became the owner, literally saving hockey in Pittsburgh?
Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava. He was 4'9 during high school and was more known for his glove than his bat. He gets cut as a walk-on in college but stays to serve as team manager before tuition issues made him transfer to the junior college. The opportunity to play and a well-timed growth spurt helped Nava rake and earn a scholarship back to his original college where he would play his senior year and play very well. However, despite his fine season, Nava doesn't get drafted. He then tries for independent league in which he finally gets a chance due to a player on the Chico Outlaws decided to retire. Nava proves himself and wins the Golden League MVP which then causes the Red Sox to come knocking. They purchase his contract for only $1 and Nava proves to be more than that as he rakes through the system. He finally makes it to the big leagues on June 12, 2010 and in his first at-bat hits a grand slam on the first pitch he sees. All of this because he just had a dream of playing baseball and didn't give up on it.
Cesc Fabregas. In a game against FC Barcelona (bear in mind Fabregas was born in Barcelona and has all but admitted he will play for the club one day) where he was carrying a foot injury, this injury was worsened by a tackle and cracked the fibula bone in his right foot. Not only did Fabregas complete the match, he took a penalty to equal the game at 2-2 and damn near broke the net he hit it so hard, he was so desperate to tie up the game for his team.
And on a similar note, former England captain and current Chelsea captain John Terry. He has been known to play while carrying an injury, including one game where he suffered a fractured cheekbone and played in the next one, and at one time played for 8 months on a broken toe.
Manchester United in 1999 Champions League Final. Bayern led 1-0 first with Basler's goal in 6th minute. When did United reverse 2-1? In 90+1 and 90+3 minute.
Michael Jordan. Just look at his page quote. Not to mention the "flu game" where he led his team to victory in game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals while severely weakened by illness. He pushed himself so hard during the game that he nearly collapsed immediately after it was over.
For the Americans, winning the women's gymnastics team gold in 1996 required an entire team of Determinators, but a few stand out. Amanda Borden made the national team in 1990. Soon afterward, she broke her arm. Then she tore her hamstring. Then she tore the other one. She made the 1992 Olympic team but was bumped for more experienced gymnasts. She would go on to be the team captain of the Magnificent 7. Perhaps the most famous of all from that team is Kerri Strug. She tore her abdominal muscle, healed from that, came back and fractured her spine. During the Olympics, she was the last gymnast up on vault of the final rotation of the competition. It was up to her to clinch the gold. She vaulted, fell and tore two ligaments in her ankle. Ordinarily, that renders a person unable to walk. She calmly limped back to the start, sprinted full speed down the runway, launched herself over the vault, flipped and twisted a couple of times, and stuck the landing. Without even a bobble. On one foot.
In the world of American gridiron: Jim Plunkett. Born to two blind, poor parents, with an Irish surname (even though he is ninety percent Hispanic) in 1947. Had to have a thyroid operation and was switched to defensive end upon starting at Stanford, even while throwing five-hundred to one-thousand balls per day to maintain his arm, eventually being allowed to start as quarterback as a junior. Although his father died the year before, his class graduated without him, and he had to work construction jobs to make ends meet and support his mother on scholarship, he won the Heisman in 1970. Drafted in 1971 by the New England Patriots, he won Rookie of the Year- before hitting rock bottom. (He threw for eight TD passes and twenty-five interceptions in his second year of pro football.) Traded to the 49ers in 1975, he was released after only two years, and signed to Oakland Raiders in 1979 where he was backup for a year before starting in 1980. Plunkett blew his big chance in Week 5, throwing five interceptions in one game after an injury to the starter, Pastorini. However, he continued to lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl win that year, second round of the playoffs in 1982, and a second Super Bowl win in 1983. He has still not been elected to the Hall of Fame twenty-five years after winning two Lombardis, more than ninety-five percent of quarterbacks ever win.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers. Throughout the course of the 16 game season (as well as 4 games in the playoffs), the Packers had to put at least 14 people on injured reserve, meaning they couldn't play again for the rest of the season. Therefore, the team had to find new ways to deal with the missing players every week. They ended up clinching the #6 seed in the NFC in the final week, then proceeded to claim road playoff victories over the #3 seed Philadelphia Eagles, the #1 seed Atlanta Falcons, and the #2 seed Chicago Bears (their division rivals), making it all the way to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. There, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy was given the challenge of having the Packers face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his native hometown team. Even after losing wide reciever Donald Driver & cornerback Charles Woodson to injuries in the 2nd quarter, the Packers still managed to not give up and won 31-25.
Arguably, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady qualifies.
Roger Staubach. There was no such thing as a comfortable lead against the Dallas Cowboys when he was quarterback. He was famous for seemingly impossible come from behind victories, and is who gave us the term "Hail Mary Pass". Well, the Pittsburgh Steelers discovered what a comfortable lead was in Super Bowl XIII: 18 points with less than two minutes remaining. They held the lead and won. Barely.
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Let's play tennis in an official, sanctioned match in the historic Wimbledon tournament... for eleven hours. Granted, it was spread over three days, but to put things in perspective, the previous record for a match was 6 hours, 33 minutes. The 5th set? Eight hours, and 11 minutes.. Nearly every record in the history book for number of X in a single match and set was shattered. Neither side wanted to go down, and both of them played like they were playing to win it all, including at one point where Mahut threw his racket in a desperation attempt to return a volley. Isner even fell to the ground in celebration when he finally won. But after all that, instead of simply shaking Mahut's hand, he gave him a hug. And perhaps in the best follow up of all time, at the 2011 tourney, they drew each other again to meet in the first round. Fittingly enough, it was decided in straight sets with Isner once again defeating Mahut.
The chair umpire should also be recognized, as he sat through the entire match (while Wimbeldon officials rotated out the linesmen and ball boys/girls). He later said he was so riveted by the play that he never thought about basic things like eating or using the bathroom.
Johnny Hoogerland. During the 9th stage of the 2011 Tour De France, he was in a 5-man breakaway five minutes ahead of the main field. Due to his performance in said breakaway, he had regained the King of the Mountains jersey that he had lost the day before and it waited for him at the end of the stage. However, another rider in the breakaway (Juan Antonio Flecha) was sideswiped by a TV car. Fletcha slammed into Hoogerland, sending him flying... into a barbed-wire fence. At 30 miles per hour. The fence destroyed his shorts and left him with multiple deep lacerations on his thighs. What did this man do? He got bandaged up by medical, found a new pair of shorts, got back on his bike, and finished the stage. He finished nearly fifteen minutes behind the main field, and was in visibly excruciating pain as he stood on the podium to accept his KotM jersey. After the ceremony, he finally went to the hospital and ended up requiring 33 stitches to close the gashes on his legs. Two days later, he gets back on his bike, and manages to complete the race. Badass.
Flecha also deserves mentioning here. he wasn't treated like a human chopping block, but cartwheeling at 30 mph has to hurt. Still, he climbed back on his bike and finished as well.
The race itself has a determinator-award, which is given by a jury. Hoogerland and Flecha shared the award for the stage mentioned. Neither rider won it for the entire race that year.
UFC fighter Chris Leben is this trope cranked up to 11. He's not very fast, he's not very coordinated, and he has the defensive skills of a man with a magnetic hat in a knife store, but somehow, some way, he gets you. He has shrugged off blows that looked like they would have killed the average man, and has more than once gone into a "zombie mode" wherein he was most likely completely unconscious and still punching.
Any athlete who has a physical disorder would qualify. Not even loss of limbs can hold these men and women from competing in athletic events. The best of these athletes come together for the Paralympics, where athletes with physical disabilities such as blindness, amputations, and even cerebral palsy come forth to prove to the world that no injury or defect will slow them down.
Kurt Angle who won a gold medal in wrestling, with a broken freaking neck.
Franz Beckenbauer, German soccer legend, got tackled during the semi-final of the World Cup between Germany and Italy. The tackle was so brutal that it dislocated his arm. The Germans were out of substitutions at this point, and him walking off the pitch meant that his nation would play with one less player. Franz refused to be removed from the field of play, and instead had his injured arm strapped to his chest and continued playing. He did this for over an hour as the game went into extra-time. The Italians eventually won 4-3, but that doesn't change what Beckenbauer did. He sacrificed for his country and did something that most players today would not even consider.
American runner Manteo Mitchell's leg broke in the middle of his segment of the men's 4x100 relay heat. He still completed his segment.
The Sydney Swans in Australian Rules Football have become known for this trope over the decade to 2012. Ferocious defence, mental and physical toughness, and a much-discussed "Bloods culture" of simply never giving in has led them to win grand finals over much more talented teams, through sheer will and constant pressure.
Cyclist Tom Simpson. Last words reported to have been "Put me back on the bike," said while dying of heat exhaustion during a climb up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France.
French Savateur Gilles Le Duigou. In a match against a Japanese fighter, he had both his arms broken, but fought on, and ended up winning. Could someone please tell me why the French are known as Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys again?.
Terry Fox. His attempted cross-country run, despite being an amputee and suffering from cancer, inspired millions and raised millions for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Dr. Liviu Librescu of Virginia Tech, personally kept the door shut to prevent gunman Seung-Hui Cho from entering the classroom so his students could escape. It took five shots to take him down. Of course, the man was a Holocaust survivor.
This woman, who finally passed her driving exam... on her 950th attempt. To make matters worse, it was only the written portion of the test. She hadn't even gotten to the actual driving yet. One can only imagine what will happen when she gets behind the wheel.
At the very least she managed to make you think "when", not "if".
Max the Cat who wasn't going to let a little thing like a raging typhoon get him to use a litterbox.
In English, there is a saying "Do it or die trying". The Russian counterpart to that saying goes: "Die, but do it".
This was taken from the motto of the couriers service of the the Achaemenid Empire, which Western audiences might remember from their appearance in 300. They weren't like that.
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity was intended to last 90 martian days. It ended up lasting eight Earth years, and it's still ticking.
The team running the Japanese space probe Hayabusa had to contend with solar flares, control failures, a misfired lander, fuel leaks, communications blackouts, and engine failures. Thanks to their determination, Hayabusa returned its samples to the Australian outback after seven years of hard work. The results were so useful that the Japanese government greenlit a Hayabusa 2.