10 Unbelievable Stories of Persistence

1Man Works 30 Years to Turn Sandbar into Lush Forest

Moli in his own forest

In 1979 when he was 16, Jadev Payang saw something on the banks of the river Brahmaputra that made him cry – thousands of snakes and reptiles dying on a barren sandbar, where they had washed up after a flood. Jadev, who goes by the nickname Molai, made it his mission to prevent other animals in the region from dying in the same manner, but the Indian government did not understand his vision and refused to help. Molai persisted alone for 30 years, planting trees and even importing ants, to create an ecosystem that would thrive on its own. In 2008, it was discovered by authorities who were chasing a herd of 115 elephants; they were surprised and impressed at what he accomplished. It is now named Molai forest and home to dozens of different species, including tigers, rhinoceros, deer, rabbits, and apes.

2Dr. Cracks Own Knuckle 36,500 Times

It was done in the name of science. Dr. Donald Unger was both the subject and control specimen for his paper entitled “Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?” To answer the question, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand twice a day every day... for 50 years! He began his search for an answer when told as a child it would indeed lead to arthritis as an adult.

Now, 36,500 cracks later, he has proven his mother-in-law and aunt wrong as both hands are arthritis-free. In 2009, he won the Ig Nobel prize, which honors unusual scientific experiments.

3Postman Builds Palace Over 33 Years Using Tiny Stones

Postman Ferdinand Cheval lived in France in the late 1800s. One day as he was walking, he stumbled on a stone and fell –  this caused him to remember a childhood dream where he built a castle. For the next 33 years, Cheval collected stones on his postal route and then assembled them into what he called Castle Ideal, which still stands today in a town called Hauterives. Cheval wished to be buried in the castle, but French law wouldn't allow it. Instead, he built his own mausoleum and died one year after it was completed.

4Man Makes Longest Gum Wrapper Chain

This is what $131,007 of gum looks like

Gary Duschl began his hobby on March 11, 1965, creating a gum wrapper chain from discarded Wrigley wrappers; gum wrapper chains were a fad in the USA at that time.

Basically, Gary never stopped. On March 11, 2014 he continued his reign as Guinness World Record holder with 78,550 feet containing 1,871,538 wrappers. Want to try to beat him? Gary made a video about how to start your own chain which you can watch below:

5Man Collects Belly Button Lint for 26 Years as a Scientist Studies His Own for 3

Anyone care for a taste?

In 1984 Australian Graham Barker was bored and picked at his belly button. He looked at the tiny amount of lint he gathered on his finger and wondered how much lint could one human produce? Cut to 26 years later, and Mr. Barker had collected 22.1 grams of the stuff, which he sold to a museum for an undisclosed sum.

Meanwhile, Austrian chemist Georg Steinhauser was also curious about his own fluff and what it is made of. He took 503 samples from his own belly over a period of 3 years and discovered it was comprised not only of fibers from clothing, but also dead skin, fat, sweat, and dust (duh and yuck!)

6Grandmother Passes Driver's License Test after 960 Attempts

Cha Sa-soon lived alone in the tiny mountain village of Sinchon in South Korea. She always wanted to learn to drive, but didn't begin the process of trying to get a license until she was in her 60s. Needless to say it was – literally – a difficult road. Grandma Sa-soon failed the written portion, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions 949 times; the concept of many of the questions were confusing to her, being an elderly woman living in a remote village. Finally, on the 950th attempt she got a passing grade of 60 and moved on to the actual driver's test which she only failed 4 times before getting passing marks.

By this time all of South Korea knew of her persistence and she became a national hero. She was even given a Kia Soul and appeared in their commercial.

7One Armed Woman, One Legged Man Practice Dance for One Year

Mai Li was studying to be a professional ballerina when tragedy struck – she lost her right arm in a car accident. For many years she was distraught, but in 2005 she met Zhai Xiaowei who as a child had lost his left leg to a tractor. Mai had a vision that the two should dance together, but Zhai was reluctant because he had never danced before. Mai convinced him to give it a try and the two practiced every day for a year from 8am to 11pm. Zhai dropped Mai over a thousand times.

They were the first handicapped couple to enter the CCTV (China TV) national dance competition and ended up winning a Silver medal with a 99.17 score, and the highest audience vote ever. You can watch their inspiring dance below.

8Deaf and Blind Helen Keller Learns to to Communicate, Goes to College

Helen Keller and her persistent teacher Anne Sullivan overcame incredible obstacles in the 49 years they worked together. Helen wasn't born deaf and blind, but came down with a mysterious illness when she was 18 months old in 1882. It left her without sight and sound at a crucial stage of development. After years of struggle, her parents were able to find Anne Sullivan, a recent graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind. By this time, Helen was extremely moody and difficult to reach. However, Anne steadfastly tried to teach Helen sign language by pressing the symbols into Helen's palm. In a famous “eureka” moment, Anne was finally able to make Helen connect the letters W-A-T-E-R being written in one palm, with the water from a pump being poured on the other. From there, Helen began a lifelong journey to interact with the world around her. For 25 years she worked to improve her speech so others could understand her. She graduated cum laude from Radcliff in 1904 at 24, and wrote her first book, The Story of My Life, with the help of Sullivan and Sullivan's future husband, John Macy.

9Woman Wears Corset Every Day for 4 Years

Sara Chrisman was always fascinated by the Victorian lifestyle. When her husband gave her a corset for her birthday, she was reluctant, but she tried it on. Immediately however, she enjoyed the feeling it gave her and decided to continue wearing it. For over 4 years she has worn one of 4 corsets she owns, even sleeping in them. During this time, her waist has shrunk from 32 inches to 22 inches. She hasn't lost any weight (she says she doesn't weigh herself) but feels fabulous overall.

Because of the myriad of questions she receives, Sara decided to write a book entitled “Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself.”

10Cat Steals 600 Items Over 3 Years

This is a different breed of persistence. This "cat burglar" named Dusty is famous around his neighborhood for going on nightly sojourns, but instead of feasting on mice or birds, he steals ordinary items from neighbors. These include underwear, bikini bottoms, and even shoes.

All told, they believe Dusty has stolen over 600 items, which the neighbors try to return to their rightful owners the next day. Still, they have piles of stolen stuff which hasn't been claimed, as you can see in the video below: