“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity”.
– Amelia Earhart, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

This post recounts a real professional journey. Read at the risk of being encouraged, inspired or prodded into action.

Perseverance is an endangered attribute in today’s insatiable drive for instant gratification.

We want instant food, faster service, and overnight successes.

Technology has made many things effortless. Our gadgets thus boast of lightening-fast capacities; our smart devices help us manage the ‘stress’ of our lives; and social media crowns regular people as celebrities in the digital age.

In all this manic rush for speedier results, at often a pitiable fraction of the required effort, we relegate the admirable tenet of perseverance to the by-gone era of slow progress.

Nevertheless, perseverance is required for worthwhile feats. This is because not only is there justifiable satisfaction with achieving our goals by standing firm, but perseverance also does something powerful:

It builds character.

When considered alongside with passion, perseverance produces grit, and grit is a predictor of success.

This is what Angela Lee Duckworth discovered after conducting studies with students and professionals. Her enlightening TED talk below explains why we should develop grit in our academic and professional feats to succeed.

Now we know that we’d inevitably face challenges in our personal and professional lives. Setbacks, crises, and tragedies may suddenly strike. While it’s human to avoid unpleasant situations or to want to ‘fix’ problems as they occur, we should realise that sometimes, we’d be required to keep doing the right thing, over considerable time, to achieve lasting results.

In our careers, it can be frustrating when, in spite of our stellar  abilities, we don’t receive job offers, nor are we rewarded with appointments that are worthy of our talents and experiences.

So, how could we remain positive and keep persevering in our efforts?

Hopefully, my personal journey recounted below, will encourage people seeking opportunities to stay the course and not to give into disappointments.

What perseverance taught me about career advancement

Years ago, I resigned from a respectable position that allowed me to gain valuable international exposure and build my skills. I needed to grow my family and since I was young, I decided that a few years away from corporateville wouldn’t hurt my career.

What I couldn’t have predicted would be the economic downturn in the country, triggered by the 2007-2008 global financial crisis which originated in the United States. What eventually happened was that when I was prepared to re-enter the employment pool, it became impossible to get a job.

Since I had started to develop an interest in communications, I decided to start a blog to explore this newfound passion and proceeded to blog every month. Over the next few years, I blogged, applied for a few jobs, attended some interviews but received no offers.

Still, I continued to write, even when my articles recorded few views or when no one posted comments on my blog.
A few well-intentioned people advised me to get a job, any job, anywhere, to break the ‘jinx’ of being unemployed for a lengthy period. But I declined. I wanted a role related to communications and was prepared to wait for relevant vacancies.
In the meantime, given my desire to pursue a career in communications, I continued to research about the field. I spent a lot of time and effort in churning out high-quality blog posts.
Favourable feedback from my articles was rewarding and I recorded a few ‘wins’ that encouraged me to continue with my blogging journey. For example, my first article was published in print and online by a reputable business newspaper in Nigeria:

Property of the Rethinking Business Communications Blog
Then my article on President Obama’s first speech after the Boston bombings in 2012 was  ranked  the  first  on Google for a few weeks:
Property of the Rethinking Business Communications Blog
And a few years later, I landed my first consulting gig in Lagos.

I persevered and continued blogging on communications and management/workplace issues because I was interested in those themes.

Nevertheless, I was ‘unemployed’ for eight years in total and had blogged monthly for the last three of those years, before the ideal job opportunity presented itself. It was a communications role at a prestigious business school and was designed to directly improve the communication skills of participants in the different MBA programmes.

What happened after I applied for the role was unexpected.

In the first stage, I was advised to write a two-page document to specifically explain my proposed agenda for the role, as well as list my plans for coaching, evaluation and feedback.

Having written numerous blog articles, read ample materials over the years and delivered my first communications’ consulting gig a few weeks prior to the application, I produced a convincing document.

The next stage, the interview, was itself an experience. I was bothecstatic and terrified to have landed the opportunity to explain why I thought I was a perfect fit for the role.

I arrived at the expansive campus. With its carefully manicured lawns, superbly maintained facilities and professional staff, I immediately knew that the interview was going to be unlike anything I had experienced.

I was briskly ushered into a room with internet access and a projector, and given 30 minutes to whip up a PowerPoint presentation on any topic. I was informed that I would give a presentation to a panel.

Since I had no prior warning, I immediately panicked when I was left alone. However, I took some deep breaths and calmed down after a few minutes. That was when I remembered that I always had my flash drive in my bag…the USB on which I had saved—as had been my habit for the last three years—all the articles that I had ever written, including images that I had collected.

The relief I felt was akin to the clouds parting and me sighting a helicopter in the distance, which quickly approached the spot where I had been stranded on a deserted island.
It was exhilarating.

So I  ‘assembled’ the slides. Drawing upon everything I had learned up until that point, I used images and less text. I also ensured that the entire presentation was short; it did not exceed seven slides, including the notes and references (some of which were links to two of my blog articles), at the end. I was then able to rehearse for the last 10-15 minutes before making the presentation. I finished with an enjoyable Q&A session with my audience.

It became evident at the interview that my experience in blogging, my stint in consulting and my published article in print and online by a business daily, (all results from my blogging journey), were instrumental to my high scores. They also led to me being hired from the shortlist of seven (more experienced) professionals.

All that would have been impossible if I hadn’t persevered in blogging.

I’m convinced that divine providence was at work and that I was fortunate to have landed the job. However, I also believe that the reasons below helped my good fortune:

1) Strength of purpose

I persisted in reading content about communications. I knew I had no practical experience in the field. Given that such experience could only come from working in that segment, I read whatever materials I thought were relevant to the subject matter. The constant research gave me ideas and added depth to my articles. They also helped me develop a ‘voice’ online. In this digital age, having digital footprints in the topic was useful to perceptions of my relevance.

Self-education was also vital in sustaining my interest and in expanding my knowledge.

2) Mental toughness

Some sincere people in my circles whom I respected couldn’t understand why I was being ‘picky’ about the role I wanted to work in. They had valid points, such as why being away from corporateville for so long was detrimental to my chances of getting a job, and how it was advisable to get into any job first, and then network to search for something better.

I listened and even attended a few interviews for companies I didn’t like, (more for the interviewing experience than for the roles themselves), so when I was rejected, I was actually grateful.

I had to stay true to my convictions and even though I often felt defeated, I had faith that the ideal role would come. I was determined to be prepared when the opportunity arrived.

And I was.

Mental toughness is required for worthy causes and in our professional lives, we’d need a good dose of it to help us persevere. In the inspiring video below,  Navy Seal trainer, Admiral William H. McRaven, explains how we could change the world by persevering until the end in our efforts, and to even start with the mundane task of making our beds.

While we wouldn’t all desire to become Navy Seals, McRaven’s advice on persevering on the right path is universally relevant.


As professionals, perseverance is a quality that we should take seriously if we’re desirous of advancement.

Let’s develop grit and be clear about our professional aspirations.
Let’s identify the necessary paths that will lead us to success and work to achieve our goals.
As Amelia Earhart suggested, let’s make the toughest decision first, which is to act, then tenaciously prod on.
If we don’t do it for ourselves, who will?
And now, over to you:

Share your account of how you persevered in your career. What advice can you give to encourage others?

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N:B- First and fourth images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, at freedigitalphotos.net. Second image is courtesy of Yodiyim, at freedigitalphotos.net. Third image is courtesy of Master Isolated Images, at freedigitalphotos.net. Screenshots are provided by author.

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