After church one Sunday a few years ago, I took my two favourite Aunties to lunch. On my way to drop them off after our meal, we got stuck in traffic near the Achimota golf course.
It was a scorching hot Sunday afternoon, our delicious dinner was threatening to put me to sleep, and the last place I wanted to be was in some slow-crawling queue, pressure-cooking in my own juices at 38 degrees Celsius, all the while, day-dreaming of a nice long siesta.
I decided to turn around and find another route, but being the sucker for democracy that I am, I asked my passengers for their opinions: stay the course and hope it starts moving, or turn around and figure out another way.
“Just give it a little more time, please. We might be moments away from the bottleneck, so just stay in line a little longer”, was the answer I got. So I did. And just as predicted, just over a minute later, the cars started moving again. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
I, of course, started thinking.
How many times in the past has my impatience caused me to turn too soon? How many times have I given up just before succeeding? How about you? How often have you stuck with a course of action, a project, a programme for ages without result, and abandoned it at the last minute because the payoff is taking too long?
There are examples of giants amongst us who became successful only because they stayed the course. Nelson Mandela was given several opportunities to renounce his political position, do a U-turn, and walk free from prison. But he had a dream that was too big to give up on.
So he stayed the course, and 27 years later, he walked out of prison and changed the world.
Who doesn’t know the story of Colonel Harland Sanders, who took his fried chicken recipe to 68 different restaurants before one of them agreed to use it?
If he had given up after the first restaurant rejected him, or after the second, or the tenth, or even after he was told “no” for the 67th time, KFC would not exist today.
There are many other examples I could cite of people who made it in life through sheer perseverance and stickwithability (who said it’s not a word? It is now…), but the example I want to give more than any other is yours. I want to be able to tell the world YOUR story. I want to talk about this moment on this day, when you read this message and decided never to give up.
Sometimes, all we can see are the obstacles before us – the excellent reasons to give up and go home. I could not see beyond the traffic, and so I just wanted to give up and turn around. But there is someone who sees the big picture.
He sits above all the traffic, all the obstacles, all the stress, all the people saying no to you, all the contracts you’re not winning, all the exams you’re not passing, all the visas you’re not getting, all the loans you’re being denied… He sees what you’re going through, and he knows where you are in the queue. The only thing you need to do is keep doing what you do, and let Him do the rest.
Nelson Mandela had no idea when his vision of meaningful freedom on his own terms would come, but he knew that if he gave up and turned around, then it never would. Colonel Sanders did not let the continuous “no”s get to him, because he knew for a fact that if he stopped knocking on restaurant doors if he didn’t keep going through all those “no”s, he would never find that one “yes” that he knew was out there waiting for him.
That’s faith. And it is all you need to keep going. Your breakthrough might be today. Or next week. Or next year. The only way to find out is to stick with it. You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. In the same way, you can’t achieve any goal unless you’re actively working toward it.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and in order to win it, must be in it.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!
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