The symbol for perseverance: What you must learn from John S. Akwari

symbol for perseverance

Successful people, in most cases, are absolute symbols for perseverance. Because, in truth, there’s hardly a major achievement in history that didn’t come with an obstacle. Oftentimes, the bigger the achievement, the bigger the obstacle that had to be surmounted.

The pursuit toward our goal oftentimes represent a marathon, not a sprint. And in a marathon, a lot can go wrong. How we respond in the event of something going amiss determines to a large extent whether or not we will succeed.


John Akhwari, the perfect symbol for perseverance?

I find John Stephen Akhwari a noteworthy symbol for perseverance. Akhwari was an athlete who represented Tanzania at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Almost halfway through the marathon, Akhwari’s muscles cramped up causing him to fall badly- wounding his knee and dislocating the joint.

However, he continued running, finishing the race at sunset, over an hour after the winner.

I narrated this story because there’s something we can all learn from Akhwari’s attitude: a doggedness, endurance and perseverance toward our goals- a resolve to finish the race regardless of the challenge.

There was no medal to be won, no award to be given; in fact, when Akhwari finished the race, only a few thousand spectators were left in the stadium. But, he ran nonetheless.

Fortunately, a stumble in life is not as unforgiving as a stumble in an Olympic race. In fact, our missteps make us better, our mistakes make us stronger and the challenge only serves to build us up and make us better.

One thing is certain, life is bound to present obstacles as we move forward toward our goals and objectives.

We can do one of two things; give up in face of the challenge, or, steadily maintain our course of action and purpose regardless of the difficulties and obstacles. This though, is easier said than done.


We must train our minds to perceive challenges and obstacles differently; observing them through another lens. The following stand true for challenges:


  • They are meant to make you stronger

Yes, they will make you stronger. In the midst of the challenge, the world may seem as though it’s against you. It may seem as though nature has resolved to make your efforts futile.

On the contrary though, every hindrance, every snag, every difficulty only serves to make you stronger. They are not to break you, but to build you, and make you better than you were before.

You need to recognise this and allow it to be indoctrinated into your mind; and view challenges for what they are a blessing.


  • They are absolutely necessary and without them, greatness cannot truly be achieved

It is absolutely important that you go through challenges and obstacles in life. Challenges are life’s examination. Just as you cannot move to the next level in class without an examination, you cannot move to that next level in life without a challenge. It’s something you must conquer. There’s no other way.

The sooner you show perseverance, and overcome, the sooner you will move to that next level and the sooner you will achieve greatness.


If they did, so can you!

The best amongst us have all overcame challenges in one way or another. You must have read somewhere how Bill Gates first business failed spectacularly.

Bill and his partner, Paul Allen created a device, Traf-O-Data, that could read and process traffic data, but, the device wasn’t exactly a hit (that’s euphemism for it wouldn’t even work!). But, they weren’t deterred. They continued in perseverance, created Microsoft and the rest as they say, is history.

If Bill and Paul had lost faith in their creative ability; would there have been a Microsoft today?

Yet another symbol for perseverance is Sir Richard Branson? The global renowned businessman was diagnosed at an early age with dyslexia, but, did he allow the difficulty in understanding written language limit him? No! And then there’s Opera Winfrey- the very Opera.

She overcame a troubled childhood and has since gone on to establish a business empire and is a pillar of inspiration to millions around the globe. Would Opera had achieved all this if she gave up and surrendered amidst the challenges of life? Again, no!


Final thoughts

Inside you lies the ability to be successful and to enact positive changes in your immediate sphere and the world at large. Whatever happens, you must never lose sight of that. 

You may fall, and you may stumble; but each time, you must show yourself strong, rise again and continuing indefatigably toward your goal. As Winston Churchill aptly surmises, ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts’. Will you continue? Will you be a symbol for perseverance in your world?


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5 thoughts on “The symbol for perseverance: What you must learn from John S. Akwari”

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