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What I’d really like to know is when it became impossible to argue a point or disagree with an opinion without being, well, disagreeable

I have a very wise uncle. He is highly accomplished in his field of medicine, plays the organ superbly and is a gifted poet to boot. But these are not the reasons why I refer to him thus.

Whenever I have achieved something significant, he is always among the first to send his best wishes and to offer his congratulations. But at the end of his beautifully worded appreciation of my efforts, he always adds the words: ‘Press on.’

When you are flush from the giddy heights of achievement, being told to keep going and do more can have a somewhat sobering effect. Haven’t I already gone above and beyond the call of duty and shouldn’t that be enough, you might ask? Isn’t all my labour and sacrifice sufficient unto the day?

But my uncle’s calm exhortation to keep going is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received – even if it doesn’t always feel like it at the time. For while we should always enjoy our achievements, it’s equally important to see every success as a building block giving us the skills and experience to be more and to do more.

Grit and Grind

My uncle’s advice appreciates the fact it takes grit and grind to get where you want to go. ‘Press on.’ recognises what you have achieved took effort; you had to press your shoulder to the wheel to start up and push your project forward to completion.

However, it also acknowledges that having done so much, why stop now? Tempting though it might be to rest on the mountain top of effort and to take a long – very long – and satisfying breath, ‘Press on’ is a gentle reminder you are still sitting on a ledge and the real mountain top is far above. Closer than it was before, to be sure; but still a way to go. However, the words add with encouragement, you have what it takes to get there, so keep going.

The genius of this advice is it doesn’t apply only to positive situations. It’s also a recognition that not everything works out as we would hope. When this happens, ‘Press on’ points out that achieving something is still possible. If you carry on. You may have to make greater efforts or even take a step back to reassess your challenge. You may wish to invite other insights and opinions, but it most certainly does not mean it is the end.

“If you think you deserve some time to pat yourself on the back and delay climbing that next hill, I’ve got two words for you.”

The Quality of Resilience

How many times are we told by leadership gurus about the importance of resilience - the ineffable quality which allows us to rise up from disaster, bloody but unbowed? That certain something some people display when, rather than letting failure overcome them and undermine their resolve, they find a way to come back stronger than ever? Because although adversity and stress hits all of us, it is in how we respond that we show who we really are.

In the words of Dr Wayne Dyer: "Circumstances do not make a man; they reveal him."

With all the strengths and frailties the human condition bestows, there will be times in your life when you will hit the buffers on your journey; times you will feel you have lost not only your sense of direction, but also your sense of purpose.You will wonder what you are doing and why you continue to do it. You will feel there is no possible end in sight to your confusion and no adequate response to your dilemma.

What ‘Press on.’ says to me is when those times come – and they will, no matter who you are – don’t despair. Stay the course. Trust that you can, and will, find a way if you just keep going. Seek advice, change perspective, take a walk…do whatever you need to do; just don’t give up.

Future Perfect

We are fast approaching the end of another year and I’m sure, like me, you are thinking back over the past months and wondering where the time went. What happened to those glorious plans and shiny new objectives we set ourselves in January with such hope and determination?

Well, the bad news is it’s getting closer and closer to the end of the period you gave yourself to make those things happen and, whether you like it or not, time will not slow down to give you a chance to catch up.

The good news is you get to make the rules for your life so, guess what? If what you intended to happen didn’t quite work out, you have the chance to start over again when January rolls around. If those plans and objectives are still what you want and need, then stop beating yourself up, get back on track and make them happen.

If, on the other hand, you achieved everything you set out to do, then congratulations! You have earned the right to take a bow and to pat yourself very heartily on the back.

But, whichever one of these scenarios proves to be the case for you on December 31 st , let’s just say I’ve got two words for you.

That’s right: Press on…


Author of the novels ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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