Growing up I was always told that determination was the key to success. Anyone who remained optimistic and determined, regardless of the obstacles encountered, was sure to achieve the success that they desired. Despite understanding this concept, I took it with a grain of a salt — that is, until my trip to Kenya in the summer of 2004. In Kenya I came to truly believe that those who are determined will achieve any and all goals for which they strive.
My time in Kenya was spent installing water pipes in the Chuylu Hills so that a village could have access to fresh water without having to trek three hours; I also met schoolchildren and teachers in the dirt floor, unlighted schoolhouse and talked to community leaders and ordinary inhabitants of different villages. During those three weeks in Kenya I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to learn about an African culture and to meet many incredible people who had a tremendous impact in reshaping my view of life.
Among the many wonderful people I spoke with while in Kenya, there is one individual whom I will never forget: a young man named Gideon. Gideon is the reason that I became such a strong believer in determination being the key factor in an individual’s success.
Gideon was from a poor village whose families, at best, could only afford to send their eldest child to high school, and possibly college in Nairobi. Gideon was the youngest of his four siblings. However, unlike most other children in his village, Gideon refused to give up on his education. It was not completely impossible for him to go to school, but it was not an easy process. Gideon would have to study on his own and pass several high school equivalency and other qualifying tests in order to be admitted to the university in Nairobi on a state scholarship.
As we walked in the arid brush surrounding his village, Gideon and I discussed our plans for our personal futures. I found that although I had so many more opportunities and privileges in my life than Gideon did, he was the one who had more concrete plans and goals. He was acutely aware that what he was striving for would not simply come to him. He would have to work incredibly hard and not give up when faced with disappointment.
I believe that when faced with constant disappointment, people tend to lose sight of their goals. Success does not come easily to anyone. One must face a lot of frustration and setbacks before reaching ones goal. It is those that remain optimistic through all the distress that come out on top.
While Gideon expressed his understanding of his reality to me, I became increasingly inspired. I came to the realization that Gideon was someone who deserved the opportunities that I had and that he could never attain them unless he remained as steadfast in his determination as he was at that moment. Gideon was working to make his way to the university in Nairobi. But that was just a means to his ultimate goal. He planned to make it to a higher-level educational institution abroad and earn a PhD so that he could one day come back to Kenya and teach children how to read, write and speak in English.
Gideon’s story, for me, epitomizes the saying “determination is the key to success”. Success is not prejudice against race, gender, religion or the underprivileged. Success comes to those who deserve it, whether they are rich or poor and for this reason I believe that determination is the key to success.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.