Determination and heroism


By Patrick Achitabwino:

It was the year 1960 and the biggest sporting event, the Olympics, was taking place in Rome, Italy. It was at this occasion that 28 year-old Abebe Bikila amazed the world when, unknown and unheralded, he won the Olympic marathon. He attracted the world’s attention not only by being the first East African to win a medal, but also because he ran the event barefoot. A stadium in Addis Ababa is named in his honour.

In life you need to seize any moment. Abebe Bikila was far from winning let alone participating at the event. He was included in the Ethiopian Olympic team only at the last moment, as the plane to Rome was about to leave, as a replacement for Wami Biratu, who was seriously ill.


This is a wonderful lesson that once in a lifetime, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality: if not, one has not lived. Heroism would not come on a silver platter. Heroism is a result of sweat, pain, tears, falling, rising and moving on regardless of circumstances.

Abebe Bikila gives one crucial lesson. After the race, when he was asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”

In life we chase many dreams and we get frustrated that we achieve so little. The reason is just so simple, what we put in in terms of effort is far too below what we anticipate to reap in the end. We lack the determination to soldier on despite any challenges we encounter along the way. We give up many times and restart again as we always seek the easiest route to success. The bitter pill to swallow with life is that success and realisation of dreams only come through passing through deserts of failure, thorny paths of disappointment, and rowing over the seas of shame. It is only determination that makes heroes to be what they are.


It was a shameful thing for Abebe Bikila to run barefoot at such an international stage. He shut his mind off shame and was determined to prove a point. He never minded the opinion of others that he was little known and was only a mere replacement of an ill athlete. He was there to seize the moment.

One fact however is that when we achieve all the pains encountered are forgotten and heroism songs become the new order. When Abebe Bikila won he was recognised and had a stadium named after him. He put his name in the history books and he became an inspirational figure.

The simple thing with life is that if you think you can, you can. And if you think you also can’t you are equally right. Those that believe that they can have the determination and will to move forward. Those that believe that they can’t all they do is to accept fate. They are not the igniters of change as they let change happen to them.

There is something unique among creative personalities, leaders and innovators. They believe in themselves, in their own decisions and leave aside those who don’t share their point of view. They demonstrate such confidence in their ideas, such that fear of failure, which follows the others, retreats. They refuse to stay in one line with mediocrity. They refuse to act according to the book. They write their own ‘book’ of life and create by denying traditions. They can survive failure after failure but not change their belief in their own self. They move forward, push to the edge, and live their dreams.

In a motivational video entitled ‘the life of my dreams’, it is said that these people have such self-confidence, that others start to think that they know where the levers of the world are and how to operate them.

We fail more because we lack determination and because we lack determination then we aim too low. It is time that we challenge the impossible, that we create keys to unlocking a new future never before anticipated. It is time that we work twice as much as we do and that we never give up. Les Brown was right, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

What are you waiting for; pursue your dream with determination. Be obsessed with your dream such that all other things are seen to mean nothing. Chinese great Confucius well says: ‘identify what’s important to you, eliminate everything else and finally automate, delegate, get help.’ To achieve you have to be crazy.

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