Passion and Perseverance

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Lynda Vu
  • 42nd Medical Operations Squadron commander
Successful leaders exhibit many different characteristics and qualities. I want to share some thoughts on two important characteristics that have great impact on a person's life: passion and perseverance.

Passion. It is an integral part of leadership. Passion defines the type of leader you are and those things in life on which you effortlessly spend your energy. Passion is what drives you and makes you tick. It determines how you tackle tough challenges in life. Webster's dictionary defines it as "intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction." Passion has incited some people throughout history to achieve extraordinary feats, and others to amass an empire.

Perseverance. It is required to win the race of life. Perseverance is what defines your character and determines how you live. Perseverance is what empowers you to mold your future. It takes you through those tough circumstances and obstacles in life. Webster's dictionary states that perseverance is "persistence in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition or discouragement." Perseverance turns peoples' failure and suffering into character and hope.

Passion and perseverance are not mutually exclusive. They are characteristics of great men and women who have influenced world history, entire nations and individuals. Thomas Edison, for example, is one of the most prolific inventors in history and held more than 1,000 patents (including the incandescent lightbulb, phonograph and motion picture camera). He changed the world because of his passion for inventions. Each new invention required patience and perseverance through countless failures to generate one success.

Marie Curie was a Polish/French physicist who isolated radioactive isotopes and determined that they could be used to treat cancer. Even when her husband was ready to give up due to persistent failures, she pressed on to obtain a breakthrough that has changed the history of the medical treatment for cancer. The Wright brothers' passion to build a flight-sustainable aircraft altered the course of history leading to the redefinition of commercial transportation and warfighting capabilities.
I am sure that these men and women did not realize how their perseverance would affect the future of mankind in the midst of pursuing their passions. It is in the unfolding of history that we can see their total impact.

I want to share a modern day example of passion and perseverance that has truly inspired me - it is the story of one of my officers. She personally knew the meaning of suffering and tragedy. She felt the sting of rejection time after time, not being selected for promotion despite giving her all. But even though she was prepared for mandatory retirement this year, she continued to give more than 100 percent of herself to the service of her country with faithfulness and excellence; this was evidenced by her selection as AETC's 2009 Ambulatory Nurse of the Year. More than once she expressed to me how passionate she was about being an Air Force officer. This year, her perseverance resulted in success - against all AF statistical odds, she was selected for promotion four years above the promotion zone. What people said would never happen, did happen. And now, an entirely new sphere of influence has been opened up to her. I believe that this promotion has positioned her to make significant contributions not only to the future direction of the Air Force Medical Service but also to the civilian healthcare community.

These examples of men and women who took their passions and persevered through failure and rejection are a great example to all of us. They fulfilled their God-given purpose in life. They were likely joy-filled people, pursuing what they loved. Great leaders who understand and live out their passions and purpose have a unique ability to influence others by persevering through their mistakes, failures and obstacles to ultimate success.

If you feel no joy in your current circumstances, finding and pursuing your lost passions might return some hope and vitality to your soul. If this is you, I encourage you to talk to someone - a wingman, chaplain or mental health personnel. Living with true passion is just the beginning of a life of purpose and perseverance and will tremendously impact the people around you.