“I was shaken, I got hurt, wounded and I was offended, threatened…yet, here I am, still, the most beautiful, the strongest, the most magnificent. The ones who shook me, the ones who offended me, the ones who scarred me, they all are long gone. The kids who played games around me, the ones who fought for me, the ones who worshipped inside me are long gone, but here I am, the most beautiful, the strongest, the most magnificent, standing upright, rising into the sky. I haven’t shattered to the ground and I will still be here when you all will have been long gone” says Hagia Sophia.
The city I was born and raised in, modern day Istanbul, is privileged to have been the birthplace, and the hometown of this marvelous wonder, Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia.Hagia Sophia was built by the order of Byzantium Emperor Justinian I, in the 6th century, as Eastern Orthodox Cathedral. Then it was a Roman Catholic Church for a while, and then Orthodox Cathedral again, then a Mosque and a Museum today. These are the titles we gave her, I wonder what she would call herself.
Every time I walk inside this marvelous beauty with a magnificent dome, stretching over a 100-foot-diameter, supported by four pendentives to rise 180 feet from its pavement, the thing always strikes me most is what I see in the apse (a large semicircular space in a church, with a domed roof). There, Virgin Mary, holding Jesus, right between the medallions featuring the names of Allah (God) and Mohammed are all in the same frame. I have not seen something similar anywhere else in the world yet, which speaks to Hagia Sophia’s unparalleled level of diversity.
However, Hagia Sophia means something more and stands for something else for me. It is perseverance. Despite all the earthquakes, power struggles, conquests, cold, heat, storms, thunder bolts, you name it, she survived to the day. With all my respect to her architectural builders, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles and each and every person who put a brick during construction, then everyone who helped with restoration, she has been perseverant herself for some fifteen centuries, and is still the most beautiful, the strongest and the most magnificent, despite everything she has been through.
The Dictionary defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties.” We also hear the word perseverance a lot in our lives, especially in business, in the context of staying locked in to our goals and achieving them despite the challenges and the constraints we face along the way.
“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs” – Victor Hugo
What does it take to be perseverant?
In order to be perseverant, they say; keep working, have a strong and growth mindset, discipline, can-do attitude, willpower…list goes on. We are human beings, we are fragile, we are vulnerable. When we face challenges or feel attacked emotionally, or rejected, we might feel low, we might want to give up, we have all been there.
To be perseverant in those tough situations, one thing surely helps, believing in the vision we set for our lives or for our work, believing in ourselves, and our potential to achieve that vision.
That’s what helped the elite athletes, the most notable figures in history and even the mythical characters. They set a vision for themselves and they pursued that vision no matter what. The journey to that vision is not straightforward, the plan never works exactly as we think it would. There will be obstacles, limitations, emotionally down times. There will be naysayers, there will be retreats and lost battles. Believing in our vision and ourselves give us the strength to comeback with perseverance and win the war despite some lost battles.
You heard you cannot solve that problem, you heard you cannot pass that exam. You heard you cannot get that job, you were declined to get that promotion. You heard you will not win that game, you were told you cannot break that record. What helped you prove those naysayers wrong was your belief in achieving that vision and your belief in yourself. That tortoise’s perseverance and belief enabled getting to the finish line before the hare.
Be an Achiever, not just a dreamer
Set a vision for yourself, it could be for your life or for your work or simply about where you want to be in three years from now. Make a stretch one, and then build a plan to get there. What are the key milestones? What are the skills you will need? What qualifications will be critical to get there? The plan will have to be adjusted due to the changes you cannot control. There will be zigzags and setbacks, but your vision will help you course correct and put you back on the right path. Being perseverant to achieve your vision will prevent you from sailing wherever the wind takes you, because you will adjust your sails.
Achilles wanted to have his name known for centuries. Alexander the Great’s vision was to reach the ends of the world. Marcus Aurelius had a shared vision with Plato, being a philosopher king. Genghis Khan aspired to consolidate all nomadic tribes under his rule. Marie Curie never lost her determination to excel in her scientific career in a male-dominated field. Nicholas Tesla dreamed of wireless electricity. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream.
Not all dreamers are achievers; however, all achievers are dreamers. What made them achievers, not only dreamers, was their perseverance. Whenever I need aspiration, Hagia Sophia will be right there for me, with her beauty, strength and wisdom.
What is your dream and are you perseverant to make that dream come true?