Of resilience, grit, tenacity, and keeping eyes on the ball: Lessons from Afua Asantewaa Aduonum

Dr Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey believes the desire of Afua Asantewaa Aduonum to shatter a world record has imparted numerous lessons to us

Over the four days that she had girded her loins to conquer the record and set a new one, I would check to see if she was still on her amazing adventure by going straight to my Facebook feed every morning.

It was evident that I occasionally had some doubts about her ability to survive. Every time I watched her going strong, I was in complete astonishment. It was the tale of a lady who had her sights set on the prize and was unyielding, unfazed, and utterly confident that she could succeed.

She stoops to conquer

That is the story of Afua Asantewaa Aduonum, the woman who said she would conquer. Her story unfolding right in our eyes awed many. Seeing her story come to life before our very eyes astounded me, too. We all knew it would be an arduous task when she declared her goal to undertake the longest singing marathon, but witnessing her go through the process only has served to confirm that it was not only an arduous task but also one that was not intended for the weak of heart.

Given the certificate that was the prize, it might have felt like a pointless endeavour. A certificate is only paper to some people. Yes, a framed paper certificate will be worthless and meaningless in a world where we are accustomed to expecting concrete rewards for every effort we make. What should be done with a certificate that occasionally ends up in the hands of a Graphic and Times (roasted groundnuts and corn) seller?

The story conveyed to us during those four days highlighted how resilient people can be when they set their minds to anything. Afua is not superhuman; rather, she is a human being who gave it her all to accomplish a feat that very few people would ever consider doing. I was exhausted simply by looking at her, so can you imagine spending hours upon hours and days on end singing in that small “room” to be recognized for what, exactly, as a Guinness World Record for longest attempt at a singing marathon? Ha! This sure is not an attempt for those who cannot go a day without galivanting. And it is not for those, who we say, “love their skins”. Hehe.

However, Afua’s story of tenacity is also a multitude of tales. Yes, many. There are many tales of grit, perseverance, and resilience in our communities, but the difference is that Afua dared not sleep a wink. In contrast, individuals who bear these stories in our communities have the “luxury” of going to bed and waking up the next day feeling rejuvenated to face the challenges of the new day.

In Afua’s case, her little free time was spent on few critical stuff that would enable her to complete the challenge that she had set for herself. It was a little window of opportunity that those of us who were not in her shoes had in abundance. But despite all of the opportunities we have, we moan, lament, and give up on life. I’d venture to suggest that you don’t have the right to give up if you’re not Afua who has to sing for more than 105 hours straight to put something to her name. So, go forward! March on! Soldier on!

Needless to say, Afua endured a great deal over those many hours on end, but she sang despite her hurt, her pain, her hunger, her thirst, and her thoughts of giving up. How dare you give up when Afua didn’t? That’s it! No long talk.

 No shortcut to heaven

If there is another lesson Afua has taught us, it is the fact that there is no shortcut to success. The rules for winning the longest singing marathon are in black and white. Anyone wanting to conquer it must abide by them. Not complying with them means being disqualified, failing, or working in vain. One must sing for a specific number of hours, and take breaks for a specific number of minutes among others. Complying with the rules is the only way to break the world record and set a new one.

In the same vein, the only way to make it in life is by putting in what it takes to make it. The best in you can be realised by making a cocktail with learning, sacrifice, and hard work. We also often hear that success in life frequently involves a trifecta of tenacity, adaptability, and resilience. It’s also a blend of vision and action, where you go forward with unwavering effort and well-defined goals guiding your steps.

In the process, it also becomes crucial to accept failure as a learning opportunity rather than a barrier so that you can improve with every setback. That is why I put the learning of all forms in the cocktail. Strengthening layers can be achieved by fostering positive thinking, meaningful interactions, and an open mind. In the end, success in life is about creating a special path where achieving personal fulfillment is in line with making a positive impact on the world, as Afua has done with the many lessons we are drawing from her.

 Folks can talk

People tend to talk you out of or downplay whatever admirable you try. Along with encouragement and support, Afua also received criticism and derogatory remarks. I don’t have any proof, but it seemed to me that she didn’t even read, listen to or ask to be updated on any of the negative stuff that was being bandied around on social media in the course of pursuing her vision.

She refused to let anything divert her attention from the ball. She would have been greatly distracted if she had read all the unsavory remarks on social media.

The lesson here is, if you want to achieve something great, something worthwhile, something someone will be proud of don’t listen to the noise. Shut your ears to the naysayers and the slurs. Maintain your focus.

 Support or no support, we are winning

Some wondered why the support coming from our geographical cousins-cum-brothers and sisters was near nothing when we had thrown full support for them those times they were on their feet for hours seeking to break a record that was to earn them the longest cooking marathon attempt.

Sure, it’s okay to feel disappointed when you have expectations of someone but let me tell you that nobody owes you support in this world. So, it’s all well and good when you have support. It’s also cool when the support you expect from certain quarters evades you. Don’t sweat it. Just work it.

Support is great and might go a long way, but if it doesn’t come, will you give up? I dare say Afua would have persisted even if none of those numbers had shown up. Observe how delighted she was with the support she received, yet continued to mind her game when the numbers started rolling in. It indicates that while support and praise are beneficial, if caution is not exercised, it may become distracting. Therefore, Afua would make sure to swiftly get her bearings after exchanging pleasantries with important individuals who came by to avoid becoming sidetracked and ultimately going off course.

Keep your focus on the task at hand even when you support others and they abandon you at a critical moment. Avoid dwelling on grievances. As much as we all agree that one kind deed merits another, things don’t always work that way. Such is life. Many people may let you down, but even in those moments, be true to who you are. Be the typical hospitable and friendly Ghanaian. Don’t pay people back in their coin. We gain when we uplift one another. When they win, it is our win as well.


Is there something we can learn to create the Ghana we so much want to see? Could we all keep that goal in mind while we put our hands on the wheel? Could we all support the Ghanaian vision and strive to see it through to completion? Could we set aside our differences in politics and join the Ghana party to accomplish something that we can all be proud of? Could we, regardless of everything, use our heads, hearts, and hands to keep our country moving in the direction of prosperity? Let Afua be a shining example for all.

The desire of Afua Asantewaa Aduonum to shatter a world record has imparted numerous lessons to us. These are only a handful but for now, keep your head up! xxx

By Dr Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey

The author

Theodora is a senior lecturer at the Department of Media, Language and Communication, Durban University of Science and Technology and a research associate at Rhodes University, South Africa.


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