A little while ago I attended a women’s conference at my church and one of the speakers talked about leading while bleeding.  The title of her talk really resonated with me even though the imagery is rather unfortunate given the brutal scenes from the #feesmustfall protests.

To my mind ‘leading while bleeding’ speaks to having the ability to meet your objectives even when the situation is far from ideal. For instance, there is a young man in our department who shows an incredible amount of grit. He comes from a very difficult background and has managed to get himself through university, with the help of bursaries, till masters’ level; the highest education level in his family is grade 10. Moreover, he does not have access to the basic amenities that many of us take for granted and often has to do without food but the hunger to change his family circumstances drives him to succeed. The best way to describe him is someone who has mastered self-leadership; this trait is important if you ever have the hope of successfully leading other people.

Self-leadership is one of the key components of not only getting through your academic journey but also getting through life. Andrew Bryant and Ana Kazan describe self-leadership as “…the practice of intentionally influencing our thinking, feeling, and behaviors to achieve our objectives” (Bryant & Kazan, 2012: 13). Your situation may not be a dire as the young man that I depicted but we all have challenges that we have to overcome in order to be successful. I believe that the choice to be intentional and fully conscious of your purpose is the one thing that would keep you rooted when life’s journey gets too difficult.

A few more lessons that I have learned from other people and reflecting on my circumstances:

  1. If life hits you with a bazooka, keep moving even if all you are doing is belly crawling.
  2. Do a little bit everyday towards your goals even if its only 10 minutes
  3. There is always somebody who is smarter, better organised and wealthier than you and that is OK. Your job is to figure out your life’s purpose and achieve it. What other people have is not your business.
  4. You can lead while you bleed but know when you need to stop, get help and continue when things are better.

Pursuing a post-graduate degree, especially a PhD, is difficult. The difficulty is not necessarily the degree but the fact that life does not come to a halt. I end off with this: “[s]uccess often comes, not through skill or ambition or even ingenuity, but through simple, old-fashioned guts” (Martin 2011).

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