Monday 23 September 2019

Gina London: 'The importance of being persistent and persevering'

The communicator: Gina London
The communicator: Gina London

Gina London

I've written to you before about perseverance. Or persistence. I can't find much difference between the two words. If you do, please let me know.

Which ever word you prefer, I am going to write about it again as I have just experienced a wonderfully inspiring example of why it continues to be such an important trait.

First, a word about the recent US midterms. Most of you faithful readers out there already know I'm an American citizen who is thrilled to be living here in Ireland but remains riveted by current events in my home country.

The most current topic for the moment is, of course, this past week's elections.

The focus will next be upon 2020: who needs to persevere to retain position and who needs to persevere to regain it.

Therefore, I'm doubly committed to paraphrase my literary hero Oscar Wilde and talk to you today about the 'importance of being persistent'.

My inspiration for this week comes from Reggie Selma. "Him again?! We just read about him last week." That's right.

He's that retired CNN photojournalist who is recasting himself as a speaker. I wrote about him last week because I was touched by his positive approach to adapting to change and reinvention.

But what I didn't tell you last week is worth sharing now.

1 ACtively demonstrate enthusiasm

The reason he came to my attention is that he wrote to me on LinkedIn. Despite both of us working at CNN's Washington bureau, I'd never met him until he wrote to me. And when he wrote, telling me he and his wife were going to be travelling to Dublin for a week and could I please connect him with anyone for a speaking opportunity, I was compelled to respond.

Why? Because his email overflowed with enthusiasm and energy. "Oh, but that's so fake and trite and are you kidding me?"

No, I'm not. I am unapologetic about the power of a positive attitude. I'm not saying it's easy or it's every second of every day, but with commitment and consistency it can make a difference.

For instance, years ago, I landed in Bucharest, Romania as a 'television news consultant' for one of the largest independent news outlets in the country.

The general manager approved my visit, but had apparently forgotten to tell any of the actual working journalists.

Without buy-in, I was in limbo. I sat at the assignment desk in the newsroom for three full days, trying to smile and catch the attention of the news director or an assignment manager or anyone with enough clout to build rapport and influence with to move things forward.

On that third day, the number one presenter for the organisation, who also happened to be the first female presenter in the country and was known throughout the land, walked by where I was sitting and smiling.

She peered down at me and observed: "You know, you Americans. You smile so much, I think you all must have gas."

Startled, (I think you would have been too, right?) I looked up at her. "I hear you," I said, "but I promise I'm sincere. And if you let me, I'll show you there's substance behind the smile."

From that moment, I was able to gather a group for a small workshop, and then a bigger workshop.

Then, over the course of three months, the entire newsroom turned out and we developed news-gathering and writing procedures and presenting and reporting techniques in a way that I would never have been able to achieve - without her help.

To this day, she remains one of my dearest friends and has even become the godmother to my daughter Lulu.

Positive perseverance is not an anathema, folks, it's something to you can achieve and demonstrate over time.

2 Be consistent and persevere

Which brings me back to Reggie. So, he reached out to me in an enthusiastic way, yes. But it's his positive persistence - and success that came from it - that prompted me to write again.

I wish I could say that the person I connected him to directly resulted in a speaking engagement for him, but it didn't.

While Reggie kept updating me and politely asking me if there was anything else I could do, he also was going back to LinkedIn on his own and doing additional research.

Writing to more people with, I'll imagine, that same brand of consistent enthusiasm and energy.

I remember way back in the day when I was first trying to reach CNN to try and schedule a time to come in and take their test to become a freelance writer.

I made a daily call and left an upbeat message to their freelance coordinator... for 40 days in a row.

On the 41st day, she finally called me back and her first words to me were: "Man, you are persistent."

Same with Reggie. He didn't give up and he didn't let frustration show. And guess what? He's landed a private speaking gig.

So, when you make that next call or send that next email, smile. You can do it too.

  • Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of

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