The 2013 New Zealander of the Year awards were announced last week, honouring just some of the many outstanding, everyday Kiwi folk, who make a difference to our lives and our country.

While it’s their Kiwi spirit, contribution to the wider community, and improving the quality of life for all New Zealanders that makes the winners stand out, there are recurring personality traits evident in all of the nominees. It is these traits that, for me, resonant in any context.

Whether tackling poverty, prejudice, arts, health, education, community, or another issue, it was the nominees’ determined resilience and mental toughness that brought results for those they sought to help. New Zealander of the Year winner, Dame Anne Salmond, was acknowledged for her commitment to Maori, Pacific and low income students, helping them to achieve their potential through education. Summing up her leadership and involvement in the wider community, Dame Salmond says it’s about “getting people around a big idea”.

It’s Dame Salmond’s “hold the faith that anything is possible” attitude that saw New Zealander of the Year finalist Swee Tan inspire teenager Hana Olds to write a book. If Persistence Were A Person honours Swee’s conviction to hold onto his dream, and to find a cure for cancer. Wanting to help, Hana’s book has sold 1500 copies and raised over $10,000 towards the cause.

Have belief in what you are doing, because it’s your persistence, innovation, and getting your hands dirty in a very practical way that makes the difference. For Swee Tan it’s finding a cure for cancer, for New Zealand Local Hero of the Year, Jim Morunga, it is using his personal experience to educate others in suicide prevention, and for Sam Judd Young New Zealander of the Year it’s inspiring New Zealanders to clean up our beaches. What is your persistent passion?

Sometimes it’s not something up front and centre, but a contribution behind the scenes. Whether it’s the work of a superhero organisation, or helping others to meet their resolutions – big or small, every bit counts towards the bigger picture.

I bet there are many good sorts amongst your midst. So thinking about the common traits of those recognised in the New Zealander of the Year Awards, is there someone in your organisation, or one you deal with, that deserves acknowledgment? When did you last say “well done” or “thank you”? Maybe now is a good time. Feel free to share these great people with the rest of us below.

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