The Secret Ingredient

Which personal attribute is most common in “success” stories, regardless of the environment or historical time period?

Determination, aka “grit”, stick-to-it-ness”, “tenacity”.

As we “lionize” the victor, and celebrate their accomplishments, we use phrases to describe this secret ingredient.

“She is a very determined person”

“He is relentless and never gives up”

“I wish I had the fortitude to stick with my goals like she did”

Naturally, we admire this quality, and seek to emulate it in our own lives.  However, a close look at this attribute will reveal that it is not simply “how a person is wired”, or a blessing received through God, lineage, or good luck.

There is a bit of a misunderstanding, because our admiration often suggests that a person either has “it”, or they don’t, and if you don’t…well, you just won’t.

Determination results from being engaged in the pursuit of a goal deemed so worthy by the individual, that they are willing to endure the hardship associated with the pursuit.

Think about these two examples of demonstrated “determination”:

Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before finally succeeding in his invention of the light bulb.  He would have failed 20,000 more times if necessary.

A Navy Seal endured tremendous physical, mental and emotional hardships throughout training before he pinned on the gold Trident.  He would have died rather than quit.

Any doubt that both Thomas Edison, or the Navy Seal, demonstrated extraordinary determination? Nope.

But ask yourself this simple question:

Would their determination be the same in any endeavor?

In other words, would Thomas Edison have the determination to make it through Navy Seal training?

And would the Navy Seal demonstrate extraordinary determination throughout 1,000+ failed lab experiments?

Probably not.

Mr. Edison and the Navy Seal are extraordinarily determined in their chosen pursuits, because they care more about achieving those goals than anything else, including their personal physical, emotional and mental health.

That is an critical distinction, because if we want to “stick-to-it”, no matter what “it” is, we first have to understand why that particular endeavor is meaningful to us.

If we can’t identify why, then we should probably find a new pursuit, because it is difficult to be determined about something that is not meaningful.

Anyone can develop “grit” in the right situation. It is not some magical quality of the gods, only available to the chosen ones.

You don’t even need the intellect of Edison, or the toughness of a Navy Seal.

You just need to ensure that you care (a lot) about the path you decide to follow.

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