blog! and also as a reminder for myself! =)
A Very interesting article about the anatomy of Determination. And its relationship with Ambition,
Willpower, Talent to succeed.
A fun quote:
"One reason the young sometimes succeed where the old fail is that they don't realize how
incompetent they are. This lets them do a kind of deficit spending. When they first start working
on something, they overrate their achievements. But that gives them confidence to keep working,
and their performance improves. Whereas someone clearer-eyed would see their initial
incompetence for what it was, and perhaps be discouraged from continuing."
"Like all investors, we spend a lot of time trying to learn how to predict which startups will succeed.
We probably spend more time thinking about it than most, because we invest the earliest.
Prediction is usually all we have to rely on."
"We learned quickly that the most of success is determination. At first we thought it might be intelligence. Everyone likes to believe that's what makes startups succeed. It makes a better story that a company won because its founders were so smart. The PR people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe them themselves. But while it certainly helps to be smart, it's not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing."
"I can't think of any field in which determination is overrated, but the relative importance of
determination and talent probably do vary somewhat. Talent probably matters more in types of
work that are purer, in the sense that one is solving mostly a single type of problem instead of
many different types. I suspect determination would not take you as far in math as it would in,
say, organized crime."
"The simplest form of determination is sheer willfulness. When you want something, you must
have it, no matter what."
"Being strong-willed is not enough, however. You also have to be hard on yourself. Someone who
was strong-willed but self-indulgent would not be called determined. Determination implies your
willfulness is balanced by discipline."
"That word balance is a significant one. The more willful you are, the more disciplined you have
to be. The stronger your will, the less anyone will be able to argue with you except yourself. And
someone has to argue with you, because everyone has base impulses, and if you have more will
than discipline you'll just give into them and end up on a local maximum like drug addiction."
"If this is true it has interesting implications, because discipline can be cultivated, and in fact does
tend to vary quite a lot in the course of an individual's life. If determination is effectively the
product of will and discipline, then you can become more determined by being more disciplined."
"In fact the dangers of indiscipline increase with temptation. Which means, interestingly, that
determination tends to erode itself. If you're sufficiently determined to achieve great things, this
will probably increase the number of temptations around you. Unless you become proportionally
more disciplined, willfulness will then get the upper hand, and your achievement will revert to the
"I think there probably are people whose willfulness is crushed down by excessive discipline, and
who would achieve more if they weren't so hard on themselves. One reason the young sometimes
succeed where the old fail is that they don't realize how incompetent they are. This lets them do
a kind of deficit spending. When they first start working on something, they overrate their
achievements. But that gives them confidence to keep working, and their performance improves.
Whereas someone clearer-eyed would see their initial incompetence for what it was, and perhaps
be discouraged from continuing." I think you definitely need a certain amount of hard headedness
and warped sense of reality to succeed.
"There's one other major component of determination: ambition. If willfulness and discipline are
what get you to your destination, ambition is how you choose it."
"Ambitious people are rare, so if everyone is mixed together randomly, as they tend to be early in
people's lives, then the ambitious ones won't have many ambitious peers. When you take people
like this and put them together with other ambitious people, they bloom like dying plants given
water. Probably most ambitious people are starved for the sort of encouragement they'd get from
ambitious peers, whatever their age."
"Achievements also tend to increase your ambition. With each step you gain confidence to stretch
further next time."
"So here in sum is how determination seems to work: it consists of willfulness balanced with
discipline, aimed by ambition. And fortunately at least two of these three qualities can be cultivated.
You may be able to increase your strength of will somewhat; you can definitely learn self-discipline;
and almost everyone is practically malnourished when it comes to ambition."
"Note too that determination and talent are not the whole story. There's a third factor in
achievement: how much you like the work. If you really love working on something, you don't
need determination to drive you; it's what you'd do anyway. But most types of work have aspects
one doesn't like, because most types of work consist of doing things for other people, and it's very
unlikely that the tasks imposed by their needs will happen to align exactly with what you want to
Indeed, if you want to create the most wealth, the way to do it is to focus more on their needs
than your interests, and make up the difference with determination."
"For example, willfulness clearly has two subcomponents, stubbornness and energy. The first alone
yields someone who's stubbornly inert. The second alone yields someone flighty. As willful people
get older or otherwise lose their energy, they tend to become merely stubborn."