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Perseverance: The Great Equalizer

In doing my research for this blog post on perseverance, I came across the following statement. It sums up everything I wanted to say, so if you’re busy, you’re getting the tl;dr version right… about…


“Perseverance -- sometimes called "grit" -- is the great leveler.” [1]

When nothing else is balanced, the ability to push on becomes the great equalizer. There will always those with more access, more time, more money, more resources. Access, time, money and resources aren't necessarily what you need to compete; you need perseverance.

Artwork by Fred Charles

Writer and psychologist Angela Duckworth says it a little differently. She says that perseverance is part of the grit equation, where grit equals passion plus perseverance. Grit is the secret sauce for significant achievement.

However you slice it, there’s one way that perseverance undeniably relates to creativity: it's absolutely necessary to move an idea from your brain’s nebula to actual fruition.

We’re in a Sysiphus-sized battle against things that want to steal our perseverance from us: the internet; social media; same-day delivery; anything that can micro-dose dopamine and make us feel that less is more and less is good. Perseverance requires the exact opposite: it requires the time, the effort and the hard work, done the good ol’ fashioned Steven Pressfield way (butt in chair, fighting the Resistance). Like the boulder up the mountain theory, it requires sticking with the same giant goal for a prolonged period of time. Pebbles will pass you by; don't let them become giant distractors.

“We… know that persistence and tenacity are essential elements that distinguish highly creative people from someone with just another good idea.” - Leslie Owen Wilson

Improving perseverance can be done in four ways [2]:

  1. Interest

  2. Practice

  3. Purpose

  4. Hope

First, interest implies that we follow our passions and go after the very thing that drives us forward. Second, when we practice what we love, the ability to continually move forward becomes easier and easier. Practice allows us to identify areas for improvement and stretch ourselves to push beyond our reach. It used to take us days to write these blog posts; 150+ posts later, and they don’t always need days. We write because we love it; we practice to improve, and challenge ourselves to grow.

Third, purpose ties directly into interest. When we have or allow ourselves a sense of purpose, of serving a greater creative good, we’re more likely to persevere. Purpose can be a key factor in the internal motor that drives us forward. Finally, hope tells us that our efforts matter. If we believe this, then we have a purpose in moving forward; in persevering.

These four points all originate from Duckworth's book, Grit. I find this to be similar in concept to Pressfield. Both, in their own ways, talk about deliberate practice, and just doing the work. Ultimately, those who persevere, those who toil in grit, are more likely to experience flow state as well.

"Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another." - Samuel Thomas Davies

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Dec 02, 2021

I have a small, rather informal, rule about my writing and about why I continue to write so much, despite dealing with a rather nasty mental health problem. That rule is quite simple: I write first for myself, second for my friends, third for the whole of literature, and fourth for commercial sale.

One may argue that these four "reasons" are these four tenets of perseverance you have described: Writing for myself: this generates the "interest." One can never get bored with the stuff I write, the stuff I like to write about: the floating cities on Venus, the references to media (Joe Rogan cameo, Valley of the Dolls references, a disturbing Birth of a Nation parody used as a propaganda…

Dec 08, 2021
Replying to

Ace, I absolutely love this outlook, and I think many will find that it resonates! Thanks so much for sharing!

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