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On the importance of determination

I am increasingly convinced that the difference between effective and ineffective people is their level of determination. It’s an underappreciated fact that determination is a relational property. It is your willingness to make sacrifices in service of some specific goal. You cannot simply be determined. Determination always flows from a purpose, from having something to protect.

Some people naturally strive for achievements and have high self-discipline. That might make some difference, but determination is not the same as achievement-striving. The latter is unfocused. It’s being ambitious without having an ambition. Such people might still get far in life by commonly held standards, but they do not bend the world to their will.

In my experience, there are very few people who have such determination. If you have it, you are at an incredible advantage. You will always and reliably do what needs to be done. You will play to win

Talent, intelligence, and luck will still make a difference. Determination is not enough, but it is perhaps the one thing under your control. Nobody — not even you yourself — can blame you for not doing more than is in your powers.

To be clear: determination will be painful. Overcoming obstacles is hard. Growing to meet these challenges will hurt.

Determination comes at another price. Knowing what you really want will make failure salient. You will lose plausible deniability in the face of defeat. You won’t be able to comfort yourself by denying that you wanted the grapes in the first place. This can hurt. The best advice is to come to terms with that and create other lines of retreat.

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