“Tenacity trumps talent.”

Growing up, my dad repeated this often. He still does.

He would say it to remind me that effort wins out over inherent ability, though as a proud dad, he’d probably say I have both (blush).

Picture the word “tenacity.” What comes to mind for you?

When I think of tenacity, I think of a bulldog barring his teeth, ready to win a game of tug-o-war. It’s an aggressive word, it has punch.

But over the years, I’ve seen a different side of tenacity.

Instead of a single moment of dogged determination, tenacity is a series of small choices.

Tenacity frequently remains hidden to others. It’s the early mornings and late nights working on a side hustle, going back to school, or learning a new language.

No fanfare, no help. Just work.

Tenacity Disguised as Talent

There’s an important underlying dynamic that you could easily miss.

Tenacity increases talent.

Or rather, the outward appearance of it.

We so often attribute achievement to talent without thinking of the hard work. The “overnight success” as they say.

I recently read comedy legend Steve Martin’s memoir Born Standing Up. He starts from his childhood and shares his path to outward success–bad bits, tiny stages, rude crowds.

Martin’s talent feels indescribable. He has that “thing.”

But from his own account, he put in the work, too.

Our society glosses over that. When I see him in an ad for Masterclass, I can’t imagine him being anything but funny.

Building Tenacity In Our Own Lives

Focusing on tenacity is the most encouraging advice I’ve gotten. It translates like this:

  • Just started and not doing so great? Keep going.
  • See someone else doing “better” than you? Keep going.
  • Had previous success and hit a slump? Keep going.

You have to admit, the advice is consistent.

Tenacity is built in the quiet moments, so you may have to proactively build it.

After reading a great article by Josh Spector on why you should do something 100 times, I’m working on 100 blogs myself.

Making the goal concrete improves my shot at getting there, and I look forward to having this as an example of my own tenacity.

I think we can all agree, after 100 times, you hope to be better.

Is that more talent?

Nope. Just looks like it.


To being better without overnight success,