Why Persistence is More Important Than Talent

We’ve all heard the lie. You know, the one about talent. How only talented people are successful, only talented people accomplish anything. The rest of us don’t have any hope. If you aren’t incredible the first time you try, you might as well give up.

But I think anyone who’s ever had a dream and tried to make it happen knows it’s more important to be persistent than to be talented.

Talent, left alone, will never mature. It’s like a seedling that, for lack of sunshine, never grows taller than an inch. It’s wasted potential, left-behind dreams sacrificed on the altar of pride.

Because it’s about pride, isn’t it? We get puffed up and prideful about our talent. We get lazy and let it carry us. We never progress past that initial glimmer of greatness.

Persistence, on the other hand, plays the long game. She knows she has to work hard, harder than some. She knows she has a great journey ahead, a path filled with many failures before there’s any chance of success.

Persistence takes bad days in stride. She knows things come in cycles, and not every day will be good. She knows how to take breaks, reassess, and recommit. She knows how to stumble along when the plan’s gone to pieces, shuffling toward the summit until the map is taped back together again.

Talent takes days, weeks, months off. She figures things will just pick up where they left off. She gets distracted by present things and drops her gaze, losing her focus on the summit. She lets things slide.

Persistence recognizes dry spells, writer’s block, and dark nights of the soul. She factors it in, adjusts her plan, and limps along. She feeds herself, drawing from friends, heroes, family, and chocolate. She studies the summit, reminds herself of the goal, and presses on when it’s hard.

Talent whispers to herself at night, retelling the story of her own greatness. These stories fill her up until she doesn’t feel the need to do any kind of real work.

Persistence ferrets out her weak spots and attacks them. She strengthens atrophied muscles and fires up unused neurons.

Talent refuses to see her weaknesses. Weaknesses are a threat to her sovereignty (and her pride), after all.

Persistence is humble, because she knows what it’s like to crawl in the mud.

Talent is boastful, because her extraordinary abilities are irrefutable and inherent.

Persistence doesn’t flinch at rejection.

Talent crumbles at the first “no.”

Persistence celebrates others’ achievements.

Talent believes it’s a zero-sum game.

Persistence becomes an “overnight success” after twenty years of hard work. She reaches the summit, surveys the view, and smiles.

When Talent hears of her accomplishment, a jolt of fear shivers down her spine. For the first time, she thinks, have I been wasting my time?

We all have a bit of both Talent and Persistence in us. If you’re pursuing a writing career, you’ve probably got some talent for words, and you’ve probably felt the insidious influence of Talent at some point. I know I have, and it’s a terrible attitude to hold, keeping you back from achieving your goals.

I hope this silly little post pokes some holes in your Talent this week and prods you to be more Persistent. We all need encouragement now and again, so here’s your reminder to keep fighting the good fight. Stay Persistent, and let me know how your writing week is going.

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