Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. To simply ‘keep going’ is everything you need to achieve anything you want.
To work well and live a good life, we must become comfortable with is the axiom that many people in this world are much more talented than us. People who are sexier. Smarter. Faster. Stronger. More likeable, more charming, better-connected and, frankly, luckier than we are.
But none of this matters if you do this one thing:
You outwork them.
It’s as simple as that. Although I strongly advocate for escaping the idea of “competition” — because it’s unhealthy — I believe, in some areas, we will find ourselves needing to know how to reside alongside the greats with our work.
The motto ‘Press on’ is thereby a time-honoured phrase that has solved and will always solve humankinds’ problems. And the commitment to keep going no matter what is good enough to beat your opponent, even if that’s yourself, every single time. The longer your timescale of achieving something great, the larger your surface area for good results become, and the more likely you are to make more gains in your life.
Prolific actor and artist Will Smith was once asked how he got to be so successful in his careers. His response was:
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things. But if we get on the treadmill together, there are two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”
I’ve found a similar mindset to reside in Jeff Bezos when it comes to Amazon.
He embodies the proverb that long-term thinking always wins. Since the creation of his famous 1997 letter to shareholders about the power of long-term thinking, he’s proven right every year since. He looks further ahead than most of his competition, which is one of the fundamental reasons Amazon grows like wildfire.
Jeff operates with the simple premise of being very clear on your long-term strategy framework and having a straightforward approach about the way you plan to operate. He jettisons timid ideas and large group thinking practises, so Amazon’s ideas can be as concise and bold and efficient as possible. He knows that if you’re going to experiment and find ways to innovate, more often than not, you’re going to fail, so work to operate on a long-term basis.
This idea can be summed up well by the motto of his space exploration company, Blue Origin: “Gradatim Ferociter”, meaning “Step by Step, Ferociously” in English.
“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that.”
— Jeff Bezos
The secrets are so simple that most people ignore them
Patience and consistency.
This is what you need to go further than 99% of all people. Think about the world’s best athletes, scientists, CEO’s, or writers. What do they all have in common?
They are the best at being consistent and patient over long periods.
To be a multiple World Champion, you need to improve consistently, year on year, for decades. To be a top writer, you must consistently improve your work, piece by piece, ferociously. To run a company earning millions of dollars each year, you cannot rest, you cannot point blame, you must continue to evolve and consistently take care of your consumer.
“Consistency is the most fundamental virtue to becoming the person you want to be.”
— Benjamin Hardy
It’s not because we’re incapable or fail to be good enough in our eyes or other peoples’. It’s because we give up that we fail.
Marques Brownlee, the YouTube tech reviewer, known as MKBHD, currently has 13.7 million subscribers. But in the beginning, it took him 100 videos to reach 74 subscribers. His first three years had painful rates of growth, and he spent a long time going unnoticed. But he became successful and highly rated because:
- He was ferociously consistent. Marques became known for his ultra-high-quality videos. He worked vigorously to solve a problem in the YouTube tech space regarding production quality, credibility and reputation. He spent three years with very little engagement, establishing himself as an authority in this field.
- He was mind-numbingly patient. To become one of the best creators, Marques needed to work on a long-term timeline. It takes several years for anyone to become one of the best at what they do. And this is what he honed for many years.
Despite his slow growth, Marques pushed to improve every nuance that was important to his channel's overarching quality. Whether that was video quality, the script, the products he reviewed or the people he worked with.
He famously said that to be successful, find what you’re good at and work on it for ten years. He proved this himself by working on YouTube for the past decade and regularly publishing no matter what, even if his recognition would be small. Now, he’s one of the most successful creators on YouTube.
Push on, even when nobody is paying attention
If I told you that you needed to write 41 articles before one of them would go viral, would you write that many? Or, if I told you that you needed to train at the gym 41 times before you saw any weight loss, would you go?
Success comes through sustained effort. And remember, the most important word in that sentence is not ‘effort’. It’s ‘sustained’.
Most people wouldn’t do the work, and that’s why they fail.
Talented, attractive, lucky people are everywhere. They’re all over your feed, succeeding in front of you. They’re peppered throughout whichever community you decide to join or friendship group you become a part of. They’re amazing at this one thing.
But rarely are they consistent.
This is why, eventually, they will fail.
And that is why you will succeed.
For example, when I started writing on Medium, my second article ever went viral. But it wasn’t exactly a good thing.
I felt immediately gratified by this result. I thought, “Oh, I clearly have a talent here; I can relax a bit now”. My consistency levels tanked soon after. I had no patience. It took months to get myself back on track and write more often. I lost all motivation to improve and work in the long term because I convinced myself that I was good enough already.
I failed for a long time.
It’s crazy because consistency is one of the simplest virtues you can think of, yet it’s one of the rarest qualities to find.
If you nurture consistency, you’ll beat anything we consider talent, luck, skill or even quality — just by being consistent.
It’ll make you feel like a loser because all the time you’ll spend working, trying, failing, retrying, failing again, trying again and failing again will make you feel as though you’re terrible at what you do.
Being a consistent and patient person will make you feel like a nobody, someone who isn’t worth working in their desired field. It’ll make you feel like you should quit because you think what you do will never be enough.
Being a consistent and patient person is one of the hardest things to do
I’ve been training as a competitive cyclist for 3 years now. For the first few years, I constantly suffered from injuries. And I would spend months trying to recover from those injuries and rushing through things.
I was impatient. I overworked myself in training and pushed too far. I suffered from knee inflammation and back pain from it all, so competing was a continuous struggle. When I finally slowed down and got consistent training under my belt, I screwed up even further.
My coach told me how much potential I had, and my ego got the better of me. Instead of being driven to push further, I relaxed and stopped caring about training. I felt good enough. As if that was all the validation I needed to prove how good I was. This way of thinking messed up a lot of things.
Another example, as I mentioned earlier, was when I started writing full-time. I felt so validated by having a viral article come about quickly that I stopped caring about what I was working towards. I’d mix between writing furiously for a few weeks, then losing motivation and disappearing for a week or more. “Ah, I can take a break. I don’t need to write this week anyway”, I’d tell myself. And I wouldn’t write for a long time then; I’d lose interest and cave into boredom.
I noticed the same pattern between training and writing. I clearly hadn’t learnt anything.
No wonder I struggled so much.
However, in the late months of last year, I decided to detach my feelings from discipline. I decided to work on being consistent and less on how I felt. Funnily enough, I fixed both. I started publishing three times a week to build relationships with readers and the publications I wanted to place my work in. And ever since, I’ve been working to build an impenetrable wall of discipline and resilience that lets me do the work without relying on how I feel.
Now, I get more views every week than I did in the first 6 months of writing. I have more views and subscribers to my newsletter than I expected by this point, just a few months in. And I’m happier and healthier and more injury-free than I’ve ever been.
Consistency keeps you going, and patience reminds you why.
“Repetition can be tedious — which is why so few people ever master anything.”
— Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning.
Most people knock on the door of their dreams once, then run away before anyone has a chance to open the door. But if you keep knocking, with persistence and patience, eventually, the door will open.
There are millions of better writers than me. People who are smarter, more confident, and in possession of better ideas than I’ll ever have.
But none of this matters.
The reward for being consistent is enough gold to last you a lifetime. But remember, you must shovel through the 10,000 pounds of dirt before you can get to the gold you truly want. Most people will never have the consistency to overcome the tedious repetition that’s required.
I focus on the long-term, on what I do uniquely, authentically, that nobody else can be bothered to do. Through this, I cultivate stronger consistency and patience than I ever thought possible, and that’s how I know I’ll succeed.
And I want you to do the same. Starting today.