Paul Graham & The Anatomy of Determination
If Gladwell’s take is that practice leads to mastery, then Graham’s take is that determination drives deliberate practice. Read this article to learn how to become more determined, ambitious, and successful.
Paul Graham Background
Paul Graham is an essayist, programmer, and programming language designer. In 1995 he developed with Robert Morris the first web-based application, Viaweb, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998. In 2002 he described a simple statistical spam filter that inspired a new generation of filters. He’s currently working on a new programming language called Arc, a new book on startups, and is one of the partners in Y Combinator.
Introduction (Via Paul Graham)
Like all investors, we spend a lot of time trying to learn how to predict which startups will succeed. We probably spend more time thinking about it than most, because we invest the earliest. Prediction is usually all we have to rely on.
We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination. At first we thought it might be intelligence. Everyone likes to believe that’s what makes startups succeed. It makes a better story that a company won because its founders were so smart. The PR people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe them themselves. But while it certainly helps to be smart, it’s not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing.
In most domains, talent is overrated compared to determination—partly because it makes a better story, partly because it gives onlookers an excuse for being lazy, and partly because after a while determination starts to look like talent.
Favorite Excerpts (Via Paul Graham)
Being strong-willed is not enough, however. You also have to be hard on yourself. Someone who was strong-willed but self-indulgent would not be called determined. Determination implies your willfulness is balanced by discipline.
In fact the dangers of indiscipline increase with temptation. Which means, interestingly, that determination tends to erode itself. If you’re sufficiently determined to achieve great things, this will probably increase the number of temptations around you. Unless you become proportionally more disciplined, willfulness will then get the upper hand, and your achievement will revert to the mean.
Conclusion (Via Paul Graham)
So here in sum is how determination seems to work: it consists of willfulness balanced with discipline, aimed by ambition. And fortunately at least two of these three qualities can be cultivated. You may be able to increase your strength of will somewhat; you can definitely learn self-discipline; and almost everyone is practically malnourished when it comes to ambition.