Tenacity Trumps Talent

I was reading a wonderful blog post the other day, “41 Things I’ve Learned By 40” –– I would advise you all to read it. The author lists some terrific lessons that we can all benefit from.

At one point in his list, he says “tenacity trumps intelligence.” I agree, and if he would not mind, I would like to add one more: tenacity trumps talent.

Allow me to explain:

I have a dear friend who is an excellent writer. She writes, primarily, for herself. She is very talented but the world will never see her talent. It makes me sad to even write this. Why won’t the world see it? You see, my friend uses every excuse in the book not to send her work to an editor or an agent. I have heard all these over the decades I have known her:

1. It is not ready yet.
2. I am not good enough.
3. They will hate it.
4. It is Sunday and I want to wait till Monday (the Monday that never comes).
5. No one understands my style of writing.
6. I just don’t have the strength to finish this.
7. My muse is not cooperating.
8. The manuscript sucks.
9. The story makes no sense.

And plenty more. I know them all by heart. I am not trying to say that her fears are not real. They are. To her, they are truly scary and are holding her back from what could be a Pulitzer. She really is that good. All of us have our own crosses to bear, and this is hers. I have tried to reason with her, to get mad at her, to yell, to be kind, to say that I will secretly mail her manuscript out to someone – but she won’t listen. And I am sad to say that several years ago, she stopped writing. Totally stopped. Fear won over talent.

Now let’s compare her with a blogger friend of mine. She and I are similar. We have some talent, a lot of passion and by golly we are persistent little things. When she started, she did not have a word to her name. No bylines. Nothing. But she did not use any of the excuses above. Instead, she quietly started a blog and began posting her thoughts and recipes. It grew. She sent the link to editors to make them notice her work. They gave her work. Her workload – and paycheck – grew. She has achieved something that people a TON more talented than her have not: she has been able to put herself out there and make her dream a reality.

There is one critical difference between Friend 1 (the novelist who will not publish) and Friend 2 (the food blogger who is making a name for herself):

Friend 2 chose herself.
Friend 1 is still waiting to be the chosen one.

This is critical. As writers, we are always waiting for some editor to pick us, to answer our pitches and to say that we are okay. But I take a lesson from Friend 2 who is doing it so well: put myself out there. You should as well. Express your opinion. Pick yourself. Show the world that what you have to say has value.

And once you put yourself out there, do it again, and again and again. You will fail sometimes, and some days there will be success. The days I fail teach me a lot more than the days on which I succeed. I remember, a few months ago, I sent an essay to an editor who turned it down. No reason given. It was a dream market and a dream editor. I was heartbroken. I was telling a friend what happened and she said, casually, “Since when do you wait for someone to give you permission?” Truer words have never been spoken! I posted the essay on my site – “Who is at your door?” – and it is one of the most read posts on my site.

There are very few chosen ones.

The rest of us have to make our own luck. And I remember a chef telling me once, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

istock image

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    1. Don’t forget it. And DON’T LET ME FORGET IT!

  1. Monica, thank you for this post. I am like your Friend #1, but I have decided to overcome my fear and become like your Friend #2 (I started by facing another fear, that of wasps, this summer – I still avoid hornets as if they were sharks, but I am happy with small steps:)
    The life is full of excuses, but breezes by so fast.

  2. Indeed, as Charmian says “Amen”. Those who sit back and hope opportunities will present themselves are missing out. I still have trouble “putting myself out there”, giving many of the same reasons as Friend #1 but I AM tenacious – so am hoping my tenacity will pay off in the end.

  3. Well said!!! I totally agree to your view. We are the product and we need to market it. 🙂

  4. I feel sad for Friend 1 and admire Friend 2 for obvious reasons. I like the list of excuses you gave Monica. It is right on our faces as am sure at some point of time, we would think like Friend 1, berate ourselves and let our fear win our persistence.

    I hope everyone of us be like your Friend 2, after reading your post. 🙂


  5. Wow! I really needed to read this today. Thanks, Monica, for writing for writers!

  6. not only an amen but also a BRAVO! i just returned from a sponsored trip to Oregon last week and have to admit that i had several moments thinking, ‘what in the world am i doing here – how on earth did i get invited to this?’ as i looked around the room and saw the incredibly talented people – all of whom i view as having FAR more talent, a deeper reach in terms of social media, readership, reach, etc. but i also know that i work hard, spend many hours creating good content, photos, writing – just like every other blogger. we’re all deserving – and you’re exactly right – it’s what WE decide to choose.

  7. thanks, monica, for these wise and encouraging words. they are good ones to hear today!

  8. This is a lovely post, reminiscent of the old that whole “light under a barrel” message but with a modern twist. Tenacity will be my motto for the month, maybe the whole school year! I also liked your post about the door/packages.

  9. This is so inspiring, Monica! Thanks for putting it so simply, yet so many lessons are learned from this. Love it!

  10. Love this! I have this post on my bookmark bar… worth reading every day. THANK YOU. x

  11. Hear, hear. I’ve got nothing to add except my enthusiasm for your message.

  12. The photo cracked me up! Eye-catching and cute. Your posts always seem to hit me at exactly the right time. You’ve beautifully illustrated a point, so thank you for this important message!

  13. Thank you so much, Monica. I really needed this. It’s funny, both you and Alicia Sokol (right above this comment) inspire me in this way.

    1. Daphne! Thanks for the shout…I’m only seeing your sweet comment now. Ha.

  14. Should read this daily. (Your should read it to the GBR Food folks. Good message for them!)

    1. We missed you at the GBR. Specially when the signs came out at night.. about the South sleeping (I read on Twitter you wanted to see one!) Hugs

  15. Monica-

    I am happy my blog post on the “41 Things” inspired this wonderful post on your blog. You are sooooo right with your stories about friend #1 and friend #2.

    Going for it is a very important step.

    It is nice to “meet” you (via our blogs)

    thom singer

    1. Thanks for inspiring me so much. I loved your list! I wish you much success.

  16. Thank you for such an inspiring post and links! ‘Excuses be Gone’ by Wayne Dyer is an exceptional book.

  17. Well said. I’m like friend 1 when it comes to my artistic endeavors, like friend 2 when it comes to my business endeavors.

  18. You are exactly rite!!

  19. I love this post, Monica. Have you read “The War of Art”? The author makes a very similar argument – that the people who ignore the “I suck” and “I can’t” voices in their head and just keep working (through success and failure) are the ones who end up succeeding in the end.

    1. I love that book and I think I have read it a million times. It is so motivating. I think I have to keep this post up and center so I don’t forget it. It is easy to get discouraged.

  20. Great post Monica, thank you! Sharing with my Facebook writing group!

  21. I would love to read Friend #2’s blog!!
    Will her identity ever be revealed?

    Thank you for this inspiring post, Monica!!!

  22. Thanks for the post. I agree that tenacity is necessary for success, but it’s false to say that having tenacity will result in success. A lot of people are talented AND try very hard all their lives, and still never see results. Luck (which in many sense is just timing) is a huge part of it. What country you are born in largely plays a factor, too, which I’ll say is also luck. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers discusses many of these points. The American Dream that hard works always pays off is simply not true. Hard work IS one of the required elements USUALLY, but it’s never enough on its own.

    1. I agree as long as you don’t use luck like I do.. as a crutch – https://monicabhide.com/2011/10/luck-the-crutch.html

  23. Monica, this is a fantastic post! You (and that blogger) are absolutely right and although this is something I have been telling my sons for years, as a writer it took me a while to get out of the starting gate. But as soon as I begin approaching people, well, it has turned to luck! Thanks, as ever, for your truly insightful posts.

  24. Brilliant Monica. Brilliant. I’m always inspired by you!

  25. Reminds me of what Ghostwriting Dad has written: http://ghostwriterdad.com/news/dont-wait-to-be-chosen-choose-yourself/ which is based on one of the the most well-known posts by Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/reject-the-tyranny-of-being-picked-pick-yourself.html

    Nice repackaging of the concept that we all need to hear.

    1. I had not seen the one by Ghost dad. thanks for posting it!

  26. Love this, and it was much needed this morning. Thanks for the boost!

  27. You have always inspired me! This one clearly resonates with me LOL! Have been trying to get those books out! Love all your posts…but made my daughters read this one! Keep it up Monica 🙂

  28. Roopa Pandarinath

    Very good write up Monica! I so proud of you! Roopa

  29. Hi Monica,
    I appreciate you sharing this-it was very encouraging. I still feel like I need a plan of attack though, to move things along for myself as a blogger. Might you have any additional suggestions? Thank you!

  30. Thanks so much for this! I am a friend of Nazu’s and saw it on her FB timeline. I am going to share it with my writers’ group.
    There are some lessons there for me too!

  31. Thanks so much for this story, Monica! I needed motivation right now, and this was it!

  32. Hi Monica-
    Now THIS is an imporant post that ANYONE can relate to in some manner. I too am a persistent little thing. 🙂 I contacted you awhile back to interview you about cardamom (which you graciously did for me, thank you). I’m well aware that persistence and confidence that you’re WORTH it is what success is all about. People have to stop worrying about hearing the word ‘no’. Who cares? Move on until you hear a ‘yes’. I let ‘no’ be my rocket fuel. 🙂 Thanks for this post!!

  33. Hi Monica, Thanks for this wonderful and motivating post. Im just like your Friend 1.
    Since 3 years Im just thinking of writing a food blog and so taking pics of the dishes which I thought will be good for a blog..but as I said neither those pics nor the recipes have seen the light of the sun ..:((..just because I think I cant write the way others do it. But reading your post Im totally inspired..thanks once again :))

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