Tenacity is an essential but often misunderstood ingredient for success in business. Of all the ingredients in my upcoming book, this one may stand out because it’s not considered as “soft” of a skill as gratitude, empathy, optimism, and some of the others we’ve covered in the Road to Twelve and a Half series so far. It has a little more teeth to it. That being said, tenacity is extremely important and actually works hand in hand with a lot of the other traits.
It breaks my heart that people confuse tenacity with burnout — I don’t think the two are the same at all. When approached with the right balance, I think tenacity is actually one of the most crucial traits and something I admire in the strongest CEOs and founders I know.
Let’s explore a little further.
What is Tenacity?
The quality or fact of being very determined; determination.
Being tenacious is about being determined and not quitting on your goal when it gets hard or because things are not happening quickly. Having tenacity doesn’t mean that you don’t experience setbacks or obstacles, but rather that those obstacles don’t faze you because you’re that focused on your macro goal. I’ll give you an example.
One of the things that drives me crazy today is that everybody talks a big game. “I’m gonna be the biggest star on YouTube,” but then after two months of nobody watching, they give up! There is this incredible belief amongst many that you just start producing content and you go viral, and then these amazing things happen in six months. In reality, that only happens to 500 or 5,000 people a year. For the rest of us, myself included, it doesn’t work that way.
I was 18 months deep into posting five days a week on Wine Library TV and still, almost nobody was watching my show. It takes time, it takes episodes, it takes effort…but most importantly, it takes a level of tenacity that matches your ambition.
In addition to ambition, tenacity should also be balanced with having a real passion for whatever it is you’re doing! It’s easier to be tenacious when you’re passionate and optimistic and way harder when you’re trying to do something you hate.
“Being tenacious is about telling yourself, ‘I enjoy my process so much that I am able to push through what others normally view as obstacles along the way.’” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
As with most things, I’m so grateful to my upbringing for giving me the examples that I needed. Growing up and watching my dad come from the Soviet Union to build his business was a great example of tenacity that helped shaped the way I think:
Macro Patience and Micro Tenacity
Ultimately, it didn’t matter to me that no one was watching my show. It didn’t matter to me that people thought I was crazy for responding back to literally every tweet about wine that I saw. None of it mattered because I had so much belief in what I was doing, I had patience around not seeing results right away, and I had the tenacity to see it through.
Patience and tenacity are two of the ingredients I talk about all the time. Patience, for me, is a macro; tenacity is a micro. You have to be tenacious in the task at hand, but patient in the overall mission. The problem is that a lot of people struggle with those levels and they give up too soon.
When You’re Tenacious, People Around You Won’t Always Understand
For many of the things I’ve “won” at, someone once told me I was wrong or that it was crazy. Years ago it was the internet and social media, today it’s NFTs. Let’s go even further back.
When old peers would come by and see me stocking shelves at Wine Library, I know a lot of them thought it was crazy that I was still working in my dad’s liquor store. To some people, that may have been devastating. So many fall victim to the idea of “falling behind” in comparison to their friends, but I had so much tenacity that my mind never went to that place. Instead, I was so determined that I was able to tune out the noise of other people’s perceptions and opinions.
On top of that, I never took those opinions personally. Instead, I had empathy. Of course they didn’t get it, because they didn’t know my plans. They didn’t have my vision, my patience, or my understanding of time and making a short term investment in my family’s future upfront to be able to do what I wanted to do later on.
That’s why tenacity has to go hand in hand with conviction! When you know what you want and what you’re working for, the obstacles and opinions are just noise. They don’t matter 🔑
Tenacity Should Never Equal Burnout
Yes, tenacity means hard work, grit, resilience…but it doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your health or peace of mind just to reach your goals. If you find yourself constantly unhappy or unreasonably stressed most of the time, it’s probably a sign that you’re not deploying tenacity in the right way.
“Burnout is physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Tenacity is determination.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Be tenacious about stuff you actually enjoy
Another reason for burnout is that too many people are forcing themselves to go hard at things they don’t even like. Sure, you might have a fancy job and make a lot of money, but what does it even matter if you hate your life most of the time?
People often ask me how I stay motivated or why I work so much. It’s because I actually fucking love what I do. Business is my hobby; it gets me pumped! It’s so much easier to be tenacious around the shit that you really enjoy instead of forcing yourself to work hard at something you don’t want to do, just to have people think a certain way about you or to be able to afford stuff you don’t need to impress others. It goes back to having real self-awareness and accountability.
Ask yourself, are you burnt out because you’re working too much, or do you just hate the work you’re doing? Are you setting goals for yourself, or to reach some level of success you think will impress other people? 🤔
“When you’ve put yourself in a position to base your happiness on outside validation and on material proxies of success, you will always, and I mean always, be on the cusp of burnout.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Find out what you love to do, what you’re curious about, and go do that thing! When you enjoy the process, you’ll see how much easier it is to be tenacious without sacrificing your health or wellbeing.
How To Be Tenacious When Shit Gets Hard
First thing’s first — you have to ask yourself, what is the alternative? Seriously. If you’ve decided what you want to do, you do it! No matter what. Even if it takes a long time, even if mom and dad or your friends don’t see the point. You stick it out.
Yes, you should always have balance (and everyone’s balance is unique and personal to them), but keeping that tenacity is all about removing the option to give up on something if you really want it.
Decide that you’re gonna do it and then take actions. Set a huge, crazy goal that people think is ridiculous — like maybe that you’re gonna buy the New York Jets 😉 — and then don’t give a fuck what people think about it. Just execute and fall in love with the process over the goal itself. Make up your mind that you will not lose to the sauces! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the video below.
If you want to know whether you have the stomach for business, ask yourself if you can handle the no’s. Ask yourself if you love the game of entrepreneurship more than what the game gives you. Ask yourself if you’re ready to never give up! Remember, setbacks and failures are bound to happen. It’s just about whether you have the tenacity to keep going when they do.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and the others in my Road to Twelve and a Half series. If you took any value from it, please share and tweet me @garyvee ! I’d love to hear from you.