Tenacity has always seemed to me to be like one of those elusive, even intangible aspects that certain lucky people have. Like charisma or magnetism, it gets romanticized by icons, legends of culture, pop or otherwise, and associated with the success stories of those giants who have achieved remarkable things.
Prince, for example and rest his soul, strikes me as an extremely tenacious person. Consumed with absolute talent, vision, and yes, charisma and magnetism. As tragic and shocking as it may be, I don’t think I will ever be like Prince.
I’ll probably have to come to terms with it too. I mean, the choreography alone would kill me.
But that’s ok – mostly. Icons are extreme examples and it is simply not fair of you or for you to let the names that dominate our culture define what tenacity means to you, and what you feel capable of.
Honestly, it’s not fair to them either. It ignores all that they have put into who they are, both the remarkable and the mundane.
Fortunately, I have over time learned that tenacity is far more accessible than we think and more importantly, it’s lurking within you. Tenacity is not a single trait, it is a concert of good practices you put in place in your life that allow you to envision, act on, and build the life you want.
These are what I see as the essential five practices of personal tenacity.
When we are young, we’re liable to feel that habit is a characteristic of the boring and banal, rather than those who excitedly accomplish awesome things. It makes sense, all we have known is the habitual routine of things we feel we have to do rather than things we choose to do.
However, tenacity does not come from banging your fists on a table to get what you want, but from putting in place habits that help you manifest it for yourself and sticking to them. Creating healthy habits, whether good sleep schedules, regular exercise, or learning a new language through daily practice, is one of the single most important things you can do for yourself.
Habits are the architecture within which a tenacious life is built.
Required Reading for Habit: Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit
Process goes hand in hand with Habit, for habit can’t exist without understanding that EVERYTHING is a process. A marathon can’t be run after a day of training, much like a language can’t be learned after a day of DuoLingo.
And here’s the cool part, process is easy, it just requires you to stick to your habits and just… do it. This means taking that opportunity to do a little work on your habits or goal everyday, even if it’s just a 1% increase.
Of course, from a macro view, that 1% work on day one of 500 looks super intimidating, a marathon when you don’t even run sounds crazy. Yet, much like investing, that 1% compounds. The more you stick to your habits, knowing that growing in them and achieving goals is a long-game process, the better dividends they deliver.
Required Reading for Process: The War of Art, Atomic Habits (again)
Unlike Tommy Wiseau (director of the infamous film, The Room), resilience isn’t simply about being immune to your criticisms or failings, it is about being aware of them.
Resilience is strength through reflection, using understanding to rise above past challenges, to know what went wrong, what role you played, and what you can change going forward.
We all trip up, whether because of things we have directly done, or through extraordinary challenges well out of our control. Resilience, and the self-awareness to honestly acknowledge our culpability resulting in and/or emerging from any situation, to make amends with ourselves and others, and stick to our habits and embrace process, enables us to move forward tenaciously.
Required Reading: Rising Strong, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
A piece of advice that has always stuck with me is “be kind, but do not confuse kindness with weakness.”
To me this has always been emblematic of the idea that to be good, fair, and generous to others – in other words, kind – you must be it to yourself too. To be the person you want to be, love yourself and give yourself what you deserve (which, incidentally, is distinctly different from what you want or need).
Required Reading: You Are a Badass, The Icarus Deception
We are fluid. We’re made of it, we take it in, and we expel it constantly (yep, pee), but fluidity is also what we are, and knowing that is one of the most essential ways to know yourself.
Like rivers, we chart certain courses across time and follow certain ebbs and flows. Knowing yourself is equal parts knowing that we are subject to change, but also knowing what causes us to flow and in what direction, and in turn, what can back us up.
The real trick to knowing yourself, and the true source of its advantage, is to grasp that it’s less important to know who you are in a moment, than it is to know the how and why you flow, and what keeps you going.
Required Reading – Designing Your Life