Monday, March 18, 2013


I don't know if you have seen the show Shark Tank on TV.  The "sharks" are investors to whom entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas for a successful business.  Some times the sharks are enticed to invest.  At other times they are not.  As I have watched this show a few times, I have noticed something interesting.  The sharks will decline to invest in a great idea, when they are unconvinced of the entrepreneurs drive to succeed.  On the other hand, they will sometimes invest in an inferior idea, if it is championed by an entrepreneur with determination.  

I recently read an fascinating article by Paul Graham (who invests in startup companies).  He talked about what he's learned to look for as a predictor of success in new ventures...determination.  He says, "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.

"  I tend to agree with him on this.  I have seen very talented church leaders not "get it done," and leaders with lesser talent, but greater determination succeed.  Paul enjoins:  Therefore, my dear brothers and sister, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Paul encouraged determination in the Lord's work.

What constitutes determination?  Graham says it it a balance of willfulness and discipline.  And balance is a key word.  He makes the analogy of squeezing a slippery melon seed with two fingers ("The harder they squeeze, the further the seed flies, but they must both squeeze equally or the seed spins off sideways."

)  He says that equivalent discipline is even more vital the more willfulness one possesses ("The dangers of indiscipline increase with temptation....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.")  I believe this last statement explains about 95% of the pastor "blow outs" I've seen. 

What gives direction to determination, Graham states, is ambition.  ("Here in sum is how determination seems to work: it consists of willfulness balanced with discipline, aimed by ambition.")  As a believer, we might add the importance of love as our motivator.  

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