I am a big fan of Paul Graham, and once again he’s given us a great essay, this time on determination. His basic thesis is that determination is a factor of “willfulness balanced with discipline, aimed by ambition”. A very good post, that I encourage you all to read.

In keeping with the thread, I offer the following video, from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. If this isn’t the essence of Paul’s three traits, I don’t know what is…and if it doesn’t choke you up a bit, I’m not sure what will.

[NOTE: The YouTube / ESPN player doesn’t consistently embed, so if it doesn’t play, you can access this video on ESPN’s site directly at: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4372243]

The story of these two young athletes, perfectly characterizes the “determination” traits, so much so watching this video felt like I was hit by a Mack truck. While Paul, myself, and countless others in the startup blogosphere pretend to understand “what it takes”, we really don’t know $h*#. We live in an academic ivory tower world, where our biggest challenges lie in “determining” company valuations, product features, and freemium models. On my best days of a start-up, I stack up woefully inadequately on the determination scale to what these kids show us.

So, to sum up, while you can listen to the pundits (or wannabe pundits, in my case) about what it takes to be successful, we are light years away from true reality. The bubbles of Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston (and others), insulate us from truly understanding what really matters. Real inspiration, and lessons in perseverance can be taught by the millions of people around us – not the pundits.

By the way, if you want to make a donation to help Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton attend college, you can do so here at Carry On For Education Trust.

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