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This article was published on November 13, 2020

Why entrepreneurs need to stop glorifying persistence

It's overrated, there, I said it.

Why entrepreneurs need to stop glorifying persistence
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
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Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Let’s talk about one of the most popular terms in entrepreneurship: persistence. It has an excellent reputation and is often spoken about with reverence and respect. But I don’t care for it too much. I think persistence is overrated.

A lack of persistence is a problem, but too much of it might be worse. See, I’ve seen my fair share of entrepreneurs who kept barking up the same tree and kept pushing the same shit. They lived through pivot after pivot while congratulating themselves on their persistence.

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I don’t think these people were persistent. Instead, I think they were stubborn and blinded by their ambition. By calling it “persistence,” they fooled themselves (and the people around them) that this was honorable.

“But…” the persistent entrepreneur will argue, “…look at those other entrepreneurs, who were so persistent and are now successful?!”

Well, yes, if you’re a quitter, you won’t get very far. But my experience is that the people who persisted didn’t feel like they were “persisting” at all. If they pitched their product 30 times, they probably felt like every pitch went better than the previous one, and their confidence grew from pitch to pitch.

I think successful people enjoy what they’re doing and see small indications of growth in every step. And when those indications of success are lacking, they don’t persist and lose time butting their heads against the same wall. No, they adjust course and find another spot to focus on.

Or they give up. And that’s fine too. I have more respect for the person who is realistic and says, “I’ve given it a fair try, but in the absence of any successful metric, my conclusion is that it would be better to end this.”

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