The Problem With the Myth of Persistence

How often do you see successful entrepreneurs, experts, teachers, and various other experts telling would-be or wanna-be startups that starting a business is all about persistence? Too often. It’s a dangerous myth. brick wall

Why: persistence is only relevant if the rest of it is right. There’s no virtue to persistence when it means running your head into walls forever. Before you worry about persistence, that startup has to have some real value to offer, something that people want to buy, something they want or need. And it has to get the offer to enough people. It has to survive competition. It has to know when to stick to consistency, and when to pivot.

So persistence is simply what’s left over when all the other reasons for failure have been ruled out. Those successful entrepreneurs who talk about their experience? They’re not lying. They look back on it, and it was persistence that saw them through. Because every startup is a lot of work, a lot of mistakes, a lot of failures. So a lot of startups that might have made it otherwise fail because it’s just too damn hard to stay with it.

And then, if everything else is right, persistence matters.



  • Lakshminarayanan says:

    Persistence, while important, will not help if not backed by the ability to pivot. Deciding when to persist and when to pivot is a really difficult call…

  • The Myth of Persistence Can Ruin Your Life says:

    […] Your Limit as a Business Owner on the NYTimes blog, a thoughtful reminder about a huge problem: The myth of persistence in business ownership. Given the wrong circumstances, running yourself into a brick wall, over and […]

  • Thinking of Quitting? Don’t Let Survivor Bias Ruin Your Life says:

    […] relates to a really interesting comment added to my April 20 post on the myth of persistence. The comment, signed by faxauthority, […]

  • Fax Authority says:

    Most common phrase I hear from successful entrepreneurs: it was all about persistence

    Most common phrase I hear from failed entrepreneurs: I’m glad I got out before all my money ran out…

  • Steve says:

    Good points. I especially agree that knowing “when to stick to consistency, and when to pivot” is key. In my experience, nothing remains “right” for long if you don’t adjust.

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