Tenacity and persistence.
Two words many mistakenly believe to be synonymous.
I’ll agree they’re similar in meaning. Both tenacious and persistent persons possess a will that refuses to submit. However, it’s the manner in which they refuse that’s entirely different, with one being decidedly more effective at achieving success.
A persistent person will try something again and again in the hopes that it will eventually work. Regardless of how flawed the method, they never amend or vary their approach. They’re content to think that if they continue to try, sooner or later things will pay off.
Persistence is admirable in its unrelenting approach and often signifies a hard worker. But at the same time, it’s the hallmark of a freelancer who chooses to work harder, not smarter.
Tenacity on the other hand is the mark of the strategic thinker. A tenacious person is never content with their methodology. They possess the same indomitable will as their persistent counterpart, but choose to utilise the information and data from their attempts to further improve their methodology.
With each iteration their methodology becomes increasingly more effective. The tenacious work smarter, not harder.
I like to think of it in terms of digging a hole.
A pair of friends (one persistent, one tenacious) compete to see who can dig a hole for a swimming pool in the fastest time. They each begin with only a hand trowel.
Immediately they sink to their knees and begin digging. The persistent worker will continue to dig with the tiny hand trowel until the hole is complete. He believes that if he keeps on with his back-breaking labour his hard work will have him coming out ahead.
After ten minutes the tenacious worker stops. He examines the hand trowel and decides that if he had a shovel he could shift triple the soil in the same amount of time.
Ten minutes later and he decides the shovel, whilst more effective, is still not adequate for the job. Examining different angles he enlists the help of a friend doubling his effectiveness yet again.
Assuming he doesn’t amend his approach again he’ll have completed the hole in one sixth the time of his persistent counterpart.
He could be sat on a lilo enjoying a cocktail in his pool before his friend even finishes digging his hole!
You need to adopt this test and improve mentality with your freelancing career. Below I’ve included a quick infographic that demonstrates the difference in progression between the persistent and tenacious freelancer.
That poor persistent writer will continue to get low return rates because he refuses to change what is clearly an ineffective method.
His competition on the other hand will be roaring ahead and landing a larger number of more profitable clients with an increasingly effective pitch letter.
Effort alone is not a measure of success. I know countless people who work their arses off every single day yet have very little, if anything at all, to show for it.
Working hard is a great trait that’s essential to freelancing success. But hard work alone won’t help you grow your business to the level you need.
The smart freelancer remains flexible. They examine all the variables, listen to advice and adopt every single iota of information that is useful. They’re not afraid to try new things and know that sometimes stopping to try a new approach is far more beneficial than blindly following the same dead-end path you’ve found yourself on.
Bruce Lee has one of the best quotes that I think properly embodies the true tenacious approach to any endeavour. He said;
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Never be content with what you’re doing. If you want to see meaningful progression in your freelance career you need to remain flexible, keep an open mind and be willing to change.
What camp do you fall into. Are you a tenaciously flexible freelancer, or a persistently stubborn writer?
This is an edited version of an article first published in June 2014
Also published on Medium.