It was a slow-starting morning, so I gave myself an assignment as I began to head for the shower. The task: if you could write up ONE thing that is most crucial to succeeding in any endeavor, what would it be?
Before the water was turned on, the word had already surfaced. And it wasn’t one that I’ve seen mentioned often.
We hear about vision. Passion. Expertise. Connections. Out-of-the-box creativity. Goal-setting. Persistence. All very important ingredients to success, no doubt.
But none are as central as…and, in fact, all will take their marching orders from…Conviction.
By conviction I am not talking about a prison record. What I mean is a deep persuasion that something is right, and must be done.
Above all things, an entrepreneur is convinced that his/her idea, and course of action, must be pursued. This conviction drives decision, promotes action, accepts risk, overcomes doubt, and draws others into the endeavor.
Conviction develops over time, through both positive and negative experiences, through seeing the successes and failings of others. Eventually, it seeps into your soul and you become persuaded that you MUST _________ (fill in the blank).
This is not only true in business. A parent is, above all things, an entrepreneur – taking a little life and shaping and molding it into a full-fledged adult member of society. This requires conviction – that the greatest impact we have may well be through others, that the next generation is more important than my immediate gratification, that the hard work of building now will bear fruit in years to come.
Conviction, of course, can be a double-edged sword. Some tyrannical people manage to convince themselves that they are right…and seek to destroy others in the process of carrying out their ruinous beliefs. Some can even inspire others, through the power of conviction, to take leave of their senses and drink Kool-Aid in a forsaken jungle. But far more (who do not make the 6:00 news) build businesses, create charities, donate organs, mentor young people, and care for the sick – because it is right. Because they must.
Conviction does not guarantee success. But a lack of it almost guarantees failure. Over the years, I’ve come to a number of juncture points where I’ve had to make bold – sometimes disruptive and costly – decisions. In each case, it was conviction that ruled the day. When you believe that a thing is right – when you are compelled to move forward no matter the cost – then you stand the best chance of success.
UPDATE: A couple of readers mentioned the importance of perseverance (or persistence). Here is how I’d distinguish conviction and perseverance:
Conviction leads you to take a course. It feeds into…
Persistence, which drives you to stay the course.
UPDATE 2: just saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness last night with Mrs. Impactress. Not only is this a wonderfully made and moving picture, but it is a tremendous illustration of the power of conviction. The main character (played by Will Smith) overcomes all obstacles in his drive to better things for his family. Highly recommended!