What do you think is an important factor for success? While there are others, I believe that an important factor for success is determination. Paul Graham – the founder of a startup incubator in Silicon Valley – wrote this:

We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination… While it certainly helps to be smart, it’s not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing.

In The Dip, Seth Godin wrote that there is a place on the way to success where you suffer setbacks. He called that place “the dip.”  This is the place where determination is needed.  Many people quit there, but winners will go through it. Determination can help you go through the dip and come to the other side.

A good example of this is the story of Elon Musk. He is now well-known for his audacious ventures such as Tesla and SpaceX, but back in the day, he had a humble beginning. He started his first business in an apartment with his brother. It was a startup called Zip2, and the idea was to “provide local businesses with an Internet presence by linking their services to searchers and providing directions.”

But it was in the 1990s and the Internet was still in its infancy. Most small business owners still didn’t know how the Internet could benefit them. As a result, they got zero sales. They couldn’t get a single buyer.

But they kept at it. They didn’t quit. They kept going door-to-door to sell the product despite many rejections. They also kept improving the product. Musk and his team had the determination to go through the dip, and long story short, the company became a success.

What you need in such a situation is a fighter’s mentality. In Musk’s own words, you need to have the mentality of a samurai.

Microsoft is another good example. Again and again, Microsoft started with an inferior product. The product lost in the market. But they kept at it; they kept improving the product. At the end, the product became a success and even dominated its category. That was the case with Windows, Word, Excel, and many other Microsoft’s products. Bill Gates and his team had the determination to keep going.

Determination is key. Whatever it is that you do, make sure that you put determination in the mix. But determination isn’t just not quitting; it also requires you to keep improving yourself. Just keeping at it without improving yourself is not determination but stubbornness.

One more thing: keep your life balanced. Some people have blind determination that sacrifices other parts of their lives, but that’s not the way to get true success. True success is about balance. That’s how you can live a fulfilled and meaningful life.