Success doesn’t just happen. Contrary to popular culture (and the occasional suggestions of our elected leaders), success takes hard work, perseverance, a little bit of self-made luck, and tenacity—and it’s the same whether you’re looking for success in relationships, at school, in your career, or landing that new client.

I define tenacity as “strength with a purpose.” It’s not just being persistent or stubborn or obstinate or refusing to give up. Tenacity is keeping forward momentum going with a game plan, a strategy, and the determination to keep your dreams alive even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of tenacity in life. Just take any number of our wounded warriors home from the Middle East or other hotspots around the world, many of whom are missing one or more limbs to go along with psychological scarring. It would be easy for them to give up, and there’d be few to blame them, but most (fortunately) remain tenacious even in such dire circumstances—determined to live their lives to the fullest. That’s strength with purpose, and I wager any one of us can look to our own lives—friends, family, colleagues—who have remained steadfast and determined when faced with a sudden accident, health issue, or some other life event.

In sports, examples or tenacity are all around us. Just check the NFL injury reports week after week. From concussions to torn ACLs and MCLs, the sports pages are replete with examples of athletes battling back from often season-ending (if not career-threatening injury). It takes tenacity and willpower to reclaim your spot on the field—qualities many top athletes had to possess in the first place, just to make it in professional sports.

Success in relationships takes tenacity as well. Life is not always rosy, from financial woes to job issues to health scares to how people simply grow and evolve over time. Keeping relationships fresh and healthy takes hard work and constant attention. It takes tenacity (just ask your gram and gramps, married for 50+ years!).

Getting good grades takes tenacity as well, especially at the collegiate level. Those with a drive to get the most out of their educational dollars often do, while those just along for the ride tend to underperform. When it comes to school, strength with a purpose usually equates to excellent grades and excellent opportunities following graduation.

And it goes without saying that success in business takes tenacity too—whether it’s getting your foot in the door in pursuit of your dream job, or getting a promotion, successfully operating your own business, or leading a high performing team. The key to it all is tenacity.

Talent vs. Tenacity

Winston Churchill’s tenacity was a key to the Allies winning World War II. Consider the affect his words had on those fighting in the air and on sea and land, “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, we shall never give in.”

Apple fave, the late Steve Jobs, could have folded up his tent when Apple seemed stuck and going nowhere in the early 1990s—to the point where he was ousted from Apple altogether. Jobs persisted—he was tenacious—and Apple now has more than $117 billion in cold, hard cash in reserve!

And by some accounts, Arthur C. Clarke had his manuscript for 2001: A Space Odyssey rejected nearly 50 times. Yet he persisted. The book was published, Stanley Kubrick got his hands on it, made a movie, and the rest is Sci-Fi history.

How has being tenacious helped you in your personal or professional pursuits? Has it ever hurt you?

Share your experiences here.