A Definition of Determination

Alan BelniakGeneral, passionLeave a Comment

chalk board math (also used on http://www.SubjectivelySpeaking.net)I was thinking the other day about a business idea that I had.  It was fleeting – somewhat ill-formed, maybe a flash in the pan.  It might come back to me, but I’m OK if it doesn’t.  And that’s because I’m not very determined to follow up on that idea, because I don’t see a high degree of likelihood of me putting my regular life on hold to pursue that.


It got me thinking even more: what is determination, exactly?

No cheezy Webster’s dictionary post, no motivational poster hacks on the topic.  I was thinking: what are the two or three core components that go into whether or not one is determined to do something?


I started fiddling around with some abstract concepts, and then – more importantly – how they relate to one another.  Here’s what I came up with:


Determination = (ability to do something) x (likelihood of actually doing it)


Ability to do something

This is somewhat abstract, in and of itself.  I may have an idea for a great mobile device app, but I can’t code to save my life.  So, on a very strict basis, this would make my ability here 0.  But what I mean a little more broadly is “do I have the ability to assemble a team or find the right resources to get this done?”  And once that broader definition is applied, then it starts to work.  So, this is the ability, in general, to execute on the idea.


Likelihood of actually doing it

If you get your great business idea (or any other idea; insert your epiphany of choice), are you going to follow through with it?  I had almost a dozen semi-decent ideas while I was in business school, and two were probably very viable (they actually were, since I’ve seen something very close to them get actualized).  But, at that time of my life, the likelihood of those ideas getting any traction were low – I was in school part-time, I was working, I had (and still have!) a mortgage, I had a kid on the way (and have two now)… it wasn’t in the cards for me to stop what I was doing and go full-tilt on these ideas to make them a reality.


How They Relate

I decided to relate these by simple multiplication, because if one is strong (a high value), and one is weak (a low value), they cancel each other out.  If both are low, then the result, too, is low.  And of course if both are high, the result is high.


Take, for example, Will, in “Good Will Hunting”.  Will totally had the ability to write a blank check and get him out of being a janitor.  But he had no drive to do so until someone lit the spark for him.  In this case, he had a huge amount of ability, but until his doc (and other muse) came along, the likelihood was really low.  Or, take the fictitious example of the incredibly passionate person who can’t seem to muster together a team of people, nor is she strong enough in her own abilities, but is so determined to change her life’s path that she’ll do anything to make it happen.  This is a case of low ability, but incredible passion to will something to happen.


And of course, the highest value will occur when one has a high ability to make something happen, and can see it through to the end with vim and vigor – combined, this is an unstoppable force.  A determined force.


I know this is more of an abstract post today, but I bet one could go back and assign some real values to these two arguments (ability and likelihood).  Maybe something like a 0.0 to a 10.0 scale.  It’d be interesting to take one’s personal pet projects or ideas, score/rank them (as objectively as you could), and see how they shake out.


image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddumas/22986847/


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