Persistence Trumps Talent

Have you ever experienced a time when everything went your way? When you were driving and all the lights turned green at just the right time? When you received a refund check because you had overpaid on a bill? When you were playing golf and you hit the ball way out of bounds but it hit a tree and bounced back into the middle of the fairway? Have you ever experienced one of those times?

Persistence Trumps Talent

Photo Credit: kleuske

On the contrary, have you ever experienced a time when nothing went your way? When you were running late for a meeting and all the lights seemed to turn red? When you had only a few dollars left in your checking account and then received one more bill that had to be paid by the end of the month? Or when you hit your golf ball down the middle of the fairway and it hit the top of a sprinkler head and bounced out of bounds?

These questions deal with a principle that I believe in: that persistence trumps talent.

Persistence trumps talent because over time, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, persistence is more important than talent.

I’m not the only one to believe this principle. Ray Croc, the leader who franchised and built the McDonald’s company once said,

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

In order to correctly understand the principle that persistence trumps talent we must examine what talent and persistence are.

Talent is something that is natural and that you are born with. It is the inherent ability someone has to do something without (or before) an extensive amount of practice. In other words, talent is:

  • What you are born with.
  • What you do not have to work for.
  • A result of who you are.
  • What can be accomplished with very little effort or without practice

Persistence, on the other hand, is pushing beyond obstacles to get what you want. In other words, persistence is:

  • Giving all you can to reach a goal and but not backing down.
  • What you do after you have no talent left.
  • What carries you through when you have no natural ability (i.e. “talent”).
  • What allows you to accomplish more than you would have if you did not persist towards the goal.
  • What takes you outside of your comfort zone.

The principle that persistence trumps talent showed itself in my life as a young many in high school.

In high school I lived in Valley Springs, CA, which is a small town that has no stop lights, one bank, and no Starbucks. It was a small town but I had big dreams of being able to play golf professionally and in college. For years I worked hard at my golf game day after day to improve and get better. I traveled around the United States playing in golf tournaments in an attempt to get national exposure and to improve my game by playing with the best players.

While playing for my high school golf team, Calaveras High School, I earned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the entire league of six schools we played against. Things were looking good as I entered my senior year of high school hoping to sign an agreement in October to play golf on scholarship for a college.

However, October came and went, and no offers from colleges arrived. I was looked at by a few schools and considered as a possible player there, but when the official date in October came to sign agreements with colleges, no one offered me a scholarship. So I pressed on and kept practicing and playing in golf tournaments, determined to succeed in my goal of playing golf for a college. The next signing period was in April. There was still hope.

April came and went, with no official offers from colleges. It was a very difficult time for me as my dream of playing golf in college on a scholarship was slowly slipping away. Every day that went by without an offer was a day that allowed the grip on my dream to slip farther and farther away. To my credit, I did not give up. I kept working hard and kept playing in golf tournaments in order to gain exposure. That’s when I had a lucky break.

In late April, I entered into the Alameda Commuter’s Golf Tournament in Alameda, CA. I was paired with a guy named Ken Webb who was a former player for California State University, Stanislaus (CSU, Stanislaus) in Turlock, CA. CSU, Stanislaus was one of the highest ranked Division II schools in the country and was coached by Jim Hanny, a coach who had won 12 national Division III championships in golf before CSU, Stanislaus became a Division II school.

Ken Webb recognized my talent for the game of golf, and when he found out that I was not committed to play for a particular school in the fall, he quickly connected me to Jim Hanny and encouraged him to offer me a scholarship. After a meeting with Mr. Hanny for lunch and a round of golf with him, I was soon offered a scholarship that would pay for my entire tuition as well as my books.

My dream had finally come true. I would be playing on a golf scholarship for a nationally ranked Division II college. The dream took much longer to achieve than I had hoped. But it had finally come together after seven years of hard work, dedication, and failing to give up after the first two “opportunities” passed for me to sign an agreement to play for a college. Even though I might not have been the most talented golfer I was able to earn a scholarship because I was persistent. I did not give up.

Because of my story and my experience, I believe that in life, persistence trumps talent.

In closing this blog post, I’d like to share with you this quote by Robert Schwarz Strauss:

Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired–you quit when the gorilla is tired.

So remember, persistence trumps talent.

Question: What is an experience in your life where you had to use persistence to trump the talent you had?

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at