I saw this tweet in my feed this morning and responded:

If there was one word I would use to describe my secret to success it would be tenacity.

I just put my mind to something and grind on it.

I am not the smartest person in the room.

I am not the most organized person.

I don’t manage people well.

So I have a ton of weaknesses.

But my superpower is that I wake up with a ton of energy and apply it to everything I’m working on and keep doing that until I get an acceptable outcome.

It reminds me of the lesson of Angela Duckworth‘s book Grit that I wrote about last year.

the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

It is powerful stuff.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Pointsandfigures

    But sometimes you have to use Jiu-Jitsu

    1. fredwilson

      correct !!!!!

      1. Richard

        These are related. The root of tenacity ten is to stretch.

    2. cavepainting

      Truth is that tenacity can be good or bad; it really depends on the place it is coming from.If the tenacity is coming from ego, (i.e. you want to do it for fame, money, or a reason that is driven by pride, jealousy, etc.) it can be a very bad thing. It can lead you down rabbit holes because the passion and persistence are really a means to an ego-driven end and you have no genuine or sincere intent to natively do that activity.However, if the tenacity is coming from a genuine desire to do that particular activity, the quality of the output and your chances of figuring it out increase dramatically. In this case, the earnestness and the effort comes deep within yourself. There is no other thing you would rather be doing than this. Almost like, you cannot exist without doing this thing.You are more likely to combine grit with Jiu-Jitsu (i.e. question yourself and disrupt your way of solving the problem) when the ego is not involved.Everyone has a natural affinity for something. Search to find what it is. Then give your entire whole to that pursuit. When you love something so much that you (i.e. the ego) disappear in its pursuit, the universe will conspire to make it happen.PS: Of course, it does not mean that ego-dominant endeavors cannot succeed. But I truly believe that things that are world-class that make a dent on the universe come from a much deeper place.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        A bit simplistic; mostly pretty good; but a bit too optimistic and, potentially a recipe for disaster, at the end. E.g., this stuff that “the universe will conspire to make it happen” is a bit too much to hope for. I just hope the universe doesn’t conspire against me!

  2. Frank W. Miller

    I wish I had a superpower…

    1. fredwilson

      everyone does.

      1. cavepainting

        Yes. But the real questions are: A) have you made a conscious attempt to search for it? and B) if you have found it, have you dedicated your life to leveraging and expanding it? Most people never do A. Of the few who do, most never get to B.Rare are the people who do both A and B – these people were blessed with life circumstances that allowed for discovery and pursuit, and also made brave and authentic individual choices.I truly believe that life is a search for the super power given to you. Education has to help people find it. Instead, we have created factory farms that churn out standard outputs.

    2. Vendita Auto

      China is a good choice

      1. JLM

        .Haha, funny shit.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Vendita Auto

          On a construction site site we would call that a Mr Whippy

  3. JimHirshfield

    I’ve quoted this here before, but worthy of a repost…Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Calvin Coolidge

    1. fredwilson

      so good

    2. JLM

      .Used to be my favorite, now I love this one:”All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”Who said that? [Lawrence of Arabia]Entrepreneurs are persons who dream with their eyes open.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. JimHirshfield

        Thanks. That’s a good one.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Yes, I always got the impression that T. E. Lawrence was very much a 19th century romantic!I like to watch the first part of the movie, through his return to Cairo announcing that he’s taken Aqaba. In the first half there is Maurice Jarre’s striking, often close to violent, music and David Lean’s astounding pastel desert photography. But what I really liked was how Lawrence ignored, stood up to, patronized, insulted, humiliated, showed up, was insubordinate to all the British army stiffs!The movie seemed to suggest that Lawrence just went from some background in England to a slot as an insubordinate British army map clerk in Cairo to leading a lot of Arabs to driving the Turks out of Arabia.Well, the truth was easier to believe: For his senior paper or project or some such, he had traveled widely in Arabia studying the old castles. There he learned the culture, how to ride camels, about the geography and tribes, IIRC at least some of the language, etc. So, his slot in the British army in Cairo was not his first time in the area.The line about Lawrence early in the movie from Dryden “He knows his stuff, Sir” actually was correct, and the response from General Murray “He knows books, you mean” was just an ignorant, arrogant insult.So, in the first half of the movie, Lawrence shows up all the stiff, oblivious British officers. “There would be no question about his giving military advice, Sir.”. Then he does really well with the Arabs, especially Feisal. The dinner tent negotiations with Auda Abu Tay were terrific!!!! “… He WILL go because it is his ‘pleasure'”. I’m no expert on leadership, but it seemed that early on Lawrence did really well being a good leader by getting the respect of his men.”I have no tribe, and no one is offended.” Leadership can be a lonely slot.When he returned to Cairo after taking Aqaba, he had a really good time essentially provoking the stiff British into insulting him then, soon, as he and General Allenby, over maybe lemonade on the terrace, the curious, confused, but amazed stiff officers in the bar looked on and saw how wrong they had been.They all would have bet a year’s pay that the whole British army and navy in the Mideast could not have taken Aqaba, e.g., because of the guns. No way could an individual do it. Even if an individual could have done it, the last person in Cairo, the Mideast, or the British army to have done it would have been Lawrence. Why? “Any time spent on the Arabs will be time wasted. They are a nation of sheep stealers.” and “How can I fight a bloody war without bloody artillery?”.Robert Bolt wrote a good story! Good formula fiction: A strange, socially awkward and oblivious, outcast weakling protagonist shows up the whole British military and leads a nation of sheep stealers to beat the Turks!!Yes, there back in Cairo, when Colonel Brighton said that Lawrence should get rid of the robes the Arabs had, as an honor and sign of respect, given him and should “get into some trousers” was something like when Trump entered the White House and various stiff advisors, who couldn’t have gotten even 10 electoral votes, said he should stop using Twitter!!!

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Thanks. Such praise, praise highly regarded. I used a keyboard and some fingers.

      3. Matt A. Myers


  4. Michel Nizon

    Tenacity And Humility. You’re demonstrating the two, obviously!

  5. Tom Labus

    Good timing and partners too. Plus a touch of luck!!!

  6. TeddyBeingTeddy

    If you could give you kids one gift, one trait where they’d score far above average, would it be:-grit-responsibility-math-funny-good looking-nice/empathetic-memoryIf these were the only options, which one?

    1. kidmercury

      memory. a great memory is associated with high intelligence and virtually every other positive attribute you would want (save physical beauty), including things like patience.i am a supporter of fred’s thesis and view grit is an essential ingredient to success, and emotionally it is what i cherish and value the most. but intellectually, having seen persuasive data, i have to go with memory.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        With computers, file search software, and Google, memory is much less important than it used to be.

        1. kidmercury

          yes, but memory is highly correlated with intelligence. you don’t need memory, but if memory means you’re intelligent — that is very valuable. in fact, intelligence is more valuable than it ever has been.

      2. cavepainting

        I got to disagree deeply with you on this. Memory is a burden, not an asset.You are also conflating memory with intellect, judgement, and intuition.

        1. kidmercury

          working memory is highly correlated with general intelligence (information processing). agree that judgement (decision making) and intuition (wisdom) are different, but judgment in particular is also correlated with intelligence.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      There are a LOT of people super tough to beat on all of those except just math. For “scoring far above average”, math is by far the easiest. For the others, good enough is important but with good parenting not very difficult. For the future, math may be the best of this list.Why math? In simple terms, because computers will do the arithmetic. More generally, computers will do what they are told to do. Then a big issue is what to tell the computers to do. Well, we can, and we long have, known what to tell the computers to do — what we understood how to do manually or intuitively. Now we’ve moved on to what we can think to do via essentially just cross tabulation — it is powerful. But determining what to do via math is a great step forward.For getting started, the main topics are high school algebra, high school plane geometry with careful attention to proofs, hopefully high school trigonometry and solid geometry, also with proofs, then college calculus and linear algebra. There’s a start on linear algebra in this thread today in my post debunking IQ. For more, well, there’s a lot.With that potential of math in mind, there is a warning: So few people place any value on math that there is nearly no career potential working for others in math with one exception — working for US national security. Otherwise, nearly no one with money enough to create a good job will do at all well hiring in math. So, for any career potential in math, it is for now nearly essential to be a founder of a successful startup that somehow makes valuable exploitation of math. There, of course, the customers will have no knowledge of the role of the math, usually deep in the core of some server side software.So, the bad news is, outside of US national security, there are no good paying jobs in math. The good news is, for valuable applications of math, there is nearly no competition.E.g., note that James Simons and Andrew Viterbi were company founders.Not on the list but likely more important would be one word — leadership.

    3. cavepainting

      Everything you have listed is really a function of the same assumption: that some physical or mental attribute will make him/her really happy. (People want to be successful only because they think it will make them happy).Maybe the better thing to ask is a meta-gift or meta-wish. The ability to be happy and joyful irrespective of the level of their mental or physical attributes, or the circumstances of their life.I hope my kids develop the ability to be more aware of their minds, and learn to use it as a servant on demand, and not become enslaved to it. Whoever learns to do this has a shot at living joyfully without suffering the compulsions of the mind.

  7. LIAD

    as i get older, am realising tenacity needs to be tempered with maturity and objectivity.it’s not always the best course of action to be like a dog with a bone.

    1. LE

      Wow there are so many things that happened here. One is that you were the crazy driver that others watched out for. Another is it was easier for them to give you what you wanted than it was to keep rejecting you. But that is because they were weak. In some cases you run into people that have much more staying power and actually enjoy that type of battle (I am pretty close to being that person). In that case they will take personal enjoyment from sticking to their original decision. In that case you then (if you recognize that) have to shift gears and be a likeable person to get what you want. More of a ‘keep your enemies closer’ type of thing. It’s all about reading the people. Deals are people (as a well known person has said and it’s 100% true). The good news is that people in these positions are typically not high capacity so they are easy to defeat with effort if you outrun them.

    2. jason wright

      but you have to pick your fights. not every fight is worth winning.

  8. David A. Frankel

    Yes. And combine tenacity with audacity and people can be unstoppable. Add in authenticity, and you have someone others will follow in order to accomplish great things.

  9. Randall Tinfow

    Without tenacity, the other noble characteristics add up to little.

  10. PhilipSugar

    I think this blog is a testament to that. People can piss and moan about they don’t like a post.You know what every day there is a post. That is tenacity, and discipline. Maybe some of that Army background is rubbing off. I couldn’t do it.That is why it has such a following.

    1. LE

      Not to take away from what Fred does but there are a few dynamics that are going on that cause that behavior in Fred. For one thing you are not in a position to have a large group of people that would read the blog and you are not in a position to get the feedback or benefit that would keep you going at it. That is a very important part. The positive feedback. Not saying there is no negative btw. That keeps someone ‘in the game’. (What’s unfortunate is that that has now morphed into ‘everyone gets a prize’ in kids but that’s another discussion). Sure Fred started and had no audience that is true. However there were other reasons that kept him in the game at that point. Those reasons are certainly less important now.I know that you travel a great deal. I thought you said 200 days per year or something like that. When I think about that I think ‘I could never do that’. But then again I’ve never traveled like that and I have also said that I think you are not suffering doing that and I think that you like it. [1] You find ways to get rewarded and to feel special. I remember when I did travel by airplane for business how great it felt to be going through an airport at an early hour etc. There are things that I like doing that many people hate. That is because I get a positive reward from doing those things. Because of what I can do that others find hard (part of my other comment). No suffering at all. I think the important thing for young people to keep in mind is this. You will never win going up against someone who enjoys and doesn’t suffer much what you have pain and suffering for. (I wish I had a more profound way of saying that).[1] Or the things that you do around your house. No way no how will I do those things that is suffering to me!!! (I made money doing that as a kid btw..)

      1. cavepainting

        Great comment.What you can do effortlessly, no one else can ever match.What you do with suffering, you can never be a master of.Find what you are attracted to that seems the most natural to youThat you can lose time and self while doing it.Make a living on that if you canAnd the world will look very different.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Great comment. It is why I say you have to find something you like

  11. Girish Mehta

    I agree it is important. You are saying it works great for you, its your superpower and thats great. Nobody knows better than you what works for you. And your daily writing here is a simple but not irrelevant example of tenacity.I think it is important to know when tenacity works against you. Many times its ego masquerading as tenacity.Tenacity takes its toll. So you better be sure that it was worth it. It is useful to think about tenacity in terms of your opportunity cost.

    1. PhilipSugar

      I don’t know if it’s ego or not. You always have some good quote. Maybe as LIAD says it’s objectivity, knowing when to quit.I’d say for most you should have it in the back of your mind and go at least twice as far/long as you think.I mean look at William and Cyrpto Currency. He can tell you better than me, but I think he was out in the wilderness for a long while.

      1. Girish Mehta

        I agree that going farther/longer than you thought is important.Thats related to the idea that many failures are potential successes that gave up just before the last step that would have made them successful. I believe that is true.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I think I finally got a quote that might just be close (not equal) to one of yours.

      2. cavepainting

        The ego is multi-layered, and very sneaky and subtle. Even the person may not realize his decisions and tenacity were coming from a place of ego.Unraveling and Un-Peeling it layer by layer is a hard thing to do.Most people would not care to even want to consider becoming naked to themselves unless some life event or combination of events forces them to question everything about who they are and how their minds work.Every decision we take, every judgement we come to, whether we live in joy or suffering, and in all walks of life – from words of love to a spouse to a M&A decision to feeling pangs of insecurity or jealousy – is all wrapped in the mind, its code, and triggers.Seeking to understand, debug, and rewrite this code is the most fundamental thing we ought to do. Yet most of us would never bother to do it in our entire lifetimes.

    2. PhilipSugar

      Sorry I posted to fast: Thomas Edison on making a lightbulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

      1. sigmaalgebra

        IIRC Edison eventually heard of the European success with tungsten as a filament but was the first to use it with high resistance, low current, and high voltage.

    3. LE

      Tenacity takes its toll.Very true.Many of the problems in society (including mental health and physical issues) are caused by people trying to exceed what I will call ‘their baseline capacity’. As such they try to ‘keep up with the Jones’ when they have no business doing that. But they are pushed by either third parties or their observation of what others have achieved and done. Envy and going for the brass ring. And this can lead to major issues in their life. (Family, health and so on). [1]So for example things that I am able to do (or Fred, Phil Sugar, JLM, William Mougayar) [2] are that fall well below our baseline capacity and come easy. Sure they take effort and credit should be given. But the amount of pain and suffering in one person is not going to be the same in everybody. Hence the problem when one person tries to do what someone else can do so much easier. (Or vice versa). We all have strong points and weak points. If you need to read an article or a blog post or go to a motivational event (what the guy tweeted at Fred does by the way he does that shit) you are probably not that person. If you are that person you already are that way. Don’t think anyone told Fred to wake up with energy and not give up and keep trying.[1] You wonder why so many people are alcoholics or get addicted to drugs? Not the only reason but certainly one of the reasons is competing in a society and against people who not only have different abilities and can take punishment but also a lack of understanding of the impact of what those people do on their life. It’s all hidden.[2] An example of this could be Fred’s former partner at Flatiron. http://www.colonna.org/ Should Jerry have been more tenacious and not quit VC? Of course not. And it’s more than just whether he like doing that it also has to do no doubt with his baseline capacity to handle the lifestyle. Jerry no doubt listened to his body in making the decision to shift gears in his career. Apologies if I am talking out of my ass using Jerry btw.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Just saying that tenacity extracts a toll and has an opportunity cost. So, pick what you want to be tenacious about, and be sure you are being tenacious for the right reasons (not ego).Re: “If you are that person, you are already that way”. The problem with that is that it can get you into Fixed Mindset, rather than a Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck). Both about yourself and others. I don’t like that and prefer not to think like that.However, to support your point, there’s a story about an exceptional man-A young composer came to Mozart and asked him how to write a symphony.Mozart replied, “You are too young to write a symphony, start with something simpler first.” The young man said, “But you were writing symphonies when you were 9 years of age.”Mozart said “Yes, but I didn’t run around asking people how to do it.”

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Mozart’s father was a good musician. Wolfgang grew up hearing music and learning it as a language much like a natural language, in his case no doubt German. At his time, there were some simple rules for writing a symphony and a lot of music. In particular, early on, Mozart wrote in the Rococo style. And Mozart had, for this thread today, a lot of “tenacity” — he was good at keyboard and violin, was writing music starting at about 6, as a child and Wunderkind was on tour of the palaces of Europe. So, from birth, about all he did was music.We can chalk up all the above as routine. So, where was Mozart special? Well, he didn’t just write music according to the rules, in the rococo style. Lots of people were able to do that and did. E.g., from the movie, sure, heard of A. Salieri.Mozart was special because he wrote art as in “the communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion”. So, he understood human experience and emotion. Just how he did that, I’ve never heard.So, for some examples,The Magic Flute – Queen of the Night aria (Mozart; Diana Damrau, The Royal Opera)https://www.youtube.com/wat…Bartoli & Fleming – Le Nozze di Figaro – Sull’ariahttps://www.youtube.com/wat…Jascha Heifetz, Mozart, Violin Concerto #5, K. 219.https://www.youtube.com/wat…Mozart – The Magic Flute: In Diesen Heil’gen Hallen (Gottlob Frick, bass)https://www.youtube.com/wat…

          1. JLM

            .CRUSHING ITSend me a case.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. Joe Marchese

    https://uploads.disquscdn.c… WD-40: the 40th formula the team tried for Water Displacement. Imagine if they had given up at 39.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Tenacity is important. But the problem with such examples is Survivorship Bias.

    2. Vasudev Ram

      Great product design and color combination too.

    3. Richard Carlow

      Genuinely surprised it was only 40.

  13. Jeremy Robinson

    Angela Duckworth is a rock star. Her research on Grit summarized in the book you mention makes outstanding reading!

    1. TeddyBeingTeddy

      Could be a one sentence book; “those that succeed largely have more perseverance than others. The end.”

      1. Jeremy Robinson

        Read the entire book with all her research and come back and see if you still feel that way. Reading the book is the gritty thing to do. Not reading it and making clever comments about her conclusions misses the inspiration of her journey.

        1. TeddyBeingTeddy

          I did read the whole thing. It was ok but it was no Sapiens, Outliers, etc. it was common sensical.

          1. Jeremy Robinson

            Fair enough.

  14. curtissumpter

    Two awesome posts in a row. Nice.

  15. kidmercury

    i am a huge fan of relentlessness, and push myself to think and act accordingly as much as possible. my one quibble with this post is that fred is a very intelligent person, this really is not a debatable point. maybe he is not the smartest person in the room but if so that is only because he is in a very smart room. intelligence is important, much like how height and weight are important for physical sports.this is not a fun point to consider because it implies a degree of inequality amongst us that may not be easily reconciled, if at all. but i think it is important when we think about education and how to deal with the especially gifted and get the most out of them as well as those who struggle intellectually and how to help them.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      IQ? Okay, let’s debunk that:For positive integers m and n, with m some thousands and n a hundred or so, have a list of n questions and for each of m people get their answers, each answer a real number, to each of the n questions. So, the n questions are, call it, an IQ test where IQ abbreviates “intelligence quotient”.Okay, so we have n numbers, a hundred or so numbers, from each of m, some thousands, of people.A matrix is a rectangular array of numbers. So, let matrix A have m rows and n columns where, for i = 1, 2, …, m and j = 1, 2, …, n, the number a_ij in row i and column j is the answer of person i on question j. For some notation we write matrix A = [a_ij] and say that A is m x n, read “m by n”. So, A is the m x n matrix [a_ij]. The “_ij” part is supposed to indicate that “ij” forms a subscript and is notation borrowed from D. Knuth’s mathematical typesetting software TeX. For this work, matrix notation is a nice advantage.Similarly we define matrix B to have n rows and m columns where B = [b_ji] where b_ji = a_ij. So matrix B is n x m and has the same data as matrix A but the columns of A are the rows of B. Matrix B is called the transpose of matrix A. Commonly we write B = A^T, where the “T” is supposed to be a superscript, or B = A’. But here there’s nothing wrong with using B.Well, here we will have to move more quickly or write a few chapters of a text on matrix theory: We can form the product BA which will be n x n. And we will have that BA is symmetric so that it is equal to its transpose, that is, so that (BA)^T = BA. Next, for n x 1 x, we can form x^T(BA)x = (x^TA^T)(Ax) = (Ax)^T(Ax) >= 0. Here we use that matrix multiplication is associative, which was likely the reason “New Math” wanted to teach grade school students about associativity, and the transpose of a product is the product of the transposes in reverse order. Finally we get (Ax)^T(Ax) >= 0 because the way matrix product works the left side is just a sum of squared numbers, and, thus, non-negative. So, BA is called symmetric positive definite or real and Hermitian. F’get about the “definite” part since no one remembers what that ever meant! And for Hermitian, there was a guy Charles Hermite.So, from some of the central results in a course in matrix theory, there exists n x n matrix Q, n x n matrix D = [d_ij], n x n matrix I so thatQ^T(BA)Q = DD_ii >= 0, otherwise D_ij is 0Q^TQ = Iand I = [k_ij] where k_ii = 1 and otherwise k_ij = 0.So, the Q^TQ = I thing says that Q is an ortho-normal matrix. That means that it’s columns regarded as vectors in n dimensional space are of length 1 and orthogonal, that is, perpendicular. The matrix D is diagonal because it is all zeros except for the diagonal components d_ii. Matrix I is also diagonal; its diagonal components are all just ones. Matrix I also plays the role of 1 in ordinary arithmetic. That is, in arithmetic for any number a, 1a = a1 = a so that 1 is the multiplicative identity, and for any n x n matrix C we also have IC = CI = C so that matrix I is the matrix multiplicative identity.So we haveD = Q^T(BA)Q = (AQ)^T(AQ)so that the columns of AQ are all orthogonal, that is, mutually perpendicular. Hmm …FromQ^T(BA)Q = Dwe have that(BA)Q = QDso that each column, say, j, of Q is an eigenvector of BA with non-negative eigenvalue given by d_jj of D. Big, surprising stuff.Then we also have that(BA) = QDQ^TThen if some of d_ii are small, we can get a good approximation to BA using only the larger components of D.OrA = AQQ^TSo that if we have, say, K is like Q but with the columns that correspond to the smaller values of d_ii set to zero, then we can have approximatelyA ~ AKQ^TAlso, for person i, AQ has us take row i from A, to borrow from old PC/DOS file wild card notation, call that a_i*, and multiply that by Q. So, we get a_i*Q. But Q is a special thing: It preserves lengths, is an isometry, a.k.a. unitary. And quantum mechanics uses that, and some physicists, e.g., S. Hawking and L. Susskind, get all excited about what unitary means for information at the event horizon of a black hole.Well, for person i, a_i*Q is a version of their scores as coordinates in the orthogonal coordinate system defined by Q.If we have sorted our data appropriately, then we can have that d_11 >= d_22 >= … >= 0. Then d_11 is the most important and tells us the best one dimensional approximation to all the scores. Then that one dimensional approximation is called intelligent quotient, IQ.Likely as m grows, we get a stable estimate of Q — we could use a theorem here. Then for any new person, not one of the original m, we could take their n x 1 test scores x, form x^TQ, get their n factor scores, with the sorting mentioned, take the first one, and call that their IQ.Done.But, a one dimensional approximation is darned crude.Some people claim that can do really well with 16 dimensions, e.g., some “16 PF” personality test where PF abbreviates principle factors.But human abilities can be of wide variety, where just one or 16 or some such dimensions are just at best a poor approximation.For human abilities, in one simple word, IQ is a joke. In two words, a bad joke. In three words f’get about it.By the way, the approximation is only good in a least squares sense overall, that is, approximating ALL the m people, and is quite free to be very far off for some of the people. Since the thread today is about being exceptional, we are very free just to f’get about IQ!!!!Debunked!!Right, we could fill out this introduction with the roles of some eigenvalues and eigenvectors, the polar decomposition, factor analysis, principle components, spectral decomposition, best least squares approximations, singular value decomposition, the Courant-Fischer min-max result, the interlacing eigenvalues theorem, Lagrange multipliers and the inverse function theorem, etc.About 100 years ago, some people in psychology discovered and tried to apply some of this material.Yes, some of the computer science people working in what they call machine learning or artificial intelligence have discovered this material.My favorite introductory reference is P. Halmos, Finite Dimensional Vector Spaces written at the knee of J. von Neumann as an introduction to Hilbert space theory — a Hilbert space is a complete inner product space, and that’s in effect what we’ve been working with.At the time, Halmos had just gotten his Ph.D. from J. Doob, a US leader in stochastic processes, at U. IL, and was an assistant to von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study.Note that nowhere did we say anything about Gaussian distributions of human ability or anything else.Uh, this is just a blog post, and I need to format a hard disk, install an operating system, and work with the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools to confirm that I can backup and restore a partition with a working instance of an operating system. Last night I found a bunch of ways to copy a DVD, ways that didn’t work — bummer.So I typed this in quickly just from memory, and there may be some errors or better ways to present some of the results.I wrote out such notes quickly once before: I was in grad school, and the profs wanted me to take a course in linear algebra — what is here is essentially all linear algebra. I responded that I knew linear algebra well enough and didn’t need such a course. A course in deterministic optimal control such I’d been working with at FedEx? GREAT! Linear algebra? Crucially important subject but by then behind and beneath me.It was true that I’d never had a course in linear algebra. But I’d worked very carefully through a book by E. Nearing, a student of E. Artin at Princeton, and Halmos. So, I’d worked carefully through books by an Artin student at Princeton and by a von Neumann assistant at the Institute of Advanced Study — it doesn’t get any better than that.Moreover, I’d studied, applied, programmed, etc., connected material from about a cubic foot of closely related material, worked at GE Information Systems HQ as the main guy in development, documentation, and support of their software in applied math which had a lot in linear algebra. And I’d carefully written a manuscript, essentially a book.But the faculty said it was an “advanced course”. I thought the course would be a waste of time.But a night before the course, to review, I wrote out from memory 80 pages of notes that covered about 2/3rds of the course.So, I took the course. The homework was long and detailed and cost me several hours of sleep one day a week — bummer.At the end, I had been correct: I didn’t need the course. It was really unfair to the other students — I led the class in all measures by wide margins. The guy grading the homework made a mistake on one of my early submissions; I corrected him; and he made no more mistakes!Actually, as is common, the course had another purpose, a hidden agenda: It was taught by the department Chair as a filtering course. So, I passed his filter. But, still, that was my first course in linear algebra!But the course was a waste of time, e.g., I didn’t get to study, say,Michael Athans and Peter L. Falb, Optimal Control: An Introduction to the Theory and Its Applications.

  16. Vendita Auto

    Been said before and in my case so true: “Ambition is the last refuge of failure” [Oscar Wilde]

  17. lisa hickey

    It’s not just that you keep going. It’s that you “keep doing that until you get an acceptable outcome.” I think a lot of people don’t understand that difference.

  18. Steven Kane

    “80% of winning is showing up.”Woody Allen(Um, am I allowed to quote Woody Allen?)

    1. JLM

      .Corollary: “Most of the money gets made by the guys who are 80% right but done on time.”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. sigmaalgebra

        By analogy, in the economy, continually there are a lot of shocks, storms, etc. Thus there are lots of waves. Sometimes, with good observation, luck, and timing, can find such a wave and ride it for a while.

    2. creative group

      Steven Kane:You already have. But in the #metoo movement that name (can’t mention it, great director) is a Scarlet.Captain Obvious!#UnequivocallyUnapologeticallyIndependent

  19. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:”I am not the smartest person in the room.I am not the most organized person.I don’t manage people WELL.So I have a ton of weaknesses.” -Fred WilsonSpeechless!Has someone taken over Fred Wilson’s blog. Money does compensate for a lot especially if people want it.Captain Obvious!#UnequivocallyUnapologeticallyIndependent

  20. creative group

    FRED WILSON:Are you scheduled to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS)?https://www.independent.co….CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  21. jason wright

    Obsession, and discovering secrets where others see none.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      > ObsessionNope. You don’t want that. Not the real version as in obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t have it, never did, but I knew someone who did. Trust me: You want nothing to do with obsession.Okay, okay, maybe you aren’t eager to trust me. Well, obsession leads to stress. Stress leads to depression and failure and, then, with obsession, much more stress and then clinical depression and death. Understand now?

      1. jason wright

        obsession sans compulsion. the French have a way with words :)compulsion is where we lose control, we lose the power to choose what we do. obsession flirts with that, but it can be a healthy force if used ‘knowingly’. OCD is a weird thing i have to say, and i agree with you that it is damaging.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Your> discovering secrets where others see none.is from good up to terrific.But on obsession, that’s life threatening stuff, and you are not taking me even 1% seriously enough.Instead of obsession, maybe say determined, focused, hard working, maybe even driven. For obsession, stay far away from that in every sense.Instead of compulsion, use, maybe, careful, perfectionistic, etc.One level deeper, OCD is usually regarded as an anxiety disease. Again, it is NOT something to be casual about. From some of the best experts, we’re talking definitely nature, not nurture, serious brain chemicals out of wack, where psychological talk therapy is known not to work, taking powerful, risky drugs, some of which actually increase the probability of death, etc. They used to talk the IMHO Medieval torture of electro shock.I’ve warned you now twice. I’ll let someone else warn you for the third time, and hopefully that won’t be necessary.”Experience is the great teacher, and some will learn from no other.”.For OCD, I had no background at all and had to learn from experience, stacks of high end books, etc., and paid full tuition. Here with my two warnings you can learn for free.Again, it wasn’t me and, instead, was just someone I knew, well.I’m sure you understand now.

          1. jason wright

            i’m listening, i’m learning. keep it coming.

  22. JLM

    .In a street fight between smart and cunning, put your money on cunning. In a tussle between book smart and high IQ, put your money on cunning.Cunning mixed with a bit of persistence is a super power.Freddie is one of the smartest people I have ever met. Calling BS on his assertion.His persistence in writing this blog on a daily basis — OK, I could do without the funding Fridays and videos and the ski trip dial ins — is a body of work of unparalleled and extraordinary effort and performance. I know of no equal on the web.The community that swims about the AVC whirlpool is world class. In the last month, I have had contact from three different continents which originated on AVC.As to people, Freddie is on the money.But, hey what do I know. I’m just a long winded blowhard. Haha.Happy Easter to all who observe it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Aaron Klein

      “The community that swims about the AVC whirlpool is world class.” This is true.Fred, I still remember the time you said “I’m not surprised Aaron’s company is working…he’s a grinder.”We were still struggling a lot then and that meant a ton to me. I took it as an incredible compliment and this post confirms that. Thank you.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I guess it takes one to know one.BTW I think I witnessed that poignant moment.

        1. Aaron Klein


      2. PhilipSugar

        You are a great example of that. You’ll be that great overnight success 🙂

        1. Aaron Klein

          Thanks, my friend.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Such true words. And this community is the gift that keeps on giving. I have met some of the most impressive people that I know here in the comments.Happy Easter to you, JLM.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Cunning, evasion – another Jiu-Jitsu move, avoid the kick and watch as the attacker falls over from their momentum and gets left behind.I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.

  23. sigmaalgebra

    How does it go, IIRC,Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

  24. sigmaalgebra

    > If there was one word I would use to describe my secret to success it would be tenacity.Well, when continue on with a lot of hours of hard work, mentoring, experience, reflection, deal flow, and judgment.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Sometimes, but not always. Some of the best research in math and science was from short term intensity.Yes, usually there was a long term preparation of prerequisites, but such prerequisites didn’t make the best research easy: Lots of people had the prerequisites but never did any really good research with them.E.g., there are plenty of professors who have learned the good research of others, taught courses in the material for years, have the material highly polished, know it to the center of their bones, have written beautifully polished text books, but don’t go ahead, build on that background, and do good research.

  25. Albert Tai

    My mentality is act like a cockroach. Stay alive, and when everyone thinks your dead…you come back with a few more ;).I find some how staying alive, you have a higher chance of getting opportunities, and with those a higher chance of actually becoming successful.

  26. Frank Traylor

    Long ago I attended a Christmas party held by a VC for his portfolio companies. He went around the room and told a glowing story about each one of the leaders. When my turn, he said “Frank is (long pause) tenacious”. Granted this VC was crammed down by the round that brought me in but I’ve remembered that comment as more insightful than complimentary. There is often a decision between tenacity and knowing when to quit. I tend toward the former. Not easy but sometimes rewarding.