Why determination matters for success, and how to develop determination by believing in yourself.

Why determination matters

by | Personal

It’s never good practice to suddenly stop issuing a business newsletter, especially when it’s part of a new venture.

You’re developing new connections, and a newsletter can deliver value, help build a reputation, and develop new relationships.

But there are times when we need to drop everything and turn our full attention elsewhere.

For me, that happened in late October when I journeyed to the North of England to help care for my father. He died on Nov. 21.

Passed on through generations

My decision to travel during the pandemic to care for my Dad while running a new business (and planning another venture) is in part due to my determination. And I’m pretty sure that has something to do with Dad. All through his life – up until the end – he was an incredibly determined man.

On why determination matters
Thomas Edwin Caygill, AKA Dad

Dad’s determination wasn’t a conscious choice. He didn’t wake up and say: “Right, today I’ll be determined.”

It was a part of who he was. His own father, my Granddad, had been a determined man, too. Granddad survived The Battle of the Somme before being taken prisoner.

In the Second World War, Granddad ensured his family was well-fed by turning his garden into a vegetable plot and breeding rabbits. He was determined his family would survive, regardless of food shortages, rationing, air raids, and the threat of invasion.

Determination matters, regardless of goals

Dad’s determination didn’t result in any outstanding success by today’s standards. But when he was determined, he overcame. He kicked a 60-a-day smoking habit in the late ’60s, and kept a job when the decline of the industrial North of England accelerated in the 1970s.

In later years, he made significant changes to his diet, opting for healthy foods and herbal teas, not easy habits to develop in a working class culture where beer and chips are the norm.

Dad experienced serious bouts of depression a number of times in his life. But he somehow managed to get up everyday, putting one foot in front of the other, doing what he had to do to pay the bills and feed two children.

One foot in front of the other

Putting one foot in front of the other was Dad’s way of getting through life, and when I was too young to protest he insisted that I follow his footsteps – literally. By the time I was 11, Dad had taken me on many arduous long distance walks. Walking 20 miles across the North Yorkshire Moors or climbing three peaks in the Lake District was all in a day’s hike for him, and consequently for me, too.

Did Dad think these hikes would help build my character, or add strength to my thin frame? Did he want to make sure I too would put one foot in front of the other when challenges loomed large, or when I felt too tired to continue? I have no idea. And, to be honest, some of his lessons were lost on me until I was much older.

Looking back on Dad’s life – and with the influence of friends and role models – I realize that whatever I’m pursuing, determination is essential. If we can’t make progress in the face of difficulties or frustrations, we won’t succeed.

Dyson and Woolf valued determination

James Dyson of the cyclone vacuum cleaner fame understood this. His determination came from long distance running. He said: “I was quite good at it (running), not because I was physically good, but because I had more determination. I learned determination from it.”

Yes, Dyson was creative and innovative. He had talent. But it was his determination to keep going that made him a success.

Virginia Woolf felt what many writers feel at times, whether they are working on a novel, essay, script, or strategy document: “The creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. It is determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keeps one at it more than anything.”

Do you believe in your abilities?

If determination eludes you, consider exploring your belief in your abilities. Look at how you solve problems and respond to frustrations. If self-belief is lacking, determination can be elusive. By working on developing your sense of self-belief, you can and will make progress.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see my Dad. It’s the day before he died and he is wasted away through cancer, unsteady on his feet, with no appetite. Yet he tells me he is getting up, and he slowly makes his way from his bedroom, across the living room and into his armchair, where he sits with his dog.

He was determined, and he got there.

1 Comment

  1. Scott Lundy

    Hello, Sheelagh. I’m saddened to hear your father died last month.

    It took courage, determination, dedication and self-belief to travel to England during a pandemic and then care for your ailing dad in the last days of his life.

    This article is a fitting tribute to your remarkable father.

    Stay safe and well, my friend, and know that you are loved.


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