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  • Writer's pictureBrett Simpson

Perseverance: The Intersection of Aptitude & Attitude

I saw a graphic the other day that had the words “DON’T QUIT” on it, which is quite clever. I liked the way the strikethroughs turned a leading negative into a positive. It moves from “Don’t…”, a burdensome word, to “Do…”, an affirming word that implies opportunity and possibility. Turning “Don’t” into “Do” is powerful.

This can be especially impactful in business. If you’re a leader, try changing your “Don’ts” into “Do’s”. Start small and go an hour without saying “Don’t”, ideally choosing an hour during which you have one or more meetings. Then try to go a day without saying it, then a week. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to go that long without saying “Don’t”.

The point isn’t to remove the word from our corporate vocabulary entirely, rather to think about the implications of its use. What does a work environment filled with “Don’ts” look like, feel like, perform like? How would that compare to an environment filled with “Do’s”? “Don’t” is useful and necessary, but often overused. When my daughters were young it seemed like our go-to word was “Don’t”…and now that I think about it, we still use it with them more than we probably should even though they’re in college. 

“Don’t” establishes limits, whereas “Do” suggests freedom. In my experience, “Don’t” can unintentionally hinder progress, where as “Do” creates and promotes an environment of perseverance. Perseverance gets too little attention as a differentiator in business.

What is the Perseverance Intersection?

Perseverance is the intersection of aptitude and attitude (see Intersection 18 image below). Aptitude without attitude is wasted talent. Attitude without aptitude is execution-less intention. Perseverance is simultaneously the acknowledgement of failure and the belief in success. 


Simply put, aptitude is capability. It means that the skills, knowledge and experience needed to do something are present. Aptitude also includes the ability to learn, iterate and innovate. It isn’t the end itself, rather it’s a means to the end.

When we persevere there’s an implication that either we didn’t succeed on the first attempt or that we weren’t satisfied with the results of the first attempt. Thus, in our perseverance we tried again. Aptitude comes into play when we refine each subsequent attempt at success to be better than the previous one.

I’ve found that “Don’ts” can stifle aptitude development, whereas “Do’s” can encourage it. 

Intersection 18: Perseverance = Aptitude + Attitude


Attitude is a mindset. At its best it means a positive desire and drive to succeed, even when success requires multiple attempts, hence perseverance. At its worst, attitude can be a progress-killer that turns perseverance into a painful exercise in repetitiveness. Perseverance happens most effectively when there’s a can-do attitude. 

This goes back to the “Do’s” versus the “Don’ts”. The positive-thinking mentality of an individual or team has a significant impact on the level of performance that can be achieved. When we think of attitude as it relates to achievement and performance many times the word that comes to mind is motivation.

Motivation and perseverance work hand-in-hand, with motivation as a driving force. The motivation levers to be pulled can be positive or negative, both of which impact the attitude an individual or team has about doing something (i.e. their desire to persevere).  

My observation is a healthier, more efficient form of perseverance exists when the individuals or teams involved have an optimistic attitude toward achieving success.

What Can Leaders Do?

Removing “Don’t” from leadership lingo isn’t what I’m proposing. Rather, that leaders through their language and actions (i.e. aptitude and attitude) have more tools at their disposal than just their title. Leaders that persevere inspire their teams to do the same. Perseverance can be learned and incented.   

Wrap Up & Up Next

Perseverance is the response to not getting it right 100% of the time on the first try. It expands the limits of what’s possible. 

Next time we’ll examine the 19th intersection of performance, which is the Preparation Intersection.

In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.

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