Saturday, September 26, 2015


A Reminder to Choose Wisely.

Last weekend the WSJ Magazine ran a selection of insights from notable folks on the nature of willpower. I burned through a few of the small articles – David Sedaris on his obsession with his Fitbit and daily walking/exercise routine, for example – then sat back and wondered what the heck I thought about willpower as a concept.

The first thing that popped into my mind was a few of my favorite E.L. Doctorow lines – the novelist died in July at the age of 84 – from his perfect collection of short stories, "Sweet Land Stories," published in 2004:

"And when those black clouds came sailing in from the west, pouring thunderstorms upon us so that you couldn’t hear the cries or curses of humankind, I liked that best of all. Chicago could stand up under the worst God had to offer. I understood why it was built – a place for trade, of course, with railroads and ships and so on, but mostly to give all of us a magnitude of defiance that is not provided by one house on the plains."

Like any good, profound sentiment, those few lines turned the idea of willpower – so often represented as personal trait or singular, focused, and magnified virtue – into a much better idea: "a magnitude of defiance" – physical stature and fortitude – among a concentrated and unified group. Or, a city built as a support framework for collective willpower.

If we're lucky, we know this already: willpower doesn't exist in a vacuum. That's what I think about willpower.

I'm OK to let stamina, perseverance, gumption, and courage remain individual virtues, but willpower is relative to the family, friends, and colleagues who surround you, those who give you a wayside when you're road-weary and guidance when you're ready to step on the gas.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.