Gumptionade Blog

Willpower Is Not Gumption

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Willpower fails when you need it most.

Willpower is simply distilled enthusiasm. It may be stronger and last longer, but willpower is still enthusiasm-based.

Enthusiasm is an emotion, and your emotions are outside of your control.

Willpower is not gumption.The obese woman may wish with all her heart to get to a healthy weight. But how will she work through the weeks, months, and years of sensible eating and exercise after her willpower evaporates like fog over Phoenix? How will she get through Day Four?

Willpower is not always productive, either. The workaholic requires great willpower to grind out eighty-hour workweeks. The obsessive body builder requires great willpower to lift the weight and consume the supplements needed to have twenty-three- inch biceps. It requires great willpower to do what it takes to look mid-twentyish when you are late-fortyish.

Willpower is not the same thing as gumption. Use willpower when you have it, sure, but build the courage, resourcefulness, and common sense you’ll need to move forward without it.

How will you move forward? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will show you how.


Genius Is Not Gumption

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“Genius does what it must and talent does what it can.”

– The Earl of Lytton

Genius is an endowment. A few people are born with it. Some fraction of those people find themselves in a family or field where their genius is recognizable and applicable.

The rest of us can be inspired by the likes of Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Mozart, Einstein, Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Mother Teresa, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, and others. We may learn something from observing aspects of their behavior, but we ought not to compare ourselves to them.

Their colossal accomplishments are due to a unique combination of inherited genes, phenomenal luck and superhuman appetite for hard work. This is amazing, but it is not gumption.

Mark Twain tells us to forget the idea that “Ben Franklin acquired his great genius by working for nothing, studying by moonlight, and getting up in the night instead of waiting ’til morning…these execrable eccentricities of instinct and conduct are only the evidences of genius, not the creators of it.”

Genius, by the way, is usually not transferable outside its field:

• Michael Jordan retired from basketball and joined minor league baseball’s Birmingham Barons. Genius does what it must and talent does what it can.He had a poor batting average and low on-base percentage in his one season. He returned to basketball and won three more NBA championships.

• Linus Pauling won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. In the 1970’s he advocated loudly for vitamin C as a cure for colds, flu, and even cancer. He wrote a bestselling book on the subject. In the words of physician Paul Offit, Linus Pauling was “a man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world’s greatest quack.” But still a genius.

• Sir Isaac Newton lost a fortune speculating on stock in the South Sea Company.

• Elvis.

Genius is not gumption.

i. “Genius does what it must and talent does what it can.” Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, English dramatist, novelist, and politician (1803–73),_1st_Earl_of_Lytton. Retrieved August 13, 2014.

ii. “…these execrable eccentricities of instinct and conduct are only the evidences of genius, not the creators of it.” Mark Twain, The Late Ben Franklin, 1870, quoted in Blooms Classic Critical Views: Ben Franklin, Edited by Harold Bloom (New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2008), 56.

iii. Pauling was… “arguably the world’s greatest quack.” Paul Offit, “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements,” The Atlantic, July 19, 2013;


How will you make the most of your talents? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will show you how.


Necessity Is Not Gumption

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Gumption is courage, resourcefulness and common sense in harness together. Despite what people tell you – usually while they try to sell you – becoming better than you are now is not easy or convenient. It takes courage and time to change ingrained habits.

It is said that Caesar burned his boats on the beaches of Kent during the invasion of Britain. He was creating a necessity on order to call forth courage. Caesar’s legions did indeed conquer Necessity is not gumptionBritain, at least enough of it to build new boats. People with common sense don’t burn their boats. They realize they may have landed in the wrong place, that getting killed by the Britons for lack of Plan B won’t help the empire.

There is another problem with relying on necessity to produce courage: the danger is often not as vivid as burning boats. Sometimes the smoke and the fire—the ill- health, divorce, bankruptcy, driving bans, and other disasters—are so far down the road that we are fooled by the illusion that there will always be time to avoid them.

Your obese friend knows she must lose weight. Chronic procrastinators know they sabotage themselves. Smokers know they must put down their cigarettes. But the disasters they face are in the future.

These people do set off on the march to safety, perhaps around New Year’s Day, but necessity generates insufficient force to keep them moving forward. They experience Day Four. They retreat. Necessity is not gumption.


How will you conquer your challenges? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will help you find your way.


Enthusiasm Is Not Gumption

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“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that.”

– Pearl S. Buck

Every January 1st we become infatuated with the idea of a new and improved version of ourselves: the thin version, the organized version, the fit version, the better parent version, the debt-free version. As with any crush, our enthusiasm is effortless and exciting, a temporary loss of balance.

Instead of flowers and chocolate, we treat our new love to frozen diet meals, gym memberships, brightly colored storage containers, bee pollen, packs of nicotine gum, yoga mats, how-to books and videos.Enthusiasm is not gumption

This enthusiastic buying and trying soon plays itself out. We lack the courage, resourcefulness, and common sense required for lasting change.

Enthusiasm is not gumption. Enthusiasm is like good luck: great when you have it, but outside of your control. You can make yourself act enthusiastic, but you can’t make yourself be enthusiastic. You either are or you aren’t. Indeed, a sure sign of gumption is doing the thing that needs to be done when you have no enthusiasm for it.

The problem with enthusiasm is that it is dependent on context. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig writes of things that halt progress for amateurs repairing motorcycles: the scraped knuckle, the bad light, the heat, the cold, the uncomfortable crouching, the leftover engine parts. If you are an amateur trying to repair yourself, these might be a bad day at work, loneliness, boredom, hunger, insomnia, and family holidays.

Physical discomfort reduces enthusiasm. Emotional discomfort reduces enthusiasm. Mistakes reduce enthusiasm. None of these things reduce gumption, which is not dependent on context.

Gumption has courage. Courage helps you bear the suffering required to move forward without the tail winds of enthusiasm. For New Year’s resolutions, gumption has to kick in as enthusiasm wanes in mid- January.

If you set out to repair a motorcycle or to become more than you are now, it’s great to have enthusiasm—not to mention adequate light, proper tools, and helpful friends. But when none of these are available, gumption will get you past the temptation to quit.

Enthusiasm can even indicate a lack of gumption. We often drink, eat, shout our opinions, and generally act the fool with great enthusiasm, and completely without courage or common sense.

Can you differentiate between enthusiasm and gumption? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will show you how.

i …Pirsig writes of the things that halt progress for amateurs repairing their own motorcycles…
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: William Morrow &
Company, 1974), 305–26.

The Real Meaning of Passion: Day Four

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You decide to get to a better place, a place where you will be more than you are now. You have a new plan and new stuff. There’s a new you waiting just down the road. You’re so passionate. Finally, you’re on the right path.

Day One of the journey is fun. A warm sun beams down out of a blue sky, flowers perfume the air, the birds sing, and there’s a spring in your step. It’s all smiles to the people you meet on the road to self-improvement. This will be shooting fish in a barrel.

On Day Two, the fish in the barrel begin to shoot back. There’s a chill in the air. The flowers are drooping and it looks like rain. You walk on, though, still pretty chipper: You’re gonna do this!

On Day Three, the songbirds have given way to crows, your feet are sore, and you have a headache. You keep moving, though not as far as yesterday.

The Real Meaning of Passion : Day FourOn Day Four you wake up in a dark and swampy place. Your diet book is in tatters, your new running shoes are filthy, your backpack smells like garbage, and you are nauseated and depressed. The path is now watery mud festooned with litter, poison ivy, and abandoned tires. The crows have given way to flying monkeys and your fellow travelers look like zombies.

You approach a wobbly rope bridge slung above a deep canyon. This is the border between where you are and where you want to go—between dependence and freedom. You can’t recall your Day One enthusiasm. Looking back, you spot a friendly face. Your bad habit is waving to you from a limo. It has hot coffee, blankets, dry clothes, and a light. There’s a cooler in the trunk.

You realize how unpleasant your life is without your bad habit. It takes your mind off your troubles. You two share pleasing rituals: the fire ceremony of lighting a cigarette, the sacred offering of the platinum card, sexual euphoria, fragrant incense from the barbecue pit, the whirling trance of chasing the big deal, ice cubes ringing in your drink like the bells of a mountain shrine.

On Day Four you experience the real meaning of passion: suffering. How much suffering depends on how much discomfort your bad habit helps you avoid. Day Four lasts a month.

You set out on Day One to be free of your bad habit, to become better. But you need what you need right now. You retreat to our bad habit, our status quo, what doesn’t require any effort. Becoming better is hard, and we are soft.

Can we be afraid of the right things? Can we ever move on from what is comfortable? Many people never get past Day Four. Many people never cross the border. Many people never grow up.

Unexplored places on the early maps of the world were noted with dragons and the words “There be monsters.” Gumption is for going there.




How do you soldier through to Day Five? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will help you figure it out.