The Key Factor of Greatness Found From 5 Years Researching 12 Heroes

“It’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa

When she was 5 years old, Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism and told that she should be institutionalized for life.

When he was 12 years old, Kobe Bryant showed little promise in basketball and was about to give up the sport forever.

When she was 28 years old, JK Rowling hit rock bottom and was living as a single mother on welfare.

When he was 30 years old, Steve Jobs was incredibly reckless and was actually kicked out of the company he created. 

This theme appeared over and over again in my research. A hero gave everything they had in pursuit of their dream, but it wasn't enough.

They used all of their passion.

They used all of their strength.

They used all of their willpower.

And they lost.

Whether it was Tim Grover being rejected by the Chicago Bulls, Joe DeSena being rejected by Cornell, or Vince Lombardi being rejected by dozens of teams for the head coaching job he had rightfully earned; these heroes fought and these heroes lost. 

But that failure was never the end of the story - and that is what is different about them. Millions of others have also failed while pursuing their dreams, but they chose to stop. They gave up, and they settled; never making their dreams a reality.

The 12 heroes I researched had lots of chances of ending their pursuits of their dreams, but they didn’t. They kept going. They persevered. [1]

To illustrate the difference between the heroes and the people who never make it, let's look at two very different points where people usually stop persevering and give up. 

Losing a Battle

When Kobe Bryant was 12 years old, he entered a summer basketball camp with some of the best players in the country – and they embarrassed him. Bryant played his heart out, but he did not score a single point!

Not one jump shot.

Not one free throw.

Not one layup.


After that embarrassment, he considered giving up basketball forever. But then he read about his hero, Michael Jordan. He learned how Michael was cut from his high school team, but didn’t quit. Getting cut motivated Michael to outwork everyone around him to prove his coach wrong.

This lit a fire inside Kobe that would never be put out. He picked up his basketball and outworked everyone around him for the rest of his life. 

Despite losing a battle, he didn’t quit. And he became one of the greatest players of all time. [2]

Every single hero in the book faced a similar failure at some point in his or her life. But every single one of those heroes didn’t quit. They used the failure as a motivation to push even harder next time to come out victorious.

At some point in your life, you are going to lose a battle. You are going to fight with every ounce of strength you have, and you are going to lose. But what defines your character is that after you lose that battle, you do not lose yourself.

You do not compromise your principles.

You do not give up your life’s purpose.

And you never stop fighting for what you really want in life.

That relentless perseverance was show by each hero in The Will of Heroes.

Failure isn’t final. You might not reach a goal on the first, second, or even third time around. But you will never truly lose until you stop trying. Until you finally throw in the towel, there is always hope.

All you need to do is get up one more time than you've been knocked down.

Settling for Good

When Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple Computer in 1985, he could have taken his fortune of over $100,000,000 and simply retired to a life of luxury and relaxation.

And who would blame him? That’s more money than I can even think to spend in a lifetime!

So why bother doing anything else? It even seems greedy for him to want to go back to work after amassing such a fortune!

Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t think like that. He got right back to work starting a new company called "NeXT". Then he saved a struggling digital animation company called “Pixar”. Then he came back to reinvent his former company, Apple. [3]

Imagine where the world would be today if Steve Jobs settled.

Think about all of the joy that Pixar’s movies have brought to children all around the world. Think about the revolutions in computers, phones, and even the music industry that have all taken place under the leadership of Steve Jobs.

The desire to quit doesn't always come from failure, it can come from settling for "good enough".

And this path isn’t always easy to see. Unlike with Jobs where he could have retired, for us it usually takes the form of “practicality”. It is practical to stop pushing, to not takes risks, and to give up what you truly want in life for what is comfortable, practical, and safe.

Now, there is no shame in settling for a good life is that is what you truly want. But be honest with yourself – if you dream of more, do not lose sight of it.

Perseverance isn’t just about refusing to quit; it’s also about refusing to settle.


There is no secret to success in life. I have learned a lot from my research about what it takes to become truly great at something. And the greatest lesson is that above all else you must have the willpower to persevere.

Those who reach their dreams and those who reach greatness are simply the ones who were able to “take the punches” and keep moving forward.

In your life, you will lose, you will fail, and you will be tempted to settle for "good enough". But if you can just keep going, if you can keep pushing, and if you can get up one more time than you are knocked down, eventually you will reach your destination. No matter how long it takes.