A for Effort: Relentlessness is a Big Predictor of Success

Marvin Liao
2 min readJun 11, 2024

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I had an interesting discussion with my therapist recently as I discussed some stuff that was happening in my business life and family. She said she noticed I tend to be pretty judgemental of myself and also others. I tend to be very black and white. I tend to be pretty hard nosed. I definitely agree with her and think it’s true. It’s served me well, by having high standards.

You either meet them or you don’t. But for me, it’s less about how much money you have or how successful you are (that’s an a–hole move and growing up poor, i’d never treat people the way i was treated as a worker in Canada). Although results do matter. BUT to me what counts, It’s whether you try hard or not. It’s how much effort you put into things. Small things and big things.

I happened to go to a lovely dinner at Alisa steakhouse in Vancouver at the end of 2023, for a VC dinner hosted by my friends at Panache Ventures. The waiter was incredible. I mean not just professional but really top of his game. The food was delicious but it was the whole delivery and packaging that made the experience exceptional. How and when the dishes were cleared, food being sent in at the right moment. But more than that he was an artist. He cared and put in the effort. You could tell he put in the time and was experienced.

This is why I love the craftsperson culture of Japan. An intense focus and effort on excellence whatever they do. Yes, results matter but it’s almost inevitable to reach some level of success if you keep at it. This is what I see in the startup and entrepreneurial world.

The best founders never quit and just figure it out. Especially when times get tough. They do what needs to be done, whether mortgaging their house, firing 75% of their staff or whatever.

We’ve seen so many wannabe entrepreneurs drop out in 2023 & 2024 because it got tough on fundraising and customer front. It’s one thing to quit after you have been working on something for 2–3 or even 4 years. It’s another thing to drop out after a year, or 9 months or even 6 months. YES, these actually did happen in my portfolio. 2021 vintage. Peak ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Phenomenon) bubble.

I am judgmental. I judge people on the level of effort. I judge people on their willingness to face their fears and do hard things. I judge people on their commitment. There is no reason to half ass anything. Unless you have a medical condition, there is no excuse for not giving your all.

If you do commit and give it everything, I guarantee in America, you will eventually get what you are looking for. The bar is so low, most people give up too quickly or worse, don’t even start or do anything, let alone put in the work. So go forth and as the Japanese say: “Ganbatte” or “Do your Best.”

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com