The Power of GRIT:
Identifying the one character strength you need to succeed in business and life
GRIT, “The Passion and Perseverance for very long-term goals.” – Dr. Angela Duckworth
Many people jump into the world of Entrepreneurship despite its many uncertainties. Oftentimes, they have no idea if they are even fit to be an Entrepreneur. The courageous idea of the adage “Jump in and Cope!” is too risky for this type of endeavor. A lot will be at stake if not executed well: time, money, and reputation. It’s unlike learning how to swim nor to play a guitar where you can just quit and say, “It’s not for me.” The field of Entrepreneurship is complex. It is very important for all budding Entrepreneurs to be aware of the challenges and opportunities it brings about. However, the act of jumping in and coping, is indeed a remarkable virtue. Couple it with perseverance over a long period, makes it an essential ingredient to being gritty.
What is grit?
The term “Grit” may be new to some of us, but it has been around for a while. It was sensationalized by the classic 60’s Film, ”True Grit”, based on a novel by Charles Portis. The story revolves around a teenage tomboy, Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), who hires a tough US Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (John Wayne), to avenge her father’s death. She hired Rooster because he has “Grit”, and a reputation of getting things done.
According to Merriam-Webster:
: firmness of mind or spirit
: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger
The stamina to work on things in a consistent direction with great effort for a very long time. Grit is constantly working on your long-term goals. And working hard to make that future a reality.
A Gritty Individual defined:
An individual who is driven to work courageously and tirelessly amidst adversity, challenges, and failures to achieve his desired goals. This individual tends to perform better than others who lack the stamina.
Passion: (noun) a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something
Perseverance: (noun) steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose; especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Resilience: (noun) the ability to bounce back from or adjust to challenges or change.
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
The ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s a precursor to Grit, but it is not exactly the same as Grit.
Resilience is one thing you need to be gritty but not the only thing. You also need the passion. Something that you really committed to working on over the long term.
Setting a long term goal may not be easy. Obstacles will get in the way. You need to figure out how to manage and deal with them. You need to keep working towards achieving your goal. That is what resilience is about.
Duckworth and colleagues conducted a series of studies that found that people with grit:
Attained higher level of education.
Earned higher GPA’s.
Were more likely to graduate from high school.
— Dr. Angela Duckworth et al. (2007,2014)
Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Grit vs. Talent
How do we build the Grit in Entrepreneurs? Are sustained efforts and sheer perseverance more important than pure talent?
According to Dr. Duckworth, for many outcomes, like graduating from West Point (U.S. Military Academy), Grit is more predictive of success than IQ or SAT scores. In a culture where we praise talent all the time, it is just not enough to win. However, we do not undermine talent because talent exists. What’s important is to highlight the undervalued role of effort, practice, and the time spent on tasks that determine ultimate performance.
Will Smith on Grit:
A short clip from an interview conducted by Tavis Smiley, an American Talk Show host, clearly illustrates the difference between talent and Grit.
Talent will not make you gritty. There are talented individuals who do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, data shows that Grit is unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.
How do we teach grit?
Entrepreneurs acquire Grit by having a “Growth Mindset”, an idea developed by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Psychology Professor at the Stanford University. She wrote a book entitled: “ Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. It’s about the belief that learning is not fixed. That learning can change by exerting effort. Dr. Dweck argues that everyone can get smarter if they work at it. While a fixed mindset individual are those who dread failure, a growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that learning comes from failure.
Other experts say that you can teach Grit in schools. There is a term they use in character education called “Productive Struggle.” The process goes like this: The teachers give the students difficult tasks to solve. They observe, analyze, and wait while the students struggle to find solutions to the problem. When the right time comes, the teachers jump in, discuss the issue, and resolve the problem together.
On the other hand, parents have their share on this. There are ways they mold kids to become grittier. It’s called “Framing Kids Experiences.” Remember when a toddler runs on the hallway, and falls? The first thing he does is to look at you and check your reaction. When you shout, or he sees you startled, he starts to cry. But when you smile and say, you’re OK. He instantly stands up and keep on walking. This method works in very powerful ways.
Did you live, love, matter?
— Brendon Burchard,
New York Times, Best Selling Author of ”The Charge”
Burchard said that you would be asked three things on your deathbed: Did you live fully and vibrantly? Did you love openly, honestly, and completely? Did you contribute something useful to the society?
Grit is an essential virtue for every Entrepreneur. It plays a very important role to these questions at least for the latter: being useful. Being gritty to learn new things, to master it, and share what you’ve learned to others are disciplines that will propel Entrepreneurs to succeed in whatever they choose to do in life.
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