Finding True Grit

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs

We’ve all had the feeling of wanting to bail. It’s universal. But some people have the ability—the grit—to stay with it.

Grit is having the perseverance and passion to stay on course and accomplish long-term goals regardless of the obstacles that surface. Or said another way, grit is the ability to stay on course when you are tempted to bail.

It’s incredibly fulfilling when you overcome challenges that once appeared insurmountable (for example: Steve Jobs taking Apple from near bankruptcy in 1997 to a dominant company, or the single mom who works during the day, goes to school at night and then supports her child through college). Our ability to shine from the extra effort we invest leads to an incredible feeling of fulfillment.

Dr. Angela Duckworth, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has done extensive research on the topic of grit and its impact on success. She shares a formula that shows how grit can make a difference:

Achievement = Talent x Effort

What’s particularly encouraging about the formula is you control the “effort” component, not someone else. While each of us is born with a certain level of ability or talent, depending on how much effort we put into something (including practice), we can influence the outcome. While this doesn’t guarantee that you will be the next Roger Federer, it does mean that you can improve your tennis game if you stay with it. Grit is the ability to invest effort consistently over a period of time, not one day or month.

Malcolm Gladwell refers to this concept as the 10,000-Hour Rule. In his book Outliers, he shares examples showing that practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours, about 20 hours a week for 10 years, is an important key to success in any field. While it’s easier to go from one project, class, relationship or job to the next, pushing through the uncomfortable moments is what brings you closer to mastery.

The question to explore is: What do you want and are you willing to invest the effort to pursue it.

The surprising part is that many of us leave the effort piece untouched. We never cash in on that option to stay the course and see what our potential looks like.  It’s important to remember that grit is not tied to intelligence—anyone can be gritty.

Effort involves putting yourself on the line, making yourself vulnerable, experiencing setbacks on your journey, investing time, dealing with feelings of doubt and—the most amazing part—reaching your dreams. Opportunity lies on the other side of massive effort.

The breakthroughs are at the crossroads—that moment when you doubt yourself, want to turn back and bail.

Where in your life can you use more grit and stay the course?

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