The Power of Perseverance (AKA Grit)
“Life is messy. Grit and grace come at us fast, side by side. Sometimes the grit becomes overwhelming and diminishes our spirit. What’s good seems lost and gone forever. This is a story about the pathway back to what’s beautiful, when the way back seems impossible.”
― Sharon E. Rainey, Making a Pearl from the Grit of Life
I have spent a good part of my adult life fascinated and dreaming about success. I have very often wondered what makes a man a success in life? I guess this might seem like a vague question especially when the term success is used but let us for a second try not to get hung up on the word “success”.
I know that success to people is relative and will ultimately be based on a person’s individual circumstances. I understand that success to me might be having a loving family and guaranteed roof and food for the lifetime of myself and my family members and to you it could be a seven figure bank account. In the discovery of what makes a man successful I can honestly say that an individuals definition of what exactly success is does not matter in the journey to success. Simply put, it does not matter what you define success to be, the requirement to be successful very often will be the same regardless of destination point. For the sake of this post I will keep success referring to a “successful business”.
I started my journey by looking at IQ, it dint take very long before I discovered that while having a High IQ surely doesn’t hurt. It also does not mean you will be successful. To be honest you don’t need to do too much research to see that success is not always a result of intelligence. Otherwise the most intelligent people in the world would be the most successful.
I then decided to look into Daniel Goleman’s claim that success is driven by EQ (Emotional intelligence). After much reading and to my dismay I also found out that this does not need to be present to be successful. It certainly does not hurt but it really isn’t necessary. You can hire someone who has a High IQ and EQ.
After taking a deeper look (without me turning this friendly post into an educational paper), I discovered it is an age old recipe called “Grit”.
You see when I say Grit I am not talking about being harsh as stone’s nor am I talking about being coarse. I am talking about the psychology definition of what this is. I am talking about being able to find a target and having a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. I am talking about good old fashion perseverance.
I guess one of the barriers to see the obvious for me was a life long handicap. My handicap was my education. The idea which is very often also unintentionally taught in subjects such as Mathematics and Physics. The thinking that if a person has not been able to solve a problem it is because they have not found the right methodology. This implies that as soon as you find the right method, then the problem becomes easy to solve and then it can be taught to other people who can also use the same method to achieve success in relation to that problem.
While I can not deny the merit in thinking this was, I can also see the handicap this creates in finding a method to success.
I quickly discovered that being successful had nothing to do with method but everything to do with your ability to persevere.
The real beauty about “Grit” is that it has nothing to do with methods or finding an exact way and everything to do with attitude. It also has nothing to do with Intelligence, either general intelligence or emotional intelligence but your ability to manage and keep pushing on.
How does a person get True Grit?
1) True Grit must originate from a genuine belief in what you want to do. I am not talking about a hobby or an interest. Your idea could very well start as a hobby but it must be so much more than that before you can push for it. It must be something you believe in.
2) Belief is not enough; you must be convinced of your idea. You see there is a difference in believing something is needed and knowing something is needed. Your conviction must be analyzed independently and must be honestly looked at. Your idea must serve more than just yourself. What use is an idea if it serves only you? In other words, what is in it for everybody else? This is very often where real value is identified.
3) If you are convinced by the need for your idea and its relevance to the general public or people more than yourself then you must understand that success can be a journey. Now when I say understand, I mean truly know it isn’t a sprint. You see a business or anything worth doing must be allowed to mature on its own. This is the same for life and love. Allowing it to grow means that you know that, just as you are who you are because of the things that happened to you (both positive and negative). An idea worth pursuing is also subject to the rules that it will be hit by both positive and negative things.
You must know that it is not necessarily going to be a bed of roses.
4) If you truly understand the journey. You must anticipate the road ahead and be psychologically and physically prepared for the coming journey. I am not saying that preparation means that you won’t be affected. I am simply saying that preparation for a potential storm might not mean that you will weather the storm but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
5) When the trouble comes and by trouble I mean things like discouragement, frustration and even sometimes financial constraints it is important to focus on the fact that you knew it will happen and work through it.
Just as you only know how good an insurance company is when there is a claim to be made. Or how much a person loves you when there is a problem. This is the defining moment when many new start up businesses either become successful or are a failure. This is the moment when true grit and perseverance helps. The difference between a successful company and failed company when they are both given the same idea is the ability to persevere in times of trouble.
Unlike Intelligence, the beauty of Grit is that it can be taught. You can equip an individual with the ability to cope or the strength to persevere. Grit is an essential and often overlooked element of success. It correlates more highly with success in business than intelligence or a specific talent.
A few things that might help could be simple things such as making sure that
a) New ideas and projects dont distract you from old ones
b) Don’t set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one
c) Be diligent
d) Be intentional in whatever you do.
e) Do not allow setbacks discourage you.
Just remember that even if you are not the most intelligent or the most social. Success is not impossible.
I will end this post with a quote
“It doesn’t matter if people are playing jazz or writing poetry — if they want to be successful, they need to learn how to persist and persevere, how to keep on working until the work is done. Woody Allen famously declared that “eighty percent of success is showing up.” NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts) teaches kids how to show up again and again.”
― Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works