When you talk to successful venture capitalists and ask them to identify a trait that sets entrepreneurs apart, why one startup makes it and 99 others fail, they will invariably mention an entrepreneur’s grit. We have all heard stories about entrepreneurs who have had grit but perhaps we just don’t know who they are and so don’t really recognize grit as a difference maker. This quote is from a startup founder who was rejected over 300 times in getting the financing for his entertainment startup.
‘The difference in winning & losing is most often, not quitting.’ Walt Disney.
Grit isn’t just a buzzword, nor is it solely a sign of mental toughness. Psychological studies show that people with grit may be more likely to pursue an entrepreneurial path in their lives. Grit also fuels passion, which helps entrepreneurs stay awake at night or work the long hours. Many entrepreneurs have both passion and grit. The latter enables them to overcome obstacles instead of abandoning or switching tasks. And the former keeps entrepreneurs emotionally engaged. Indeed, a Columbia Business School study indicates ‘that passion is a key ingredient of grit.’ Like some entrepreneurial personality traits, grit and passion are predictors of future success.
Dr. Angela Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania Professor and co-founder, chief scientist, and board member of Character Lab, pioneered research on grit and said it involves perseverance and passion. In addition, research published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that ‘the sustained interest in important long-term goals [is] a core feature of grit.’ And if you combine grit with a growth mindset, that is a powerful combination.
The good news? Both grit and a growth mindset can be cultivated. You aren’t necessarily born with determination, and many people grow up with a fixed mindset, meaning failure is something to avoid. Yet you can train your brain to try again and attempt to innovate even when failure seems almost inevitable. A growth mindset means you’re discovering that there’s a small amount of space in between failure and success. And in that space, grit is what helps you persevere.
Here are some insights on how you can improve your grit:
Design your journey on purpose: You need grit to get where you are going even as it relates to your life purpose. As an example, become an expert data analytics driven marketer to someday become an entrepreneur who launches an data analytics startup which maybe allows you to write a future of marketing book that creates an opportunity to teach on a college campus where you can impact young minds.
Enhance your daily performance: Deliberate practice trains your mind to focus on improving specific weaknesses and strengths. Set a daily goal, measure your progress, and work on it until it is done.
Practice deliberately: People who are gritty simply spend more time on doing what they do. A LOT MORE TIME on key tasks. Also, they practice deliberately, which means their practice helps make them better over time.
Never stop learning: Grit doesn’t depend on just wishing. The more you learn and develop your expertise, the more confident you will become in yourself. The more confident you are will give you the grit you need to accomplish your goals.
Hang out with gritty people: The culture we live in and identify with powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being. If you want to be grittier, then look inside or outside your network to create a gritty sub group of people who can meet regularly and support each other, even if it’s at 5am on a group run.
Make the call: Commit to making decisions when you find yourself in a tough situation. There is no room for wishy-washy actions. Do your analysis, rely on advisor or mentor advice and then make the decision.
Lose the negative self-talk: Trust that you know yourself better than anyone else, and you have the intelligence and power to make forthright decisions. You can solve problems as they arise. Ditch any negativity and talk to yourself every day in a positive way.