Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Without this One Thing, you probably won’t succeed

What does it take to succeed? For a while, people thought IQ was the best predictor of future success. The smarter you are, the more you will succeed. You are born with a certain IQ that determines how far you can go in life.

At the end of the 20th century, some PhDs suggested that EQ—emotional intelligence—is a better predictor of success. If you are self-aware, socially-adept, and self-managed, you will outpace even those who are smarter.

Angela Duckworth, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has another idea. This, she feels, is the dividing line between success and failure. She calls it Grit.

Cheese Grits

That’s Grit not grits. Although, a bowl of grits makes me feel successful.

Creative Commons License Kate Hopkins via Compfight

According to Ms. Duckworth, Grit is passion and perseverance over the long-term in pursuit of a goal. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future over the years. Grit is living life like it is a marathon not a sprint.

If your like me, you may be wondering, “How gritty am I?” Fortunately, she has a test on her website. You can get your grit score here.

I think her emphasis on Grit is important. Here are three ways it resonates with my experience.

1) Talent isn’t Everything

Do you remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Who was the more talented runner? The Hare, of course. He was probably 10 times faster than the poor little turtle. It was like me racing Usain Bolt.

So, how did the slow-footed, carapace-toting turtle win? He had grit. The hare had none.

Talent isn’t everything and, to me, that’s a good thing. It means we all have a chance to succeed. We aren’t helplessly bound by our genes. Life is what we make of it, not simply what’s made for us.

How much time do we spend comparing ourselves to others around us? She is a better mother. He is a better writer. They are a better organization. I continually measure myself against the talent of others. When I don’t measure up, I think about quitting. When I score well—when I feel more talented—I get complacent and slack off.

Because, deep inside, I still think talent is everything. Well, it’s not.

True Grit matters.

There will always be more talented people. But without Grit, they will fail. Average talent applied will always outpace better talent unapplied. (you can tweet that)

2) Failure is not the End

I hate losing. I hate failing. But, if Ms. Duckworth is right, failure is not the end. There are actually some good things about failure. People with True Grit understand this.

(Check out these 16 benefits of failure)

In fact, if you are going to succeed, you will fail often.

Failure will redirect you.
Failure will motivate you.
Failure will awaken you.
Failure will strengthen you.
Failure will develop your Grit.

This is Good News for Failures like me.

3) Not Quitting is a Strategy

Sometimes I am trying to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle and I simply do not know what to do. I have no clue.

This idea reminds me of the most important solution—don’t quit.

How do you run a marathon? Start running and don’t stop until the finish line.
How do you write a book? Start writing words and don’t stop until you have enough.
How do I develop a skill? Start practicing and don’t stop until you have completed 10,000 hours.

Sure this is oversimplified, but it is true. If you keep trying, keep moving forward you will eventually find a solution. That’s how Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone. They started and did not stop until—after thousands and thousands of experiments—it worked.

True Grit.

Life is a marathon. Those who come out of the gate sprinting will not win. Those who are distracted by the cheering crowds will not win. Those who stop when the race gets hard will not win.

To win—to succeed in the race of life—requires Grit.

Getting Grittier

I have a friend who decided to blog every day for an entire year. As a blogger, I can say, “That takes some grit.” Doing anything consistently for a year is hard. But it doesn’t simply take Grit, it develops it. Taking on a longer-term project and seeing it to completion is one of the best ways to get Gritty.

If you are not happy with your Grit Score, perhaps you should do the same as my friend. Decide on a project that will require more than 6 months to complete (ideally, no longer than a year). Make sure it is something you really want to do. Then see it to completion. Don’t quit. Keep going.

At the end of that year, you will find you are a man or woman of True Grit. Or, at least, a little grittier than before.

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