Monday, August 11, 2008
You can be the sharpest knife in the drawer, the most well-educated person in your workplace, ambitious, quick-witted and charming -- and a failure.
While many would consider those attributes a recipe for success, the truth is that those who seem to climb the top of the ladder have something that others may lack: Grit.
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all," said Dale Carnegie, the original self-help guru.
If you look up grit in the dictionary, it's defined as "indomitable spirit; pluck." I've thought about that a lot as I've been watching the Olympics. While it's clear those athletes have spent thousands of hours in the gym, in the pool and on the running track to get where they are, there is also something special that makes them reach that point.
It's more than hard work, it's more than training and it's more than a body's DNA. It's grit. If you look at their faces, they seem to be lit within by some internal fire that propels them toward their goal.
How does this apply to the workplace? Well, maybe you're not the most well-trained, the most intelligent, the most well-educated at your company. But if you've got the grit, the persistence needed to overcome setbacks and stay committed to your goal, then that can clearly be a deciding factor in your success.
At the same time, those who are successful often tell me they are passionate about what they do; passion is what keeps them striving toward their goal. While you may not always feel passionate about what you're doing in the beginning, often perseverance will help you develop that passion. You may, in fact, become passionate simply about not giving up -- then realize after a time that you're passionate about achieving your goal.
I recently enrolled my oldest son for college, and his adviser was reviewing his test scores. "Solid scores," she said. "Not fantastic, but solid."
Both my son and I squirmed in our seats. Was she judging him as not capable? Her next words surprised me.
"These scores are a good thing," she said. "We've found that those will really high test scores in high school have the highest failure rate in college. The problem seems to be that it's been fairly easy for those kids until now. The first time something goes wrong, they don't know how to cope. They don't know how to work hard and overcome obstacles."
While we live in a time of instant messaging, 24/7 news and an emphasis on speed, it may be more important than ever that if we're going to succeed we don't need to cast aside a goal at the first sign of trouble, but instead develop our perseverance, our grit and determination to keep at it when others would give up.
"Always bear in mind," Abraham Lincoln said, "That your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."
Does the workplace have enough people with grit these days? Why or why not?