"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
― Calvin Coolidge
Author Angela Duckworth coined the term “grit” with her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” .
What is grit, exactly? It's a combination of perseverance and genuine passion for a goal. If you have grit, you can use all the elements at your disposal - hard work, creativity, a defined plan, help from friends, relatives, mentors and even strangers, and constant study of your chosen field – to get where you want to go.
Choose the Right Path
Management expert Stephen Covey once wrote, “Put your ladder up against the right building, not the wrong one, or you'll only get to the wrong place faster.” You need to choose the right path first.
How do you know if you're climbing up the right ladder?
- It's a feeling you get in your gut. You'll know when a goal is right – and when it no longer serves you.
- Your work excites you and makes you happy. You enjoy striving toward your goal, and handle setbacks without panicking.
- You are focused on your goal, and have little to no time for insignificant side projects.
- Your professional and personal life seems to be aligned. Everything feels “right”, even though you encounter glitches occasionally.
Changing paths is still part of persevering When you “adjust” your goals, you're not giving up. If you originally wanted to write novels and discover you want to be a blogger instead, that's not quitting. You're still pursuing a goal in the same field, and you can always return to your original goal. Grit means changing course and stepping back once in awhile; dogged persistence without common sense won't help you meet your goal.
Real Life Examples of Grit
When an entrepreneur can't find backers for a business plan, he comes up with a better idea that will attract a venture capitalist. His primary goal is to find a business that will attract backers and, eventually, customers.
Achieving your goals also involves prioritizing. Do what's needed to get closer to what you want, instead of avoiding unpleasant but necessary tasks. Is your goal to eat healthier? You may not want to drive to the farmers market across town, fight traffic and search for a parking space. It would be easier to go across the street to get a snack at 7/11, but your comfort should be subordinate to your purpose.
Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sander's chicken recipe was rejected close to 1000 times before someone said yes.
Colonel Sanders had a few things working in his favor. He was retired and didn't have to worry about a mortgage and raising kids, or keeping up with the Joneses. His age didn't hinder him; it gave him an advantage. Older people can be as fearless as young people. Young people have their whole lives ahead of them, with plenty of time to get back up and try again. Seniors have dealt with criticism and rejection many times, and they've already seen it all (or most of it). They have nothing to lose.
Think about those 1,000 rejections. Could you go through that, you would you stop at the third or fourth “no”?
How many people do you contact before quitting? Is there a magic number? Do you give up after 10, 20 or 100 attempts? Should it take 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? The answer: If it's the right thing, as long as it takes.
Dozens of publishers rejected Stephen King's first novel “Carrie”. He finally got a small advance for the book from a hardcover publisher. The book didn't sell well, but when the paperback edition came out, it was a best seller. Stephen King's books have now sold over 350 million copies.
The co-founder of Whatsapp, Brian Acton, was turned down for a job at Facebook. He turned his attention to working on WhatsApp, and in 2014, Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion.
Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) signed with the prestigious William Morris Agency at the beginning of his career. They couldn't get him any acting gigs for three years and dropped him. Soon after, he got a minor role on a TV show, and a few years later, he was cast as Don Draper.
J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone, the first Harry Potter book as a jobless divorcée. She didn't even have a computer when she submitted her first manuscript to publishers. After dozens of publishers rejected it, the daughter of Bloomsbury Publishing's CEO fell in love with the book. Bloomsbury published it, and Rowling now has an (alleged) net worth of 1.2 billion.
Vera Wang failed to make Olympic figure skating team. She left figure skating and amateur sports and become a Vogue fashion editor for 15 years. Passed up as editor-in-chief in favor of Anna Wintour, she then changed careers a second time, and became a fashion designer at age 40. She's now considered to be one of the most successful bridal fashion designers in the world.
Grit: Another Name for Perseverance
There aren't any indicators of what you can do to become grittier. In her TED talk, Angela Duckworth says the subject hasn't been studied conclusively yet.
There are a few tips to follow if you want to improve your perseverance:
Habits of Persistent People
If you always seem to start projects, but never finish them, or never follow through on goals or commitments, you can learn to be more persistent. Here are some traits exhibited by gritty people.
Successful people have a goal or vision driving them. Although you can develop this attitude, many people are born with this type of personality and focus on a particular goal 24/7.It consumes their life (but not in a harmful way). Look at successful actors or musicians, business people and politicians.
This is different from the average life in the 20th Century and most people's' lives now (1/3 job, 1/3 family, 1/3 leisure time). The 21st century has more of an entrepreneurial culture, and this type of goal setting and round-the-clock persistence is more accepted.
People who have grit exhibit a quiet confidence or swagger. They have a developed sense of who they are and want. They don't compare themselves to others or change goals based on fads or what other people think. Truly confident people don't need to brag. Their actions speak for themselves.
Persistent people have the desire to accomplish their goals, and will find a way around even the toughest obstacle. “Where there's a will, there's a way,” is their motto.
Adapt and Adjust
People with grit will change directions in pursuit of their goals, and admit when when something isn't working. They'll look for different and creative ways to achieve their dreams instead of blaming themselves or others for setbacks.
Regardless of the goal, (getting a particular job, losing 20 pounds, being rich and famous, or learning a skill), you can learn how to be more persistent. Here are more tips to consider when setting- and following through- on goals.
- Listen to motivational podcasts, and read inspirational books and articles. Study more about your field or industry, on your own or through formal classes.
- If you're not sure whether to diversify in several areas or specialize, remember the old saying, “A jack of all trades, a master of none.” Find out what you like and stick with it. Don't scatter your energies.
- It's harder to stay at the top than to get there “When you ain't got nothing you got nothing to lose,” as Janis Joplin once sang. Once you've achieved your goal, you'll encounter new challenges.
- Remember, if you quit then start up again, it's like starting from scratch. It will take you longer to reach your goal, but it's better than staying still permanently.
- Write a “game plan” for your long and short-term goals. You can always make adjustments to the original plan, if needed. You can write a journal or keep notes in your iPhone to remind you of daily, weekly and monthly goals.
- Word your statement in a positive manner. Say you want to write a best-seller, lose 20 pounds, or get a new job. Be as specific as possible. Don't say you want a high-paying job, say you want a specific amount, like $100,000 a year, in a specific field. It worked for Jim Carrey, who wrote himself a check for $10 million dollars when he was a struggling actor. Several years later, he was one of the most famous and highly-paid actors in the world, making millions per movie.
- Divide major goals into bit-sized pieces, or sub-goals, so you won't get frustrated. Every daily achievement will help you get closer to your major goal.
Should You Ever Quit?
Your goals may change several times during your life, and that's okay. But what about the times when you want to keep aiming for your intended target, despite constant, debilitating failures?
Here are a few things to consider if you want to quit and start over with a new goal.
A sunk cost refers to the time and (especially) the money you've spent at a pursuit that's not working out. If you've already spent a few years and tens of thousand of dollars at making your new business become successful, you may feel guilty about closing it down. Quitting would mean you've wasted the time and money you've already spent. In reality, remaining in business may cause you to waste more time and more money better spent elsewhere.
Opportunity cost refers to the pursuits you're missing out on by sticking with the original goal. The more time you spend on your unprofitable business, the less time you'll have to establish a new business in another field that may be more successful.
Looking Like a “Loser” or Disappointing People
You may want to quit and move on to something else, but be afraid of disappointing your spouse or parents, or you may be afraid of social embarrassment. What other people think shouldn't matter here. Your life and future are on the line. This is your primary concern, even though you need to be aware of how your decision will affect those closest to you.
People will respect you more if you quit something that's wrong for you and move on instead of “going down with the ship.”
Early Childhood Impediments to Grit
Anyone can learn to be more persistent or “grittier”, but some people may find it harder than others.
Researchers say up to 15 percent of poor children suffer from toxic amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone. Even children from a stressful rich or middle class family environment will experience levels of cortisol that affect their mental and emotional health. High levels of cortisol may comprise children's immune systems or cause them to overreact in everyday situations. They may become paranoid, easily threatened, or exhibit self-defeating behavior. Children from poor or overly stressful backgrounds may not have the emotional fortitude to develop grit as they get older.
Stay Healthy to Achieve Goals
You need to be healthy to achieve your goals. Get enough sleep, eat right, take appropriate supplements/vitamins and exercise.
Maintain your health, and it'll be easier to achieve other goals. If you keep your car in good repair and use high grade gasoline, it will work better and last longer. The same goes for your body and brain.
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