You hear the four-letter word over and over in business and academic circles.
“Grit” is the new genius. To reach goals, business and nonprofit leaders must toughen up. Grit has become one of the most important indicators of success.
“Entrepreneurs who wake up each day, miraculously converting hope into progress, purpose into profit, and obstacles into opportunities demonstrate the kind of emotional grit that grows jobs, dreams, and economies,” said Paul G. Stoltz, author of “GRIT: The New Science of What it Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed” (ClimbStrong Press, 2015) and founding director of the GRIT Institute in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Grit is defined as strength of sprit and mind. Stoltz describes it as the capacity to dig deep and do whatever it takes, even sacrifice, struggle and suffer, to achieve your most worthy goals in the best ways.
Unlike many traits, he says grit can be readily understood, measured and improved.
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of the book “Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary” (Crown Business, 2015) describes grit as the great equalizer.
“Anyone, at any time, whatever their background or resources, can lay claim to it,” says Kaplan Thaler, co-founder and chief executive of the Kaplan Thaler group in New York City.
Grit transforms people with ordinary accomplishments into extraordinary leaders. In their book, they detail how Steve Jobs had a 2.65 GPA in high school and dropped out of college. Michael Jordan didn’t make the cut for his high school varsity team. Colin Powell had a C average in school and scant self-confidence.
None had showed the “it” factor – supreme intelligence, virtuoso talent or a pedigree birthright that predicted their ultimate success. Koval, chief executive and president of Legacy, the national public health foundation in Washington, D.C., says they possessed the grit factor – a steadfast and tireless work ethic that made all the difference.
“We now know that passion and perseverance matter more than talent or intelligence when it comes to being successful,” she adds. “And the great thing about grit is that working harder, smarter, more passionately, and longer is something we control.”
Grit’s four dimensions
Stoltz points out that grit extends beyond sheer tenacity or perseverance. The world is filled with dumb grit and smart grit. Dumb grit is basically a combination of pursuing “less than ideal” goals with “less than ideal” strategies. In some instances, it can boil down to going after really dumb stuff in really dumb ways. Bad grit means pursuing goals that can be damaging.
“Smart grit means knowing when to quit,” he says. “It’s about giving your absolute best to the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons.”
The four building blocks that form and fuel grit are growth, resilience, instinct and tenacity. To be more successful, you should gauge your strength with each.
Growth: Your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.
If you have a growth mindset, you are more likely to get, keep, engage in and succeed at work. Specifically, the propensity to seek different alternatives, perspectives and approaches has a significant effect on your ability to forge ahead toward your goals.
Resilience: Your capacity to respond constructively and make good use of all adversity.
You can break adversity down into its two main parts. First, how bad do you perceive it to be on a scale of one to 10? Second, how much do you really care? Over time, either adversity consumes you, or you have to consume it. That’s why resilience is so essential to grit.
Instinct: Your gut-level capacity to pursue the right goals in the best and smartest ways.
Think about how much time, effort, resources and energy are spent pursuing less-than-optimal goals, in less-than-optimal ways. By focusing on goals and strategies that are increasingly close to optimal, you’re closer to succeeding in the grit game.
Tenacity: The degree to which you persist, commit to, stick with and relentlessly go after something.
Tenacity propels you across the finish line. It’s about pushing beyond what other, more “reasonable” minds would consider prudent.