University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth defined grit as a “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
There are several definitions of grit. For me, it is a growth mindset, a resilience that makes a person determined to bounce back from failures and setbacks. I talked about the growth mindset in my TEDx talk. Most of what I have achieved in my life is because of this unwavering faith and dogged determination to follow through with what I want to do and what I believe in. I do get scared of failing, and I also feel upset when things do not work out as I would have expected them to, especially when I have worked incredibly hard for something. So, resilience is not about having a ‘stiff upper lip’ or not showing emotions. Rather it equips us with tools and strategies to deal with setbacks. People who have a growth mindset truly want to better themselves and think of how they can do something, rather than think of excuses and reasons as to why they shouldn’t.
Contrary to popular opinion, Duckworth’s research indicates that success doesn’t depend on talent. It depends on intensely focusing on a goal with passion and perseverance. Angela Duckworth’s research showed an inverse relationship between talent and grit. This does not mean that talented people are not resilient, but rather that they might not have an intrinsic desire to go beyond what can be easily achieved with their talent.
Given the challenges that entrepreneurs tackle on a daily basis, grit is vital for success. In order to succeed, we need to have an unrelenting belief that our business and ideas will defy the statistics and become the success story that we have always strived to achieve. Grit is working not because we are forced to, but because deep down we have an inherent belief that the work that we are doing is completely worth it. Rather than being merely motivated by external rewards, fame, and success, this kind of work ethic is grounded in intrinsic motivation, a self-belief that drives a person forward through setbacks and failures. As opposed to persistence, grit is something that is backed by a deep motivation to change things around us.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Ryan Holliday writes in his book “The Obstacle is the Way” how obstacles don’t impede, but rather provide an opportunity to see the positive that lies past the negative.
An entrepreneurial journey is often beset with setbacks and failures, and a growth mindset allows us to see the opportunities rather than obstacles, constantly learning, evaluating, assessing while keeping the purpose of our business close to our heart, driving us forward. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and resilience allows us to face this isolation and look after our mental well-being. Confucius famously said, “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” Resilience is a person’s ability to recover quickly from failures and setbacks and adapt to adversity. Having a growth mindset means that you do not accept failure or setback as final. Instead, you believe that challenges can always be overcome because your brain is always able to grow, and adapt, and you are confident in your ability to find alternative solutions and paths if one does not work.
Grit is not something that we are just born with. It is something we can nurture and develop. True grit, resilience, growth mindset is the ability to find the strength and will-power, learning from our mistakes and failures to follow the path and purpose that is of value to us and to the world around us. It is about creating a higher purpose with our business and with our work. Those with grit are able to take risks because they have the inherent confidence in their ability to bounce back from failures.
True grit can only be developed through practice, and through experience and failure. Duckworth and her colleagues also studied grit in relation to the Big Five personality traits in 2007. They found that grit was related to conscientiousness more than any other of the Big Five personality traits of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In a study of university students, researchers found that grittier participants increased their effort in a losing situation compared to less gritty participants. In particular, they found that grittier people are more optimistic when failing and that is why they continue to put forth more effort.
Grit does not ensure success in an entrepreneurial venture. Rather, it ensures that an entrepreneur is able to motivate themselves to continue progressing and stick to their goals despite any setbacks and obstacles. It also ensures better mental and emotional well-being.
As J.K. Rowling said, ” Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”