Maybe your grandmother lectured you about the importance of stick-to-it-ness. Turns out, she was right. What exactly did she mean? The word is grit.
There’s a quote from psychologist and grit-writer Dr. Angela Duckworth that honors this wisdom: “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.” In my professional life, I’ve seen this saying ring true time and time again.
Over the years, I have had the honor of being involved in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business Young Alumni program. In this role, I’ve had to opportunity to talk in-depth with a number of recruiters who are on the hunt for the next generation of great business leaders. Perhaps the most striking thing I’ve heard consistently from the recruiters is the desirability of grit.
For the recruiters, the power of grit and determination were not passing traits that merely make up part of a good candidate. They are essential qualities – these two traits rank as infinitely more desirable in a potential hire than status credentials.
Experience in hiring has taught many recruiters that Ivy Leaguers, compared to their bootstraps counterparts, may have an overt or underlying sense of entitlement based on their school’s reputation or family connections. So, given a one-to-one choice, recruiters would hire a hard-working UGA graduate with demonstrated perseverance over the theoretically coveted Ivy Leaguer.
So what exactly is grit? Simply put, grit is a measure of our mental strength. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, grit encompasses a unique combination of passion, tenacity, and stamina. In practice, it’s what enables us to stick with our goals until they become a reality.
Experts on the trait believe that our grit grows as we mature throughout life. According to Duckworth, over time, we learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment. We learn to discern between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity. We learn to continue working on what we care about; we stay loyal, no matter what.
When things get tough, Bradberry posits that we always have two choices: either we overcome an obstacle, or we let it beat us. He reminds us that at our roots, we are creatures of habit. If we quit when things get hard, that decision makes it easier for us to quit the next time. But, if we force ourselves to push through challenges, strength grows in us. We build mental muscle to overcome adversity the next time it rolls around.
Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was once asked by a reporter how many sit-ups he does each day. His response: “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, when I feel pain, cause that’s when it really matters.” The same applies to professional success. When we grow through our mistakes, we hone our grit. We keep working. We get to that place of stick-to-it-ness.
Not all of us were born with a reservoir of grit, but we all can foster this trait through focused attention and dedicated determination. According to Bradberry, when we change our outlook, we change. Make no mistake, when adversity hits, we all suffer the same. It’s how we process the challenges that set us apart. The grittiest among us understand that life’s lessons also offer growth edges. At the end of the day, the exercise of falling down and getting back up gives us the strength we need to succeed.