What makes some people keep going and others quit?

On the highway to any great goal, there are numerous exits we can take.

“This is too hard.”

“Why did I say yes to this project?”

“I’m just not smart enough. I should just give up and do something easier.”

So why do some individuals manage to hang in there in spite of self-doubt, second thoughts, and personal setbacks, and complete the marathon, graduate from the course, become the influential authority figure whose opinions others seek?

Psychologist, former teacher and former management consultant Angela Lee Duckworth calls this success factor “grit”.

So what is “grit”?

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

firmness of mind or spirit :  unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger“.

Duckworth and her research team studied West Point military cadets, spelling bee contestants, rookie teachers in tough neighbourhoods – to see if they could pinpoint the ones who would go all the way. They found the common factor to be “grit”.

In the context of becoming a successful entrepreneur, grit is a must-have trait. Without grit, it would be too easy to say “I give up” in the difficult first years when you aren’t getting enough clients, people aren’t familiar enough with your brand to recommend you, or when you struggle to fill the room at a live event.

All successful entrepreneurs are gritty – they have experienced failure and setbacks, have been told their ideas were not good enough, have been criticized and mocked for attempting to change the status quo. Yet they pushed through, leaned in, and found resourceful and creative ways to turn negatives into positives, and continue to do so everyday. They know that building a sustainable business is not a one-off project; it is for the long term, like a marathon. They are willing to persist through uncertainty, to commit huge amounts of time, energy and resources, because they have a vision and they know what they want to create. They are not discouraged by the lack of immediate positive feedback, which in my opinion is a point worth exploring, because so many of us depend on positive feedback to feel good and stay on track, and are disheartened when there is an absence of feedback, or when the feedback received is harsh and critical.

Next time – How to Develop Grit.