Angela Duckworth's research at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates that the key predictor of success is not talent, title, wealth, or good looks. It is Grit: the ability to work hard for a long period of time toward a focused goal and keep moving forward in spite of challenges, obstacles and failures.
Duckworth says, "Grit is passion and perseverance for long term goals. It's a marathon not a sprint."
I would add that it's actually a marathon and a series of sprints combined with a boxing match. You are not just running but getting hit along the way. Grit keeps you moving forward through the sting of rejection, pain of failure and struggle with adversity. When life knocks you down you may want to stay down and give up but Grit won't let you quit.
This begs the question, why does Grit keep you moving forward? How does it work? If Grit drives you what drives Grit?
I believe True Grit starts with knowing what you truly want. When you know what you want and you can see it, you will work hard and persevere in order to achieve it.
True Grit is also driven by clarity of mind, purpose, passion, optimism, faith, love, hope and quite honestly... stubbornness. Knowing your why, refusing to give up, ignoring the critics, believing in the possible, loving what you do and showing up day in and day out keeps you on the path towards your vision.
I also believe that the desire to prove oneself is also a part of Grit. From my own experience, and having worked with many college and professional athletes I know there's something inside of each of us that wants to feel worthy and be someone of value. This desire fuels us to succeed but can also be unhealthy and sabotage us if it doesn't give way to humility and a bigger purpose.
When I first started writing I admit that while I wanted to make a difference I also wanted to be someone of value. It drove me to work hard but often left me feeling empty. Thankfully I realized that to truly make a difference I had to become someone who brought value to others. That's what moved me to start writing this newsletter in 2002 and keeps me writing it 13 years later.
When The Energy Bus was published in 2007 I offered to speak pro bono to students at the Johnson graduate school of management at my alma mater, Cornell University. Folks at the Business school said The Energy Bus wasn't "business enough" and respectfully declined my offer.
Now eight years later it's frequently a Wall Street Journal best seller, and a few months ago I spoke about the Energy Bus principles to the leaders of the SC Johnson company for which the Johnson school was named. And this week I'm speaking in NYC at the Cornell Entrepreneurship Summit about... you guessed it... True Grit.
Please know I don't blame the Johnson Business School. The world was different eight years ago. The Energy Bus was initially rejected by over 30 publishers. It's not their fault, they didn't see my vision. Perhaps this all fatefully happened so I would be able to tell this story for you to understand the importance of Grit in your own life. After all, our tests often become a testimony for others.
The truth is, not everyone will share your vision and believe in your project. Always remember that the circumstances around you and the opinion of others don't create or define you. Life is never created from the outside in. You create your life from the inside out. The grit and spirit you possess on the inside will create the life you experience on the outside.
If you have a vision, keep it alive. Remember your purpose. Show up every day and do the work. Stay the course and keep moving forward in spite of the rejection and obstacles you face.
You'll be glad you did. True Grit leads to true success.