Grit. How to Get it.
It’s a shame that the Olympics are only held every two years, because every day the games are broadcast, there is a story and a lesson for us all. You don’t have to be athletic, or even interested in sports, to be inspired by these young competitors and their stories of “grit."
Take for example, 18-year-old swimmer Yusra Mardini. While she didn’t make the finals in her events, she made it to the Olympics alive. She was a member of the refugee team. When the motor stopped on the dinghy in which she and 20 others were in while fleeing the civil war in Syria, she and her sister realized they were among the only ones who knew how to swim. They pushed the boat for three hours in the cold water and in the dark to shore for what was the first of a 25-day trek to refuge in Berlin where she joined a swim club. She swims now to inspire others and give hope more than to win a medal. That’s a story of grit.
And USA runner Boris Berian has grit. He was a track star in high school and college, until he had to drop out due to his grades and his financial situation. While he could have easily given up, he didn’t. He kept running on his own until he was taken in by a local track club where he continued to work on his passion and skills.
Angela Duckworth has written a New York Times Best Seller “Grit." I love this book because she has applied scientific research to conclude that the biggest indicator of success is not talent, but rather the combination of perseverance and passion, known as grit. As we learn about the stories of perseverance and passion that have gotten these athletes to the Olympic stage, we are provided a consistent source of motivation, inspiration and determination to get after the goals we have both personally and professionally.
You may already have a high level of grit, but if you don’t, the good news is that anyone can develop grit, according to Duckworth. It takes these four things:
- Interest: Passion and perseverance come when you are really interested in the work you do and/or the goals that you have set. And most people are not born knowing what their interests will be. In fact, true interest follows a path of discovery, development and deepening. Employee engagement is the barometer in the workplace of the passion the associates have for the work. Great organizations help their employees through the discovery, development and deepening phases of their work life to cultivate and inspire interest. Individuals with grit recognize that cultivating these passions take time. Once the newness of an interest wears off, and the competition gets a little more difficult, they are still inspired by the end game, even through the mundane and the difficulties.
- Purpose: All of us strive for emotional rewards in doing things that are both self-oriented (earning money, learning new things, etc) and other-oriented (helping others make money, teaching others, etc. ) The “other-oriented” side is what is known as purpose. Highly successful executives are focused more on others than they are on themselves. The most successful salespeople are “other-oriented” because they truly want to solve their customers’ problems through the product or service they offer. The consistently successful executives want their direct reports to outperform them. They want the team to win and they know that their company makes the world a better place, even if it’s one person at a time. Purpose helps create grit.
- Practice: Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” talks about the 10,000-hour rule. He speaks to success coming from the amount of time one puts into their goal. Truly gritty people not only put in the practice, but they put in “deliberate practice.” This is perhaps the one part of building grit that is the biggest difference maker. Every human ability can be broken down into component skills which can be practiced. According to research from cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson, the world's expert on experts, deliberate practice means setting a stretch goal, zeroing in on a narrow component of your performance, and striving to improve on a weakness. Gritty people usually do this on their own, while no one is looking.
- Hope: At Butler Street, we subscribe heavily to the theory that hope is not a strategy. You can’t win an account through hope; you must have a plan and take action on it in order to win. But hope, in this case of developing grit, doesn’t mean that you hope things will turn out better next time, or you hope you will win, but rather, hope means that you firmly believe that you have the ability to make tomorrow better. You have hope because you can honestly see that nothing, absolutely nothing will stand in your way to make it better. You are a get it done no matter what person. The lesson here is the Power of Possibility. Henry Ford said it best; “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Butler Street helps companies and their people grow. We recognize grit and the opportunities to help cultivate grit within your organization. Whether it’s connecting people to purpose or creating opportunities for deliberate practice, we can help. We’ve seen grit and it’s pretty awesome — on and off the Olympic stage.
Leave a comment below! We’d love to hear your stories of grit, and how you got it.
Mary Ann McLaughlin serves as a Managing Partner at Butler Street, a leading management consulting, training and research firm that focuses on client and talent development. Prior to Butler Street, she served in executive roles for 13 years including chief operating officer, president and managing director. A Six Sigma Champion certified executive, McLaughlin leverages her robust process background with 32 years of sales and operational experience.
A recreational triathlete, McLaughlin has completed three marathons (Chicago 2x, Marine Corps) and numerous triathlons. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Bradley University.