How Gritty Are You?

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Did you catch two great books that came out this month? Grit by Angela Duckworth and TED Talks by Chris Anderson were both released on May 3.

More to come on TED in a future post, and for the 6-minute version of Grit, watch the TED talk. Dive into Grit the book for more on the science behind the concept. This answered 3 key questions for me.

First, what is grit? Duckworth defines it as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” More than talent and intelligence, grit is what ultimately makes people successful in achieving their goals.

She said in her TED talk that “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Are you curious to see how gritty you are? Test yourself on the Grit Scale.

Second, what can be life-changing about grit? You don’t have to possess natural talent or off-the-charts intelligence in order to do great things. In fact, “natural talent” may simply be the outcome of a lot of hard work behind the scenes that ultimately comes to appear effortless.

If you have passion for something and decide to persevere no matter what, you have an excellent chance of achieving your goal. So says the science in Duckworth’s studies.

Third, what does this mean for your life? It means you don’t have any excuses. You can no longer say you don’t have what it takes to accomplish a goal in your area of passion. You have to own up to the fact that you didn’t work hard enough.

Does that mean you should never throw in the towel on something? Of course not. There are times when you need to cut your losses and move on. Just don’t do it too soon. Give yourself time to move beyond the inevitable period of being bad at something new, with thanks here to Erika Andersen.

How has grit made a difference? A few years ago, my daughter was struggling in her first AP class in high school. She missed the deadline to level down to a regular class. A few academic advisors later told her they could move her to a lower class and suggested that she avoid future AP courses.

To my surprise (and delight), my daughter said no. She wanted to finish the course. And finish she did. She eked by with a passing, but not great, grade in the course. But she got a qualifying score on the exam, one that will give her college credit. And she went on to take other AP courses, with better grades and better scores. All because she chose to persevere.

You’ve probably faced times like those in your life and your career. I can think of more than a few. When launching a new way to work with social collaboration a few years ago, I had moments of terror. How would we do it? How would we manage through the inevitable mistakes? How would we make it successful?

The day our beta test launched, I decided I would start a blog. The purpose? To create a safe learning environment for others. To role model the use of the new platform. And to learn by doing so I could advise other leaders on starting their own blogs.

It wasn’t easy, admitting what I didn’t know. Making mistakes. Asking the community for help in how to perform seemingly simple functions, like creating hyperlinks. Or launching a project on Social Media for Innovation in partnership with Gerry Ledford of USC’s Center for Effective Organizations. But that’s how I learned.

A fierce level of tenacity existed among the people on my team at the time who were leading the project – Michael Ambrozewicz and Thyda Nhek Vanhook. And we had tremendous colleagues in our I.T. organization, starting from Frank Palase to Brian Ulm and many, many others.

How did we do? I knew we’d achieved success when people started talking about the platform in meetings. When I’d walk by a conference room and see a platform screen displayed on a monitor. When I worked with our CEO to launch his leadership blog. And when nearly 90% of our employees were using the platform to do their daily work more efficiently.

In those moments when you want to shut down and walk away from a seemingly unsolvable problem, what works best is to do the opposite. Take some kind of action. Any action. Get feedback from others. Adjust your path. And keep moving forward.

How do you persevere on your most important goals?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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