Updated: Jan 8
We must encounter frustration and failure to enjoy success. Wait... what? It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? In today’s business world, mistakes can be costly—both to the organization and to the individual. There is enormous pressure to deliver the best products, strategies, and solutions. No one wants to be credited with "the idea that tanked." We earn respect through our victories, not our failures.
Our attitude toward failure is essential to success in the real world. Those who can't effectively embrace and respond to failure are more likely to stay in the safety zone where mediocrity abounds. Psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Angela Duckworth, sees it differently than Carol Dweck’s mindset theory. Duckworth studies non-IQ competencies to predict academic and professional success. Duckworth maintains that the key to one’s success is a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”
Duckworth's research populations have included West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee finalists, novice teachers, salespeople, and students. She has found that, beyond success, our level of grittiness also has a direct correlation to our level of happiness and personal satisfaction. Consider these four gritty traits that have a direct impact on both success and happiness.
Resilience, nurtured through a combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence, is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty. Life is often messy and complex, and there is no single solution that applies across the board. This means you must plan, prepare, and work toward your vision, but also continually embrace failure and experimentation when the inevitable orange cones of life present an unplanned detour. When we view these obstacles as opportunities to learn, we can bounce back smarter and stronger,
As Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy point out in their book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,“There are no finish lines and no silver bullets.” Resilience must be continually refreshed.” Resilience is the difference between those who thrive and those who fall apart in difficult or changing times.
A Google search for "fear of failure" will produce over 150 million hits. It's number 15 on the top 100 phobias list—atychiphobia. It's also one of the greatest barriers to success.
Even though we all know we can learn from our mistakes, no one wants to fail. Failure and disappointment come as a package deal, and disappointment doesn't feel good. Courage and grit are a package deal, too. It takes courage to overcome the fear of failure. Sometimes the greatest enlightenment comes from defeat. Gritty people aren't afraid to fail. Rather, they embrace mistakes and recognize that it often takes mistakes to make progress.
People often use the words excellent and perfect synonymously. As it turns out, there is a huge difference. Perfection focuses on destination rather than the journey. Perfectionists view any outcome less than perfect as failure. Many times that perfection is simply their perceptionof the ideal. They strive for impossible goals and often suffer from chronic unhappiness, clinical depression, and low self-esteem as they constantly chase that elusory prize. Moreover, perfectionists are often described as obsessive, anxious, rigid, and unyielding.
The quest for excellence is motivating and far more forgiving than perfection. Excellence is an attitude that emphasizes progress. Progress implies the process of continual improvement. Tony Schwartz, well-known author and founder of The Energy Project, refers to this as the "growth conflict." He says we strive for excellence as we continue to learn, grow, and change while also learning how to accept our own limitations and imperfections.
Perhaps the most essential attribute of gritty people is passion. Passion enables us to develop stamina and tenacity toward a greater purpose. It's this symbiosis that creates meaning from chaos, finds value in effort, and cultivates happiness, personal satisfaction, and the sense that what we do really matters. People who genuinely love their work are motivated by their passion and a greater purpose. They tend to be more satisfied and healthier both psychologically and emotionally. Conversely, people who are unsatisfied with their work are more likely to be dissatisfied with their personal relationships and experience distress in other areas of their lives.
Consider some of the people who epitomize success. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Oprah, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Simon Sinek, to name a few, all have demonstrated an unrelenting passion for a greater purpose. Malcolm Gladwell identifies passion as the most important factor for success.
"Nothing happens without desire and passion. Without it, nothing else falls in place. It's very hard to find someone who's successful and dislikes what they do." - Malcolm Gladwell
Grit may be the deciding factor between those who just show up and those who get the gold. Beyond that, grit determines how happy they are along the way. Success is not just measured by income, bonuses or the title on a business card. Those who enjoy a rich, rewarding life understand that the road to happiness is paved with grit. If you want to be successful and happy, you’ll have to get a little gritty.