The first year of my marriage — at the ripe age of 19 — I had 5 different jobs. I worked as a paper boy, a bagel maker, a jewelry salesman, a cook, and a banker. Not all at the same time but I’d jump from one gig to another.
And here’s the more notable thing. I didn’t get fired from any of those jobs.
That’s right. I quit. Every. Single. One.
Because I’ve never been good at the long game. I’m great at starting something new that excites me. But by the 3-month marker, I’m bored.
By nature, I’m a quitter — as much as that hurts to admit.
Luckily, when a friend told me I should read Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance, I knew it was a good idea.
Persistence — referred to by Angela Duckworth as “grit” — is exactly how any lucrative business rose to the top. The moment you or I decide to do something is less powerful than the moments we keep deciding to do something.
In Angela Duckworth’s words, “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
Sadly, endurance is also the more important quality. For those of you who are like me, take heart. Here are 6 lessons to help you and I become more persistent.
1. Don’t Be Talented. Be Persistent.
Growing up, I always hoped I had that special something. When I was in 6th grade, I hoped that, as I was playing basketball outside, the right person would drive by and notice me sink a shot, and take me in as their protégé.
Sometimes, we treat our start-ups the same way.
We create something that we’re proud of and then wait for it to grow because of its obvious glory. When it doesn’t, we either find a new niché or sometimes, we give up all together.
Unfortunately for our businesses, it was probably only a matter of time until they flourished.
In fact, the key to growing a successful start-up is to keep on working at it. As Duckworth reminds us,
“The main thing is that greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.”
Keep doing those tiny feats of greatness and give up on trying to be talented.
2. The Point Is To Fail.
When you don’t land the sale, when numbers are down for the month, when no one seems to be interested in what you have to offer, keep this in mind:
The best time to learn is when everything is going to shit.
The point of grit is to fail. Because when you fail, there’s an opportunity to learn: Why don’t people like my product? How could I make my audience happier? Why aren’t people signing up from my ad?
All of these questions, if we pursue them, lead to answers. And answers lead to a successful business. If you’re not failing, you’re only doing what you’re comfortable with. Get out there and fail and take heart in the fact that you’re doing something you’ve never done before.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
3. Resolve To Make Tomorrow Better.
Life is not a result of destiny or fate.
Every day, we all make choices that impact the opportunities, setbacks, and experiences we’ll have. The first step is to take responsibility for everything that happens to us. Not fault, but responsibility.
Say to yourself, “This is happening, regardless of who’s fault it is, and it is my responsibility to deal with it.”
Second, we must resolve to make the best of what we are given. Sadly, you and I are no more special than anyone else on this planet — there are times we will succeed and there are times we will fail. But our perspective on success, failure, and life itself is what matters most.
Resolve to make each day an improvement upon the last.
“I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better.”
4. Quit Slow.
Quitting is easy. Whether you just stop advertising your product, you pretend that you forgot to send an email, or you just don’t show up for a meeting, quitting is simply the default — all you have to do is not show up.
And because it’s the default, not showing up is a horribly tempting option when nothing seems to be working.
Here’s my advice: the moment that you’re lost in nerves and think, It would be so much easier to give up, don’t make any decisions. Wait until you’re level-headed. Sleep on it. Whatever you do, don’t decide in that moment of panic that you’re going to quit.
Just for today, just for this next 10 minutes, stick with it. Take your time to quit. You could always do it tomorrow.
“There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine…. you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people…. Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it… it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
5. How Gritty Are You?
Take the official test that Angela Duckworth put together to figure out how gritty you are.
You Can Take The Official Grit Test Here.
6. Get Grittier — Choose One Hard Thing.
You’re probably asking yourself, “But how do I get grittier? Just by not giving up? That’s easier said than done.”
I get it.
Unfortunately, there is no magical pill you can take to make yourself more persistent. The only way to increase grit is by practicing it — by doing hard things that you don’t want to do.
So, here’s how to improve. Choose one thing, it can be anything you want — running, hiking, meditating, researching, or committing to any difficult project. Then, decide how often you want to do this. For example, “I’m going to run for 30 minutes 5 days a week.”
And here’s the last critical step. Decide when the season is over and you can change your “one hard thing” to something else. It could be for a year. It could be for a few months. It could be for the summer. Whatever you choose, you’re not allowed to quit for a single day, come hell or high-water, until the designated season is over.
“The One Hard Thing Rule: You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other natural stopping point has arrived. You must, at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you begin.”
Entrepreneurship: Not For The Light Of Heart.
Quitting is my natural tendency. It’s most people’s natural tendency.
But, often, the way to turn your entrepreneurial undertaking into something worthy of note is as simple as this: stick with it.
Entrepreneurial greatness isn’t mysterious, it’s simply doing the right things at the right time — or as Duckworth would probably say, for the right amount of time.
And let me know what your “one hard thing” is in the comments 🙂
Stick with it,
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