Coach’s Challenge for 11-10-13 “Grit”

Good day, team.

My husband recently told me about a Ted Talk he saw on the subject of grit. It makes a great topic for this week’s challenge.

In the talk, Angela Duckworth outlines why some kids in school do better than others. Interestingly enough, studies show that it’s not IQ, not talent and not social intelligence. What really makes the difference is “grit” — or, as she defines it, the passion and persistence to achieve long-term goals. Check out the full Ted Talk online: www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit.html.

Years ago, I saw Terri Dial give a speech about success. Dial started out at Wells Fargo as a teller, and over the years, she rose within the organization. Eventually, she became the first female vice chairman at the bank — only one of four women in the world who had achieved that level of position in a financial institution. When I saw her speak, Dial shared what had helped make her successful: being in the right place at the right time, having an insatiable desire for learning, not being afraid of new technology, etc. But what really struck me was what she said when she was taking questions from the audience at the end of her speech. “What one thing has been the single, greatest factor in your success?” someone from the audience asked. After a long pause, Dial replied, “Well, I guess it’s that I just keep showing up. At the end of the day, it’s about persistence and continuing to show up in the good times and the bad. Whether you’re succeeding or failing, you just keep showing up each day to do the work.”

I was struck by the simplicity of her answer and also by how much her statement resonated with me. At the time, I had been an executive recruiter for 12 years. I realized that much of the success I had achieved was because I just kept showing up. Some days I was highly successful; other days I felt defeated and a failure. Some years I made more money than others, and there were days when I was convinced recruiting was the wrong profession for me. For more than a decade, I lived through boom and bust times and the rising and falling of the recruiting industry and job market, but it was my stick-to-itness that had made me successful. As one of my best clients remarked one day, “I have to hand it to you — you are persistent. Year after year, you just keep calling me!”

I worked with a team once that kept track of people’s attendance. Out of the 62 people in the department, there was one guy named Frank who had perfect attendance. He wasn’t the brightest guy on the team or the most savvy. But, each day, Frank came into the office with a smile on his face and an attitude that said, “OK, I’m here. What’s going to happen today? I’m ready for it.”

At the end of five years, Frank made more money than anyone else in the department, and he had the best attitude. Each year, when he got his performance review, he was consistently rated a top performer but not the highest-level performer. The one consistent comment that showed up on every review was that Frank had perfect attendance. Each year, he received the highest possible raise within the department because of the combination of his good performance, consistent attendance and positive attitude. Frank wasn’t the smartest guy on the team or the superstar, and he didn’t stand out for having the most potential, but he was the one who showed up every day with that gritty attitude of persistence and passion for what he did. Frank wanted to win in the long run — and he did.

We so often equate success with money in our culture. And yet, the people I know who are truly successful are the ones who have a gritty approach to their vocation or profession and don’t worry so much about the money. They have that level of determination that sees them through whatever their business presents them with. And their passion for what they do, far exceeds whatever depression they experience in their temporary failures. Look at someone like Warren Buffet, the famous investor who made his first investment when he was eleven years old. He’s been investing in companies and activities for more 70 years! Some of his investments have been real losers, while others have been wildly successful. Through it all, Buffet shows up at his offices in Omaha, Nebraska, day after day, year after year to take on the next project.

This week, ask yourself if you have the grit it takes to be successful. Do you see yourself changing jobs frequently because you’re bored? Do you think you should be more successful than you are? Maybe you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles in front of you or within you to make something work. Are you someone who is willing to put the time in and keep showing up each day?

Think about what it means to have grit — passion and persistence. Find that place within yourself that reminds you how important it is to keep at it, no matter what. Like Frank, you may not be the superstar in the short term, but you might just win in the long run.

Have a good week!

Kathleen

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