Monday Mornings with Madison

Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success – Part 2

Most every leader, entrepreneur and manager wants to have and hone the qualities that contribute to and best predict success.  For example, most leaders want to demonstrate the qualities of confidence, organization, selflessness, structure, humility, and conscientiousness.  But, in excess, even the best leadership qualities can become flaws.  Someone who is too confident can become arrogant.   A person who is too organized can become obsessive.  A person who is too selfless can become a people-pleaser.  A person who is too structured can have trouble being creative.  A person who is too humble may not be able to inspire others to follow.  A person who is too conscientious can become neurotic.  However, there is one trait that every leader should have in as much abundance as possible.  That is grit, a perseverance and passion for long term goals.  There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as too much grit.  The more grit a person has, the more they press on in the face of adversity.  There is no downside to it.

Grit is a key trait – or combination of traits – that is absolutely essential for success.  And, according to Dr. Angela Duckworth who won the Genius grant for her study of grit, it is also an excellent predictor of success.[1] People with grit usually demonstrate courage, resilience, conscientiousness, follow-through, and excellence in very specific ways.  A person with grit usually has a goal he/she cares about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything he/she does.  Best of all, grit is something that can not only be learned, but also something that tends to increase with age.[2]

How to Increase One’s Grit

According to Travis Bradly in his article entitled “11 Signs You Have the Grit Needed to Succeed” published in Entrepreneur, “Developing grit is all about habitually doing the things that no one else is willing to do.”[3] That right there explains why many people lack grit.

Top 10 Ways to Help Increase Grit

1.  Work twice as hard as everyone else.

Many studies show that while talent is important, effort is more important.  In fact, it counts twice.  Consistent, solid effort and focus on a particular goal is much more important than intellect or talent in achieving that goal.  People who are highly-successful are known for working long hours and really focusing their energy and time only on tasks that further that key goal.  Warren Buffet, the self-made multibillionaire, spends most of his day most every day focused on reading and studying the financial statements of major companies.  He cuts away all of the tasks that don’t add any value to his goal of investing in the best companies.  It is reported that he has a three-step process for prioritizing.

Step 1:  Write down a list of 25 career goals.

Step 2:  Then consider which, from the list, are most important.  Circle those.

Step 3:  Look at the 20 career goals not circled.  Avoid those at all costs.  Those are just distractions from the five highest-priority goals on the list.

Call it ruthless prioritization or call it focus, but it certainly has worked for Buffett.  Duckworth added one more step to Buffett’s process for prioritizing.  She believes that the most successful people are successful because they find a common purpose among their top goals, and that becomes the “ultimate concern” or the compass goal that guides all their activity.[4] In the case of Steve Jobs, for example, his ultimate concern was to create a company that helped people to “think differently.”  The computers, phones, and pads that Apple sells are all just tools to help people think differently.[5]

2. Make a lot of mistakes.

To err is not only human, it is good.  The ability to fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again (you get the picture) — all without a moment’s pause – helps build grit.  Some people lack the confidence and self-esteem to fail repeatedly and not feel discouraged.  But those who can – who can fall off the proverbial horse or bike and get back on again and again — increase their grit.  The more willing a person is to try things that sound crazy or ridiculous — and may look foolish – all for the sake of achieving a goal, the more grit increases.

3. Press on even when feeling vanquished.

Tough times come to all.  No one can be in business for long without facing adversity or trials.  No one can try to create something new without having setbacks.  It is when all seems lost or pointless and things are most bleak that it is important to persevere.  Press on despite a deep desire to quit.  Consider it a ‘perseverance muscle’ that must be exercised in order for it to become stronger.

3. Make tough decisions that everyone else avoids.

No one wants to deal with difficult situation.  Reprimanding a subordinate.  Hiring someone that no one else thinks is a good fit.  Shutting down a project or company that is clearly not going to work long-term or big picture.  Having both the insight and metal to recognize when something difficult must be done and then doing it fosters grit.  It’s not fun, but it is vital.

4.  Shut out fear, doubts and negative self-talk.

There is enough fear and doubt that can creep in without anyone feeding it.  A person who wants to succeed must therefore ensure that such negative influences are shut down or kept away as much as possible.  Negative people must be distanced or removed.  A person with grit will not allow the negativity of others to bring them down, and they won’t allow negative thinking to infiltrate their mind.  They cast out fears and doubts, and focus on the goal even when no one else is on board or believes.

5. Trust your intuition.

Intuition is about relying on one’s collection of all subconscious experiences.  It’s basically a catalog of a whole lot of information that the mind has gathered for an entire lifetime and then created shortcuts to access.  They are insights that aren’t immediately available to the conscious mind at a given moment, but are all things that were learned and felt at some point.  It’s often referred to as a gut feeling.  People who want to increase their grit need to trust their gut in situations in order to hone that ability to access all of the collective wisdom in the unconscious mind.  Many people are hesitant to trust their gut, but as people age, they learn to rely on intuition more so.

6. Be patient and willing to delay gratification.

In a multitude of studies, it’s been shown that people who are patient and willing to delay gratification now for a better reward later are usually more successful.  This is a sign of grit.  Those who can exercise their need for immediate reward help to hone this “patience muscle.”

8. Stay the course even if no else believes in the vision.

A vision statement is a statement of words describing where and what an organization wants to be in the future. It usually remains unchanged for many years.[6] But often leaders may have a vision of where they want to go, but don’t have the support of the organization.  Simply put, they may not believe in the vision.  Case in point.  A new CEO was brought in to turn Borders Books around when the company was struggling to recapture market share lost to Amazon, Walmart, and others.  However, the CEO was unable to gain the support of the organization and eventually the Board of Directors fired that CEO and hired another, and then another.  No CEO could stay the course because not only didn’t the employees believe in the vision, neither did the Board.  Eventually, Borders went out of business.  It is easy for lack of support to undermine and eventually quash any goal.  Only those who are willing and able to move forward even if no one else believes will ultimately succeed.  That tenacity builds grit.

9. Over-deliver on promises.

According to a study by BBB/Gallup, when asked what CEOs could do to improve trust, 72% of respondents to one survey said, “Do a better job of keeping your promises.”[7] Another study found that 40% of consumers who had received a promise from a business in a given year felt it was not delivered, and of those 62% experienced multiple broken promises from that same business.[8] It is not unusual for companies and its leaders to not deliver on promises.  But the most successful people – those with a lot of grit – make sure to over deliver.  They believe that if you promise the moon, you deliver it with a handful of stars so they can shine in the customer’s eyes.   Delivering on promises means doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.  Following through on a commitment, small or large, helps build trust each time. It also helps to build grit.

10. Care about the details, even when tired.

Often, business leaders are big-picture thinkers who have a low tolerance for details. They’re very clear about where their visionary journey will take them, but they may neglect the finer points and details.  But the most successful people think strategically and also pay attention to detail.  They don’t let big-picture thinking stop them from caring about the small stuff. Paying attention to the details is often what delivers a competitive advantage.  Certainly Apple’s attention to detail is what made its computers worth the price tag.  Those who care about the details, even when tired, are those who build grit.

In sum, these ten things can be done by anyone who puts their mind to it.  Anyone can be grittier with a little extra focus and effort.    Or, if a person waits long enough, it is likely to develop with age.

Quote of the Week

“I now have Grit Scale scores from thousands of American adults. My data provide a snapshot of grit across adulthood.  And I’ve discovered a strikingly consistent pattern: grit and age go hand in hand. Sixty-somethings tend to be grittier, on average, than fifty-somethings, who are in turn grittier than forty-somethings, and so on.”
Angela Duckworth

[1] Duckworth, Angela, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance, First Edition, Scribner.

[2] June 2007, By:  Angela Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, and Dennis R. Kelly, Grit:  Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92 (6): 1087–1101.

[3] November 13, 2017, By:  Travis Bradly, 11 Signs You Have the Grit Needed to Succeed, Entrepreneur,

[4] Duckworth, Angela, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance, First Edition, Scribner.

[5] 2017, By:  Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, TED Talk,

[6] By:  Deborah K. Zmorenski, MBA, “Why Leaders Must Have Vision,” Noria,

[7] April, 2008, Topline – Survey Results Consumers’ Rating of Companies They Regularly Deal With , Gallup Trust in Business Index, Better Business Bureau and The Gallop Organization,

[8] 2012, Accenture Broken Promises Survey, Promises, Promises: Easily Made, Easily Broken What companies are saying versus actually doing— and how customers are responding,


© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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