Entrepreneurial Grit

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Certain words invoke powerful images in the mind—and “grit” is one of those words. When we associate grit with someone, it goes far beyond just being tough. It’s that something extra in the face of adversity.

Through the years we have seen many stories of grit, and it touches us deeply when the human spirit triumphs over situations that seem insurmountable. The Grit dynamic comes from several character traits: Intensity, toughness and a never-give-up, scrappy perseverance.

Grit Trumps Other Factors

Dr. Angela Duckworth, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has developed a way to measure a person’s grit. Her findings show that people who score high on the Grit Scale are usually more successful than their brilliant but less motivated counterparts. Her research also shows that students with high Grit Scale scores get better grades and have more job success after graduation than those with lower scores.

Our “Gritometer” Quotient

Ask yourself these questions to determine your current level entrepreneurial grit:

  1. Passion Quotient: Are you intensely passionate about what you do? Do you give it all you’ve got or clock out dutifully every day at 5pm?
  2. Challenge Quotient: When challenges show up in your life, do you cower or do you face them head-on without flinching?
  3. Result Quotient: Do you have a results-oriented mindset? Do you consistently create results or make excuses?
  4. Production Quotient: Can you handle being defined by what you produce? Have you ever created anything of substance that you will be remembered for?
  5. Whining Quotient: Do you create fear, excuses, or roadblocks in the game of work?
  6. Phoenix Quotient: Can you fail with dignity and grace and rise again stronger, more humble, and ready for the next play?

Entrepreneurs are defined by performance. Employees get paid a salary whether their company shows a profit or loss—entrepreneurs only make money if they show a profit. Because of this, intensity and toughness are vital tools in the entrepreneur’s toolshed.

Our New York friends, Gary O’Neil and MJ Gottlieb from Hustle Branding, taught us a great deal about grit this year. The best entrepreneurs have tough skin and soft hearts.

“Successful entrepreneurs do things they don’t want to do. A true entrepreneur builds his or her company from the ground up. So he knows how to sweep floors, clean toilets, pack boxes, and do all the things you eventually pay other people to do when you have the money to do it… and even then you have to still be willing to roll up your sleeves and get gritty,” says MJ.

Entrepreneurs also seek out the good in others and go the distance when others clock out at 5pm. MJ recalls an interesting story about Gary that epitomizes grit: “I remember one day Gary took off from Los Angeles to San Francisco to get a celebrity to wear one of our shirts. When he got to San Francisco it turned out the celebrity had flown back to Los Angeles… so he jumped in the car in the middle of the night and drove back.”

Given the challenges that entrepreneurs tackle on a daily basis, grit is vital for success. Let’s face it, entrepreneurs enter a world where there are vastly more failures than successes. In order to succeed, we need to have an unrelenting belief that our business and ideas will defy the statistics and become the success story that we have always strived to achieve.

So, given the odds, what does it take to break through? Grit: the battle of will, and unflinching intensity and toughness to achieve the results that you desire.

In their first business, MJ and Gary drove from Colorado to San Francisco for a 10-minute radio interview. It was their first interview. They didn’t have the money to fly so they drove across the country and got caught in a brutal ice storm in Cheyenne, Wyoming and were stranded between two trucks that had jackknifed in front and in back of them, so they were blocked in. Somehow they made it to the interview. Now that was gritty!

Success is often measured by a person’s grit.   Intelligence is helpful when embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, but grit is the defining trait that will allow you to push past failure, disappointment, fatigue, and all the other challenges you confront.

MJ pointed out that you need to have intensity and toughness, but they cannot replace the need to prioritize and work smart. Quality works at a thousand times the pace of quantity, which is something he focuses on his book, How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying. This is a great guidebook for those interested in “upping their grit game.”

First published at Forbes.com.

David Williams

David has been an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he started selling cool rocks even before ghe sold lemonade. At age 8, he hired my two friends to deliver newspapers and gave them 75 cents a day, and I kept 25 cents. He's gone on to start much larger companies, divisions within companies, both within the US and outside, that have led to both success and failure. Venture backed, partnerships, bootstrapped, high growth, retail, commercial real estate, technology, energy, B2B, B2C, B20 - nobody is there to buy) and more. He's learned his greatest life and business lessons from his failures. He recently completed a book for Wiley & Sons, entitled The 7 Non Negotiables of Winning: Tying Soft Traits to Hard Results, which you can read about here. His current company, Fishbowl, is a culmination of everything he's learned over his 30-plus business years..

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