Crippled CEO Blog #049:
What really makes a person successful?
We all have assumptions.
IQ, inherited wealth, good parents, health, good looks, charisma, EQ, education, who you know, luck…
Chances are, you think success is tied to one or three of those.
Innately, I’m sure I always have.
But, apparently, that’s not the case.
Psychologist and educator Angela Duckworth did extensive research, studying kids in spelling bees, West Point Military Graduates, rookie teachers, corporate salespeople, and everything in between, and found that those aren’t the factors for success.
Smarter kids don’t necessarily do better in school.
Charismatic, better looking, high EQ sales people don’t necessarily sell more stuff.
So, you ask, skeptically, what is it then?
Grit is the common denominator for success. The persistent, disciplined, ceaseless commitment toward improving your future and achieving your goals. The ability to get up, day after day, and do what needs to be done. Seth Godin describes this as “being a professional“ — doing the work, no matter what, even when they don’t feel like it.
This is the factor that everyone who does well has in common. People who don’t see failure as a permanent state, but continue to get up and keep going. People who passionately stick to accomplishing their goals, not for weeks, or months, but for years. According to Duckworth, brains and talent have nothing to do with this. In study after study, smart people are just as likely to not follow up on their commitments as everybody else. In fact, smart and talented people sometimes exhibit LESS grit than their less gifted peers.
You might be thinking this is bad news. No one wants to hear that hard work is the answer. But the ramifications are huge. This means that regardless of the hand of cards you were given, the disadvantages you may have been born with, if you can work hard, day after day, if you can be disciplined, then the odds tip in your favor.
But what if you know this isn’t you? What if you know that you are lacking in grit? What if you have a history of giving up on your goals prematurely?
Welcome to the club. That’s pretty much all of us.
You are in luck, though. Because grit and discipline can be trained. You get better at it the more you do it. And if you know that this one characteristic is the fundamental key to your long-term success, you now have the motivation to go after it.
Like anything, the key is to start small. Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven famously told us all that we should start by making our beds every morning. This is a great start. Next, maybe add flossing to your oral hygiene routine. Keep stacking on these practices that you can succeed at doing every day. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
To use myself as an example, I have written this blog every Sunday for the last 49 weeks. What are the odds that writing the blog is exactly what I wanted to do every Sunday for the last almost year? What are the odds that I felt motivated and excited for 49 weeks in a row? Not great. But I think of Seth Godin, about being a professional, and now 49 weeks in, I’m a lot better at doing this every Sunday than I was when I started. In the beginning, there were a bunch of weeks where I was up late writing this before going to bed, because I had put it off all day. Now, I finish every day in the early afternoon, typically before my 3 PM chess lesson. And I’m sure that will continue to improve as well.
Once you know the real source of success, all of your excuses get stripped away. You can’t blame it on the disability you were born with or your parents or the money in your bank account. Consistent and sustained hard work, treating life like a marathon instead of a sprint — grit — is the great equalizer, and is the chance you have to prove everybody wrong. You just have to start.
(What if this will help that person you are thinking of? You should send it to them. And you should also send a text message to 484848 with the word CRIP so I automatically text you each week with a link to the latest blog post. It’s a smart investment.)