In business, we often hear about the characteristics, or "it" traits that every entrepreneur must possess. We hear about ability, experience, nerve, vision and tenacity, among others. And these are fine traits to possess -- in every aspect of life, not just entrepreneurship. But when you look at yourself, is it one of these "it" traits that really motivates you?
Or is something more? Something I call G.R.I.T
In an age where we're all looking for the “it factor,” perhaps we should look instead for G.R.I.T -- an acronym for guts, resilience, initiative, tenacity. The most successful entrepreneurs have G.R.I.T., and the good thing here is that anyone can develop it. Most successful people in the world don’t have "it," but they do have G.R.I.T.
Michael Jordan, for example, was an NBA superstar, a legend, but he didn’t even make his high school team. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state General Colin Powell was a self-described “C-minus student.” Steven Spielberg never attended film school. These initial "failures" didn’t stop any of these guys, however, from reaching the pinnacle of their respective careers.
Let’s break down the acronym to see if you have what G.R.I.T. requires.
The 'guts' to wait
For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are millions of other people trying to make it. Most people have a plan they are trying to put in place and aim to "make it big" by their late 20s. But I don’t need to tell you that not everyone makes it by their 20s. The winners are the exception, not the rule. In fact, some of us actually get mad at people who reach the pinnacle of their careers so young. You’ve reached the top; now what?
Guts don’t just involve risk-taking, even though that’s what we associate the most with that word. For us entrepreneurs, being patient takes more guts than anything. Your instincts tell you to move, but moving too soon could be a fatal mistake.
We live in a society where people are unwilling to wait for success, especially young millennials. Everything with them needs to happen right now. Recently, advertising pioneer and best-selling author Linda Kaplan-Thaler (co-author of the book G.R.I.T. to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary, along with Robin Koval) did an interview on my show, Best Seller TV.
While speaking with her, I gained a lot of insight about taking that next step to becoming greater than you think you are -- though I was taken aback by her advice. Kaplan-Thaler told me that the solution is, “Embrace boredom. Doing nothing is doing something.”Entrepreneurship and boredom don’t even belong in the same sentence! I thought to myself.
But the advice makes sense once you think about it. Doing nothing takes not only discipline, but a super-human amount of guts -- to go against the grain.
The 'resilience' to cowboy up
Back when we were knee-high to a grasshopper, our parents kept telling us to dust ourselves off and get back up on that horse. Back then, our challenges weren’t that daunting, although we thought they were. Years later, as adults and entrepreneurs, we find the challenges before us much bigger and the ramifications of our decisions liable to affect others, personally and professionally.
However, as every businessperson knows, we are going to screw up and fail at some point. It's how we recover from those failures that determines our level of resiliency.
In business, people will come up with a carefully crafted business plan about where they think their business is going to be in five years. Why not come up with a 100-year plan instead? Sure, others might think you’re crazy, but so what? Let them! It’s your business, and what’s the hurry? Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and success has no expiration date. Will anything happen if your business takes longer than five years to become a rousing success?
One of my favorite stories about failure is that of James Dyson, founder of the Dyson Company. He’s now famous for those fancy vacuums of his, but what you may not know is that perfecting those products took 15 years and more than 5,000 failed attempts. Imagine if he had given up after a few attempts? Things would be a little different now, wouldn’t they? The lesson here is: Be resilient. Don’t give up!
The 'initiative' you need in spades
As entrepreneurs, we are driven to create something new or improve something that’s already out there that will make our lives better. Whether the task before us is to get everyone on the team involved in decision-making or to outwork the competition, we all have that initiative and drive to be successful.
That same initiative and passion will get you started on the entrepreneurial road, as well. And while every entrepreneur’s initiative (or motivation) is different, we must determine the conditions of satisfaction for our individual business.
We all take different paths to success, so how do we determine what those conditions are? You must have a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what brought you to this moment. In my own case, my conditions of satisfaction have shaped my business decisions every day. If a business opportunity comes around that doesn’t meet my three conditions -- grow professionally, have fun and make money -- I turn that opportunity down.
The 'tenacity' to understand that if at first you don’t succeed . . .
Try, try, try again, I can’t stress this enough! If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you must be tenacious. There’s no wavering on this one. In order to succeed, you must stop dreaming of success and work for it instead. Don’t dream about what might happen five, 10 years down the road; focus on solving the problems of today. Solving the here and now will lead you to the problems of five, 10 years from now.
Former Yankee great Derek Jeter once said, “I may not be the most talented, but no one will outwork me.” Truer words were never spoken. Many called him overrated because he didn’t hit a lot of home runs, nor did he have a lot of power, but no one was ever able to outwork him. That is the definition of tenacity.
You don’t have to be the best to be considered successful. And success doesn’t come immediately. In most cases, it takes time, patience and tenacity.
So, those are the elements of G.R.I.T, and the questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I have “it” or do I have G.R.I.T?
- Am I willing to wait?
- How do I embrace boredom?
Be honest with yourself. If you’re impatient, as I am, slowing down and focusing on the here and now might be one of your toughest obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn't ignore your long-term plans, but don’t focus on something so far down the road that you lose sight of what’s right in front of you.