Passion, Grit, Resilience: The Formula for Success
These three traits are crucial to business success.
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With anything you start, from a sport to a business, passion is the initial driving force behind the desire and ambition to create a plan of attack, but people can lose that passion without grit and resilience. On the other hand, grit without passion is just the grind, and eventually, the grind wears you down. So, you also need resilience to maintain your passion in the face of struggles or failure. Without all three of these traits, you could easily be tempted to just give up.
In late 2017, my passion was at an all-time low. My company was buried in debt, we had cut a bunch of people, and we were very close to being forced into bankruptcy. When I think back on what kept me going through that difficult time, I realize it was grit and resilience, but it didn't feel that way in the moment. What drove the passion I needed to keep moving forward was the determination to provide for my family, keep my employees paid and work to ensure the previous years didn't lead to failure. Due to past experiences, I had the confidence that the time I invested would lead me down a positive path.
While the formula for success starts with passion, developing grit to overcome obstacles and resilience to bounce back and try again in any circumstance will help business leaders — or anyone for that matter — expect and deliver better outcomes, more loyal coworkers and generally improved satisfaction within their company.
Related: Turn Your Passion Into Profit
Passion fuels your drive
If grit and resilience make up the engine, passion is the fuel you need to get it running. With passion comes both the self-confidence to keep you motivated and the enthusiasm to always learn more. Self-confidence lets you continue forward into the unknown, and humility helps you accept input from others that have more knowledge in a specific area. Lots of other people have come and gone before you, making both mistakes and good choices, and integrating that feedback into your strategies is an important part of success. If one path fails, you need passion to focus and stay positive, knowing that, eventually, your new direction will deliver the outcome you hope to accomplish.
Not everyone will believe in your vision, and you need passion to stay confident. Going back to the example of my company's situation, we were over $3 million in debt. Many people doubted my insistence to keep going, but I knew it was just a matter of funding. A major partnership was starting to deliver positive results, and if the product continued to thrive, we could scale revenue and pay off our debts. Even though there were ample negatives, I kept my passion alive by focusing on the positives and saw a path to growth, which gave me the confidence to follow through. It took a lot of uncomfortable conversations with very unhappy people, but three years later in mid-2020, the company had grown from $3M to $20M+, and we paid off our last debt.
Related: What is Grit, and Why Does It Matter When Hiring for Your Startup?
Grit gets you through the challenges
Grit enables you to stick to your passions, even when times get tough. Studies from 2017 and 2019 found that grit, as well as the traits that make it up like perseverance and passion for long-term goals, are better predictors of success in college than the SAT or IQ tests.
In my high school wood shop class, we used different grit sandpaper for different tasks. The roughest, 80 grit, was the first one we used when starting to sand wood. Just like sanding wood, when you're in the earlier stages of starting your new company, you need to be "grittier." The beginning is filled with more rough patches to smooth over — more challenges to overcome — and you need to be tough, persistent, and filled with a lot of passion to get through it.
Every day, we have ample opportunities to proactively develop grit. Think of something you would normally avoid doing, like having tough conversations with a boss, coworker, or client, and imagine all the possible mutually beneficial outcomes before you do it. It may seem easier to walk away from tough conversations, but having them helps build grit. Keeping a fair balance between all parties is tough during those conversations, but smoothing out those challenges builds trust and results in win-win circumstances that make everyone happier. Being able to handle the hard things is required to do most anything worth doing, and grit is the trait that gets you through them.
Related: How to Strengthen Your Personal Resilience
Resilience comes through failure
Grit is what it takes to overcome challenges, but resilience keeps you bouncing back from negative outcomes. At some point, everyone — in business or life in general — is dealt a more difficult hand than they were expecting, and they face the choice of giving up or continuing on. Finding the confidence in yourself to adapt to those unexpected circumstances is resilience, and people with this resilience have more success because they take more shots at a goal.
Giving up at the first sign of failure drastically lowers your chances of success. Failure is information, and resilience processes that information so you can update your strategy and try again, which is why it becomes easier with experience. It takes a lot of decisions you may not like or want to make, but resilience only comes from the insight gained through failure. Take weight lifting as an example. Your brain may want to quit after doing two sets, but at some point, you have to do that third set despite your tiring muscles if you want them to grow stronger. In business, it may seem easier to retreat into ourselves and give up rather than have uncomfortable conversations or reach out for help, but when you push yourself over those challenges, your chances of success also grow stronger — this is resilience.
There's no great mystery behind having grit, resilience and passion — you find what fires your motivation and stay the course, even when times get difficult. The more you do it, the more chances you have to get it right, but if you quit, you lose all the opportunities to try again. Resilience only comes after bouncing back from the first failure at least once, but without any experience, the only way to know if you're just beating your head against the wall is to have the passion to humble yourself and reach out and talk to other people. Stick around, take in information and learn. With the grit to overcome challenges and resilience to make the tweaks over time, you have everything you need to turn your passion into success.