And, what about the world’s smartest people? Why are some of the world’s brightest scientists and mathematical geniuses flat broke and not living up to their financial potential?
The answer: Grit.
In my experience as a financial advisor and business owner, some people have it and others just don’t.
If you look up the word “grit” up in the dictionary, you’ll find words like courage, resolve, strength, and character. But, in the real world, having grit means having the ability to overcome hardship.
When I think of grit, I think of people like Bill Gates. While Gates is now one of the world’s richest men, his first software product was a total flop. How did he keep going? Grit.
And, what about Richard Branson? Even though Branson is dyslexic and performed poorly in school, he went on to found his own magazine, an airline, and plenty of other business ventures. This doesn’t happen by accident; it happens when someone has grit.
If you’re someone who struggles with grit, there’s some good news: According to psychologist Angela Duckworth’s famous book on the topic, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, grit can absolutely be learned.
“Like any other human characteristic there’s a genetic component, but it is also environmentally determined,” Duckworth told Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena, who wrote about it for Inc.com in 2016.
Here are four ways to get some grit into your life — and your business plans:
1. Learn to look on the bright side.
According to Duckworth’s interview with De Sena, gritty people tend to have an inherent sense of optimism that helps them maintain hope in spite of setbacks.
“Gritty people can look at a situation, ignore 90 percent of things they can’t change and instead focus on the 10 percent they can,” wrote De Sena.
Each morning, I journal three things I’m grateful for. Even on the worse of days, this simple act shifts my mindset toward the positive. If your goal is learning to overcome adversity through sheer grit, learning to focus on the positive can help.
2. Focus on who you want to be — not who you once were.
It’s easy to focus on your past mistakes and let them get you down. To learn grit, and to use it to become successful, you have to focus on who you want to become instead.
Imagine if Bill Gates had focused on his failure after his first idea flopped. If he had, there’s no way he would be where he is today.
Earlier in my career, I sunk $8,000 into a failed business concept. It hurt, both emotionally and financially, but the whole experience taught an important lesson. Every time I encounter a new potential golden opportunity, I try to clearly answer the question: “What are the specific criteria that would make this opportunity successful?”
Devoting 15 minutes to answering that question in detail will help bring clarity on so many levels.
3. Practice getting up when you fall.
Teaching seminars was one of the key ways I grew my financial planning business earlier in my career. The first couple were a decent success, but the third one was a complete flop.
Weeks of preparation, thousands of dollars on printed invitations and postage were a sick reminder when no one attended. I was embarrassed and prematurely claimed I would never do a seminar again. That is, until the following month after I hosted another one with massive success.
Learning how to fail and get back up is the cornerstone of grit, but it’s also something you can teach yourself. Whenever something doesn’t go your way don’t despair.
Instead, sit down and think through what you could have done differently. From there, hatch a plan to reach a more successful outcome next time.
4. Develop a solid support system.
One thing that has really helped me reach greater heights in a business sense is a mastermind group I joined several years ago. With an active support system full of people who are also trying to become successful, it’s a lot easier to overcome hardship and continue plugging away.
Making sure you’re accountable to someone can absolutely help you learn grit and apply it in your life. When you have colleagues, family members, or friends who have your back, it’ a lot harder to give up and walk away.