In the course of advising financial advisory firms, I have plenty of opportunities to observe and reflect on the nature of their business ownership experience. Grit and genius are two markers that distinguish some of the most successful owners and their firms.
This week let’s consider what grit is and why it is so critical to success.
You are wise. Your clients value the embedded wisdom you and the firm you’ve created impart to them. Does maintaining this client system in a perpetually evolving regulatory and technological environment keep you energized over the long haul? Highly unlikely!
You may look over your shoulder and feel a certain confidence in relation to your competition. It’s easy to succumb to our own myths about why someone else is less successful: they are younger (or older), unlucky (or not savvy enough), entrepreneurially challenged (or too entrepreneurial), less tech savvy (or tech-obsessed). Do you have sustainable advantage over any of these shortcomings? Once again, it is unlikely since all these factors are outside your control!
So, what is one thing that you can count on this minute, this hour, this day, this week, this year? What is one thing you and your firm can do?
The most likely—and surprising—reason for your success is the degree to which you and your team have “grit.” Here, I refer to the kind of grit that Columbia University professor Angela Duckworth has measured. It’s the “right stuff” that correlates to the success of spelling bee winners and West Point cadets surviving boot camp. It’s so important that all branches of the military have engaged Duckworth to test their recruits to determine what drives successful retention.
1. What is grit?
Grit is that personality trait that enables one person to succeed where another fails. Grit is a stable trait that measures the passion for a long-term goal or end-state. It’s the passion—the genius–that empowers the business owner to persevere toward a singular goal over long periods of time—even years. This trait enables the owner to overcome adversity and failure so, in fact, does not even need positive external stimuli. Grit is a measure of the trait that enables winning a marathon, not a sprint.
2. What ISN’T grit?
Grit scholar Duckworth distinguishes grit from ambition. Ambition as a motivator is directed toward something that is more elusive to attain like either fame or fortune. Grit is also not resilience, which is usually focused on recovering from or adapting to some past challenge or adversity.
Many business owners assume that intelligence is a predictor of grit. In fact, it is not. Neither is it correlated to talent or having the “entrepreneurial gene.”
3. So what? Why should I and my firm care about our grittiness?
Do you want your firm to be here for the long haul? Grit is a necessary ingredient for entrepreneurial success. But it must be tied to a passion. Therefore if you lack the passion—or clarity about it, check out next week’s blog to you learn about how that passion can be the grain of sand to prod your oyster to create the pearl that you seek.
This week’s Toolkit features a tool to help you get an honest picture of how likely you are to succeed as a business owner, and NOT to lose focus. Take the grit survey and learn your alignment with the most likely predictor of long term success. (Note: your simple, anonymous log-in will help further Penn State’s research project. No spam!).
Next week learn suggestions on how you can increase your grit.