website banner image


Days Gone By  March 28 2010 005 SmallDays Gone By  March 28 2010 005 SmallDays Gone By  March 28 2010 005 Small"A failure establishes only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough."
- John Christian Bovee

I had a long talk yesterday with my ex-wife. We talk often. She still owns her small holistic nutrition business. She started the business from scratch over 10 years ago. She was down in the dumps when she called me. Her receptionist/business manager had given notice that she was quitting to help with a family business. On top of that her landlord had notified her that he was selling the building, meaning she would have to relocate. Business was slower than usual, and in combination with the other two things, it had her in a tizzy: too many problems, too pressed for time, and too worn down trying to keep her head above water.

She's twenty years from retirement and doesn't want to start fresh. She is single, forty-six, attractive (but aware her age will one day betray her), and manages to spend most of what she makes. She feels she has few options other than to do what she knows she has to: just power her way through the whole mess.
It's a familiar problem, not only for small business owners, but for anyone striving to get ahead. Why are some, like her, able to persevere and achieve success while so many others run out of steam?

Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007) think a major reason is that the successful ones have "grit" and they developed a scale to measure it. How "gritty" are you? Rate yourself on the following 4 of the 12 statements used in their scale: (a) I finish whatever I begin, (b) my interests don't change from year to year, (c) I have achieved a goal that took years of work, and (d) I am a hard worker. Give yourself a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 where 1= not at all like me, and 5 = very much like me. Take the total and divide it by 4 to get your score.

 The average score on their 12 items is 3.41. If your score is above 3.41 you have above average grit, although you could expect your score would be different if you rated yourself on all 12 of their statements.

 They define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. If you have lots of grit it means you work strenuously toward challenges and sustain your effort for years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. They say gritty individuals approach achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. When disappointment or boredom causes others to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.

Angela Duckworth and her colleagues reviewed historical evidence collected on variety of occupational groups as well as 6 different groups in their own research: two groups of adults, two groups of West Point military cadets, a group of Ivy graduates, and National Spelling Bee finalists. Surprisingly, personality type was not strongly related to success. We often think that successful people are extraverted, aggressive, agreeable, or conscientious. It turns out that only conscientiousness is correlated with success and even that relationship is very weak. Natural born intelligence and grit are the two most powerful predictors of success. Intelligence is more critical with complex jobs.

 The next time you feel overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel, remember this research. Don't blame it on your personality, lack of money, or anything else you can't change right now. Take comfort in knowing all successful people suffer the same problems and worse. Dig deep for your grittiness and live well between your ears.