Reflecting on how you respond to rejection, failure, and challenges can give insight into how gritty you are.
Ask a successful entrepreneur, like Spanx founder Sara Blakely or Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban, what was foundational to their success and perseverance will come up.
Perseverance is the skill to maintain constant action, for a prolonged period, towards an objective. Grit is another word for the type of perseverance that entrepreneurs need to succeed. It was popularized by psychologist and MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Angela Duckworth through her book and well-known Ted Talk “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
According to Duckworth, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out. Not just for the week. Not just for the month. But for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.” Her definition and research of grit are especially relevant for entrepreneurs who are passionate about achieving their long-term goal of running a successful business. It demonstrates the critical role that perseverance plays in attaining success and fulfillment.
Launching your own business is tough. Rejection, setbacks, and challenges that seem insurmountable are all part of the process. Sara Blakely’s concept for Spanx, which made her the youngest self-made female billionaire, was consistently rejected by clothing manufacturers for two years before she got it produced. Mark Cuban claims to have been fired from numerous jobs before leading Broadcast.com, the successful computer consulting business he sold to Yahoo that made him into a multi-billionaire. Neither of these prominent entrepreneurs would have achieved their goals is they weren’t gritty.
Without the ability to persevere or continue striving towards your goal despite the obstacles in your way, you won’t get far. Do you know if you’re gritty enough to keep going despite a string of rejections and unforeseen obstacles? Do you have the tenacity to keep steadily moving closer to your goal through a slog of mundane tasks?
You don’t have to wait until you’ve quit your job and invested in building your own business to know if you have enough grit to make it. Thinking about how you respond to rejection, failures, and challenges in your life now can give you a clue about whether you have enough perseverance to become a successful entrepreneur. The habits you’ve already mastered in pursuit of your goals are another indicator of how much grit you’ve got.
Ask yourself the following four questions. Your answer can help you judge whether you have what it takes to get a business on its feet and keep it moving forward or not.
If you want to dive deeper and analyze your full potential, check out the S2FindIT Entrepreneur Assessment. Their questionnaire asks you about various aspects of your life and uses psychometric methodologies to assess if you demonstrate the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur.
Have you established good habits?
Perseverance is a skill that’s learned through practice. Forming and maintaining habits that help you reach your long-term goals is one of the ways that you can practice perseverance. Duckworth uses the example of Kerry Close, winner of the National Spelling Bee, in “Grit.” Close established the habit of practicing spelling and devoted over 3,000 hours to it before becoming the champion. It was the cornerstone of her success. Developing good habits is just as important to lead a business to success.
The daily routines required to start a new business probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think about becoming an entrepreneur. Establishing new habits—like waking up early to write articles that demonstrate your thought leadership or routinely making sales calls—and sticking to them isn’t easy. It is an integral part of business development where your ability to persevere will be tested regularly.
What habits have you already established to help you reach long-term goals? How good are you at maintaining them?
If you’re already practicing persistence by maintaining good habits, it’s a sign that you will be able to put in the daily work needed to establish a new business.
How do you respond to No?
Every entrepreneur starts out as the chief salesperson for their business. Sales is the foundation of every enterprise whether you are in the business of peddling products, services or ideas. “Success in sales requires perseverance, plain and simple,” explains Anthony Iannarino an internationally recognized sales coach, thought leader and entrepreneur. On his website, he shares how perseverance and determination “allow the salesperson to hear the word “no” and to continue to pursue their objective undeterred.”
Rejection is a normal part of the sales process just as it is a normal part of starting a new business venture. No matter how articulate and persuasive you are, you will always encounter people who aren’t interested in what you’re pitching. Even the best salespeople hear No a lot before they hear a Yes.
You don’t have to work in sales now to know how well you handle rejection. Think about times when you’ve pitched ideas to your colleagues or friends that they dismissed or shutdown. How did you react? Did you give up quickly or did you try another angle to convince them?
It takes time and practice to become a great salesperson, but you can’t get there if you don’t persevere despite rejection.
Do you learn from your failures?
Working towards your ultimate goal of building a successful business can take you in directions that you wouldn’t expect. Learning from your failures along the way is an essential part of grit according to Duckworth. Perseverance isn’t a virtue when it is simply a refusal to quit. Refusing to give up, without learning from your failures, can prevent you from moving forward according to research collected by professor André Spicer in the Harvard Business Review.
The USA Navy SEALs are an excellent example of how learning from your failures is a key ingredient in perseverance. After every mission, SEALs teams do a debrief. “On almost every real-world mission I was on — even the most successful ones — we spent 90 percent of our post-mission debrief focusing on what we did wrong or could have done better,” former Navy SEAL James Waters explained to Eric Barker in The Week. Their willingness to receive criticism and learn from it is how they continue to uphold their outstanding reputation and succeed where others have failed.
What do you do after you’ve completed a project or encountered failure? Do you take the time to assess what was successful, what wasn’t and how to improve in the future? Or do you move on with the same mindset and procedures?
An unwillingness to quit can derail your entrepreneurial venture if you don’t learn from your failures. What perseverance looks like when you encounter failure is using the wisdom you gained from it to improve your performance or change course so that you keep moving towards your goal.
Can you solve problems creatively?
It might surprise you that creative problem solving, and perseverance are bound up together. Overcoming tough challenges that arise in your journey towards your goal often requires you to come up with innovative or unorthodox solutions. As Seek & Swoon founder Jala Smith-Huys told author Ekaterina Walter, “Finding solutions is what entrepreneurs do. And I think anyone wanting to start a business needs to be committed to solving problems creatively because there will be lots of them.”
The story of Seek & Swoon, an environmentally conscious producer of knitted throw blankets, is a great example of perseverance. According to Walter’s article on Inc.com, when Smith-Huys needed to find a mill to produce her blankets, she had to think creatively. Her online searches hadn’t given her the name of even one mill to contact. She knew they were out there but had no leads. Instead of continuing to pursue that dead-end, she started reaching out to equipment manufacturers and consultants who supplied mills. Through persistence and creative problem solving, she found the mill that would produce her popular knitted throw blankets.
Experiments conducted by Brian J. Lucas from the University of Chicago and Loran Nordgren from the Kellogg School of Management found that perseverance can also lead to more creative solutions. In the article summarizing their findings in the Harvard Business Review, “Giving Up is the Enemy of Creativity,” they conclude that continuing to push yourself to generate creative solutions when it feels more difficult often yields the best ideas. According to Lucas and Nordgren, “creative ideas take time. They are often generated after an initial period of thinking deeply about the problem, considering different ways to frame the problem, and exploring different possible solution paths.”
Think about a time when you were faced with a challenging problem in life or work. Did you give up after your first few attempts to solve it failed? Or did you try an unconventional solution or brainstorm different potential solutions until you found something that worked?
Unforeseen challenges and problems are a part of the process of launching your own business. You must have the tenacity to keep coming up with new, creative solutions that will help you overcome them. It may take more than 100 tries to perfect your product or countless marketing strategies to captivate your target audience. But if you persevere you can make the future of your dreams a reality.
You can’t know now every roadblock or bump that you’ll encounter on your entrepreneurial journey. You can use these four questions to get an idea of whether you’ve got the grit to keep going and reach your destination. Research shows that perseverance is foundational to success. You aren’t born with it; you develop it through practice. You’re already developing grit if you:
- Establish good new habits and stick to them to achieve a long-term goal.
- Try multiple pitches until you hear a Yes despite hearing multiple Noes.
- Learn from your failures and put that wisdom to use to improve your performance.
- Push yourself to come up with creative solutions to tough problems and keep trying until you find the best solution.
Do you think that you have the perseverance that you need to succeed as an entrepreneur after reflecting on these four questions? If you want an objective measure of your skills that takes into account your knowledge, abilities, personal traits and educational achievements, you can use a tool like S2FindIT’s Entrepreneur Assessment. Successful entrepreneurs and studies have found that “self-awareness –a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires– contributes extensively to the success of an entrepreneurial business.”