“We have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.” - Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth
Two weeks ago, ICON celebrated our Mid-Year Cheer where we commend all the accomplishments we’ve made thus far in 2017, as well as identify where we can improve to bolster our success for the future.
The week-long event consists of fun team bonding, individual and collective goal setting and, perhaps most importantly, taking an honest look at our business to see where our weak spots lie. As a CEO, I value transparency with my employees because mutual trust is the only way we can work together effectively. My partners and I may have started ICON, but it’s my employees who keep it alive.
I want to know what’s going on at every level of the company, which is why my employees’ feedback is invaluable to me. As I’ve mentioned before, creating a positive culture for my company was first priority when developing this business. ICON’s culture is conducive to open communication, so my employees know that I respect their opinions and expect the same in return.
As we brainstormed together to address our strengths and weaknesses, I wanted to share something that I’ve been fixated on for some time. It’s a small word, only four letters, that carries tremendous meaning. You may have guessed it from the title.
Have an Underdog Mentality
Cutting to the ear and raw with intensity, grit is crude to the core. However, it takes on an admirable, poetic quality when you realize its implication beyond the sound and look of the word. The meaning carries this frictional juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength—stripping oneself down to the foundation, evaluating and eliminating flaws for better fortification.
Grit is the idea of finding strength within one’s weakness, of using failure to shape future success. This is by no means a new idea. In fact, it’s one that we as culture glorify, like the classic American adage of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”
Think about it—why does everyone root for the underdog? The underdog trope typically portrays heroes who have neither the talent nor resources for success. All the odds are against these protagonists, as they must overcome great adversities to fulfill their purpose.
This trope highlights what grit is all about: Your successes and failures come from within. Yes, forces outside of your control may hinder you, but those are not the real failures. How you respond to those challenges determines whether or not you will fail.
Being gritty isn’t just about mindless perseverance. If you deal with a recurring problem the same way every time, you’ll never solve it.
You need to learn from your mistakes and not get tangled up in your ego. Be honest with yourself. That’s the only way you can find meaning in the challenges and, even better, meaning within yourself to help you endure for the future.
Be the hero who doesn’t expect everything to come easily—the one who doesn’t rely on natural talent, wealth or power to succeed. Those advantages might seem nice, but they can actually detract from our willingness to work for what we want.
Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth is a renowned psychologist and pioneer in grit research. Concerning the relationship between grit and talent, she found that grit is “usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”
Based on her findings, any inherent benefits we possess could actually handicap us in the long term, like spoiled children who grow up with the inability to appreciate anything because they’ve never had to work for it. Not that those advantages are necessarily bad, it’s when you become dependent on them that they become problematic.
Your success comes from setting a decisive goal and paving the way to it through hard work everyday. Learn to appreciate the process. That’s what I want to instill in my employees in both their professional and personal lives.
I want them to have that underdog mentality—to root for themselves even if no one else will because, in the end, the underdog is the one who gets the most fulfillment out of winning.
Never Expect Smooth Sailing
What sets gritty individuals apart is how they internalize and respond to challenge. They don’t have that “failure isn’t an option” mentality. Setbacks are inevitable, so denying that they can happen to you is not only unreasonable but unhealthy. That’s why people without grit might shut down at the slightest hiccup in their plans.
In order to foster grit, you need to realize that any challenge, no matter its significance or the amount of control you have over it, is only temporary. It’s like not going to work in the morning because you had to go over a speed bump in your neighborhood. That’s a trivial example, but the point is this: No great feat comes without obstacles. In fact, it’s these very obstacles and your ability to tackle them that define the magnitude of your accomplishment.
Just remember, the path to success is never smooth. There are bumps, holes, and rough patches along the way—every imaginable and unimaginable obstacle to challenge you. Sometimes, you just have to work through the friction, no matter how rough it feels, to make it to the other side.