How does one build grit? Ever since the head of HR at Google Lazlo Bock revealed to Thomas Friedman grit as a key ingredient of getting hired at Google -which of many is the holy grail of success- grit has become a sine qua non for today’s graduates and further on in life.
So, what is grit and how does one build it?
Merriam Webster dictionary defines grit as firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.
For those of us that have grown up as war refugees, immigrants or minorities, grit has been part and parcel of our “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” experience. Grit builds your courage and perseverance. Grit keeps you going when all else is gone. However, one doesn’t have to find nor put themselves through such hardship to develop grit. You can build grit in your everyday life. You just have to take the road not taken as Robert Frost said. It may take you longer but you can build grit if you dream, risk and persevere.
Two seemingly diametrically opposite words: grit denotes toughness and dream soft fluffy stuff. Look again. To build grit you have to have goals. To define goals you have to, yes, have dreams. You need to know the things that drive you. “Know what sparks the light in you” says Oprah. Dreams will provide the destination on your grit-building journey. What are you after? If you don’t know what drives you, if you don’t have a destination, a goal, a dream you will wander aimlessly, spending effort and resources without a return.
As the old adage goes, without risk there is no reward. You must be able to take the road less travelled. You will never know what’s around the corner unless you face your fears and make a decision even on limited information. You only have 100 percent information in hindsight. So you have to sharpen your ability to decipher a good risk from a bad risk with limited information. To do that you need to know your parameters and what drives you. You also must learn to see the big picture. You have to learn to see things from different angles. We usually think that there are two sides to each situation. Look again. There are more sides to a situation. A great book to help you sharpen conceptual thinking is Daniel Pink’s ” A Whole New Mind” . So on your grit building journey, taking risks is the equivalent of going where there is no path and carving one.
Last but not least, the ingredient that is your fuel in your grit is perseverance. You need to summon your courage to plow ahead. Defining your goals and taking the road less travelled are only two thirds of the journey. The other, and perhaps most important third, is perseverance. Not losing faith. Sticking with it day after day. Building grit is not easy. It’s actually very difficult and most people give up shortly after they begin, or they never begin at all. It’s tough, it’s taxing and it can be costly. is a great way to build perseverance. Research shows that dopamine is the fuel of perseverance and sports are a great way to increase the secretion of dopamine in your body and brain.
So, is grit worth it? Absolutely! Because when you are old and it’s telling stories to your grandkids, they will be impressed that their grandma followed her dreams, took the road less travelled and persevered. Because in the end that is what it’s all about. The journey and how meaningful yours was for you, the people you touched, your community, and the world at large.
So, for a worthwhile life and apart from or in addition to getting a job at Google,you will need grit!
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