What’s the most important factor that decides success at the workplace? What can this factor tell us about how to motivate employees?
From Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, all high achievers have this common trait. However, it wasn’t until American psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth wrote about it in May 2016, that this secret became a buzzword in the professional world! So what is this secret to success?
As Duckworth aptly defines it, the secret to having a successful career is: grit. What does grit mean, and how can we become more gritty?
To understand this, let us go back to the 1970’s. This is when Apple founder Steve Jobs dropped out of the college course that his parents had spent all their life’s savings on. Jobs was starving and almost homeless- his only income was collecting bottle caps to exchange for some cash. He enrolled for a calligraphy course on campus, which wasn’t very popular at the time. In short, Jobs’ life was a failure.
Fast forward to the year 1995, and Steve Jobs is the multi-millionaire founder of Apple, a technology legend. How did this happen?
For all his flaws, Jobs had one quality which led him to success. As described by numerous colleagues, Steve Jobs was really stubborn. He simply never gave up, and pursued his product ideas right to the finish: even if that meant overriding critics’ opinions. Jobs visualised a technology product and strongly believed it would become successful, even without market research. That is how much he pursued what he wanted.
Grit is exactly that. It is about persevering and sticking with one’s goals, irrespective of failures in the beginning. If you follow your dreams long enough, they’re bound to come true.
This isn’t simply a poetic line I’ve taken from a novel, it’s actually supported by research. Duckworth’s team observed many students and other high achievers. They studied people’s accomplishment based on various factors including intelligence, perseverance and socio-economic background. What they found is revelatory.
Duckworth’s study concluded that a student’s success was decided by her grit. Continually striving and working hard to achieve goals, irrespective of setbacks, is what determined success. Every other factor was secondary.
At the workplace, this study explains a crucial point. It means that successful employees are those who are steadily working towards achieving their goals, unaffected by failures. As Duckworth puts it, achieving success in real life is like running a marathon, not a sprint.
So now, back to where we started from. If you want to achieve success, you have to be gritty.
Here are some ways in which you can chase your professional ambition till you achieve it:
Be 100% certain of your aim: You can’t achieve what you want, if you don’t know what you want in the first place. Be absolutely sure about what your aim is, before you set out to work for it. Find ways to remind yourself of your goal. Write it out on a post-it which you put up on your mirror at home, or on a task board at work. Never lose sight of what you want to achieve.
Be determined, not rigid: A tree that doesn’t bend when a gust of strong wind blows, usually breaks. Similarly, while you should never lose sight of your goal, be open to considering new ideas to achieve it. Often, you learn new and effective approaches to work while on the field. Be flexible to trying these options. This way, you’ll never give up even if you fail with a certain approach, you’ll always know there’s another way you can try.
Be prepared for failures en route to success: While it’s important to be absolutely confident about your dream, do not be discouraged if you face some failures on the way. Thomas Edison himself made about a thousand attempts before he could find the right element to create the light bulb. When a reporter asked him about how it felt to fail a thousand times, he replied, “I didn’t fail 100 times, the light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Accept failures but don’t see them as a reason to stop working towards your dream.
Learn from like-minded people: The best source of motivation is to learn from others who have achieved similar goals. If possible, meet up with ambitious people regularly- it will rejuvenate your own sense of direction. In addition to that: read biographies, speech transcripts or blog posts of people who inspire you. Learn ways in which prodigious people achieved success, and follow them.
Key take-away: The age-old belief of “never giving up,” is true. If you strive to achieve something, you will eventually succeed. You’ll just have to be gritty about it.