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How Gritty Are You?

How gritty are you?

By Adelaide Ness

It’s not what you know, it’s what you do. We’ve all heard it said, but how many of us actually take the time to think through what this means?

We have grown up in a world where we’re taught to believe that raw talent and innate skill are the primary drivers to success. We’re raised hearing things like, “He’s a natural!” and “She has a gift!” We are wired to believe that if someone does something so incredible or extraordinary, it must be because of their natural ability. From the day we step foot in a kindergarten classroom, we are truly hard wired to believe that some people have “it” and others do not.

Well, it’s time to debunk that myth.

New research shows that it is not talent, but passion, perseverance and drive that leads to success. In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, she uncovers the truth behind successful Ivy League graduates, cadets struggling through West Point, teachers working in some of the most difficult school districts and the young finalists in the National Spelling Bee.

While talent certainly helps some get a head start, it is not the ultimate driver to success. It is the people with a long-term plan, a genuine passion for whatever they’re trying to be successful at, and the grit to overcome adversity and challenges that come out on top.

How about you? How “gritty” are you?

Grit starts with intentionality. When you approach your career with intentionality, and do things with purpose, success follows.

Intentionality is one of those interesting words, isn’t it? What does it mean exactly? Well, it can be summed up as a behavioral characteristic that the most successful leaders embody. People who act with intention in everything they do generally end up wherever they set out to go. Intentional people leave nothing to chance and have a backup plan to their backup plan! Think about it. The successful people inside of your organization didn’t get there by accident. They got there by:

  • Setting intentional goals
  • Developing plans to meet their goals
  • Creating strategies to overcome barriers
  • Working the plan and staying on course
  • Persevering and never quitting.

Intentional people design their own lives and control their own destinies.

Those who are not intentional generally end up wherever the system takes them – or leaves them! If you actually look up the antonyms for “intentional” you get words like involuntary, accidental, unplanned and unwilling. And these are all words you would not want associated with your career! Yet, when you act on lag measures only and are reactive in your career development you are, by nature, being accidental. Sheer talent will get you to a point, but grit takes you to a whole new level.

Part of debunking this myth is simply understanding the fact that if you do not design your life, someone else will and you may not like their idea of what your career should look like.

Take your career into your own hands and get gritty. What intentional next step will you take today?

Adelaide NessAdelaide Ness, M.A., is executive vice president of The Rainmaker Companies. You can reach her at or (615) 373-9880, ext. 239