True Grit: Building Your Business Mindset for Overcoming Challenges

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Do you have true grit? Here are some common traits successful business owners possess and why you should, too. Eye patches are optional.

Grit is the quality of perseverance in overcoming challenging obstacles to achieving a goal. The expression “true grit,” besides being a famous John Wayne movie, usually suggests an unfaltering devotion to doing what is right no matter how difficult it may be to accomplish.

By definition, entrepreneurs have grit. Running a company, let alone establishing a start-up from the ground level, requires a great deal of grit. Everyone loves you when you are successful and things are going according to plan. But perhaps only those with true grit retain the loyalty of both employees and customers even when they’re not quite sure what you’re doing.

Think Steve Jobs.

Remember when everyone was shaking their heads that Apple would never be able to sell a computer without a disc drive, or a mobile device without a physical keyboard, or a touchscreen tablet? Go ahead, go look it up on your iPad, that thing without a physical keyboard or a disc drive that you touch the screen to work on.

As Jennifer Bartels-Moore, CEO at Penguin IP, describes:

“The internet business environment is full of flowery comments about entrepreneurship, living the dream, creating wealth, etc. The real truth is that only a very small percentage of people are actually willing to give up what is necessary to create a thriving new entity or product. These sacrifices can go on for years and affect every aspect of their lives.”

John McKinley defines "GRIT" as "Short-term focus on tasks at hand, a willingness to slog through broken systems with limited resources, and pragmatic problem-solving skills." In the "Harvard Business Review," he goes on to note that this resilient attitude must also accompany courage and commitment for optimal success. In his view having "grit" is an attitude that can be taught and improved.

The idea of "grit" is so important to success that "The Wall Street Journal" notes that the nation of Singapore has been trying to encourage creativity and risk-taking as an economic development strategy for many years. Meanwhile, The Change School is an online educational resource that describes itself as: "The Change School is a lifelong learning institute, cultivating entrepreneurial grit, competencies and personal growth to help people realise their potential and move forward" [emphasis added].

Research and consulting firm Peak Learning is another example. It has a program called simply, "Entrepreneurial GRIT."

Do you have such true grit to lead your business? Here are some key characteristics:

Related Article: Six Characteristics of a Dynamic Entrepreneur 

1. Ability to Deal With Failure

Psychologist Guy Winch notes that failure distorts perception, leading some people to think they’re incapable, which then leads to feelings of helplessness. “That’s why so many people function below their actual potential. Because somewhere along the way, sometimes a single failure convinced them they couldn’t succeed, and they believed it,” he says.

Those with true grit, however, not only deal with failure in positive ways, they welcome failure as a learning experience.

Robert F. Kennedy Quote

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

2. Ability to Make Course Corrections

True grit leaders have a vision that others sometimes don’t quite see, but that’s not to say they don’t listen to others. At the least, they are wary to those whose opinions they respect.

In addition, they need to be sensitive to what’s going on with their customers and their markets, and make adjustments necessary to eventually arrive where they want to, even if it means taking a long way around detour.

One of the first things Steve Jobs did when he came back to run Apple was to kill the Newton digital assistant, a handheld portable computer. But the underlying idea eventually evolved into the iOS that powers the iPhone and iPad, which lead their respective smartphone and tablet categories.  

Related Article: The Day Our Business (Almost) Died

3. Plays Well With Others

As long as we’re on the subject of Steve Jobs, let’s dispense with the notion that he was a lone wolf. Contrary to popular belief, he was a team player,

Steve Jobs Quote

"My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."

True grit means having the ability to inspire teams and individuals to work relentlessly towards common goals.

Related Article: The Top 10 Qualities that Define an Entrepreneur 

4. Stays Calm Under Fire

As "Business Management" points out, most CEOs share an unflappable demeanor that doesn’t buckle under pressure. If anything, they keep their cool and their focus even as everything around them seems (and “seems” is perhaps a keyword) on the verge of apocalypse. Things not only can go wrong, they are likely to.

True grit leaders are unfazed when the inevitable occurs. They keep calm and carry on. 

5. Love What You Do

"Quality Insider" reports on such great passionate leaders as Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and James Casey (UPS). They share a passion that not only better enables them to overcome obstacles and difficulties. It provides the ability to figure out a way to get things, even when it seems nothing can be done.

6. Be Courageous

Whole Hearted Leaders points out the "greatest quality that a business leader needs to succeed is courage." Such courage involves not just doing what is right for the business, for your customers and your employees, but also not refusing to make difficult decisions.

Giving into fear or avoiding what makes you feel uncomfortable is often the difference between success in business or failure. Which isn’t to say you aren’t afraid that you might make the wrong decision, just that you have the confidence to make a difficult decision and see how it plays out.

Or, as Rooster Cogburn defines courage, “Being scared spitless, but saddling up anyway.”

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