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Article · Mar 20, 2017

Most successful entrepreneurs share this one quality

Most successful entrepreneurs share this one quality

New science tells us that this attribute helps business owners succeed.

We both grew up in the Bronx, and we learned a lot of valuable life lessons there--not to mention our share of four-letter words. But the one that has made the biggest difference in our success is one simple quality—grit—and there was no place like home to get it.

New research and a growing body of evidence from academia, social sciences, and the business world increasingly prove that grit—which we see as an acronym for the character traits guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity—are a critical part of success in business. And here's the great news. It's easier than you think to tap into your inner grit and make it work for you. Developing your grit costs nothing, but will give you a critical asset in achieving your goals.

Take Michael Jordan, JK Rowling, and Steven Spielberg. None of these future superstars were child prodigies. In fact, Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team. Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before her first Harry Potter novel was published, and Spielberg was rejected from film school three times.

They failed early and often, and they attribute their success not to their natural gifts but to their steadfast determination, perseverance and stamina—the grit to keep going when others would have given up.

Whether you are just starting out, a budding entrepreneur, or a small business owner hungry to grow your business, grit will propel you from ordinary to extraordinary. Here are some grit-builders to get you going and growing:

1. Embrace the Fear. When we started our own advertising business, it was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. For every wonderful thing that can happen in the course of getting your business off the ground, there is always something that threatens to derail you. Forget conventional wisdom about steering clear of fear and embrace it instead. The trick is to let the fear be your roadmap of all that could go wrong. Then prepare for them all before they are needed. Working just a little harder than someone else who might be just as talented (or even a bit more so) usually wins the day.

2. Ditch the dream. There's an old Yiddish proverb that, loosely translated, goes something like this: If you want your dreams to become a reality, wake up already! Too often, the notion of following your dream takes the place of more attainable aspirations: setting a goal, formulating a plan, charting a path, and steadily working forward from milepost to milepost. While the dreamers are still in la-la land, the doers are taking victory laps. Remember—every major company was once a small business and many of them started in garages or on kitchen tables.

3. Take daily device-free breaks. Once a day, put all of your devices aside and just think. The way to come up with creative ideas and innovative solutions is to be truly committed and focused on what you are trying to achieve, even if it's just for 30 minutes.

4. Stop the excuses. An excuse a day makes the goals go away. The next time you make an excuse for something you didn't do or did badly, turn the excuse into a question. Ask yourself what you could have done differently. Make a note of it. Then commit to doing it differently the next time.

5. Have a Plan B. The disappointments and frustrations of work can wear away and obscure our long-term goals. The next time your great idea backfires or your proposal gets shot down use it as a chance to come up with a plan "B.". When Steven Spielberg's mechanical shark malfunctioned on the set of Jaws, he used music as a stand-in, creating a lurking underwater menace that was even more terrifying than the shark we could see. And remember, Steve Jobs didn't introduce the iPhone until his second stint at Apple.

6. Make yourself uncomfortable. Get out of your comfort zone. Order something you have never tried before at a restaurant. Say hello to strangers in an elevator. Flexing those muscles will enable you to stick out uncomfortable situations. Research has shown that the brain craves novelty and that doing things that don't feel automatic has a positive effect on neurological activity. It can keep you sharp and can make you more creative, ultimately leading to better decisions and new opportunities for growth.

7. Make your bed and be grateful. Start each day with a success mindset by accomplishing something very simple—make your bed and do it perfectly. It's what a top Navy SEAL teaches his cadets on the first day of boot camp. Starting or growing a business makes for long days and, sometimes, even longer nights. Be sure to end each day with gratitude, no matter what transpired. A study in the journal Psychiatry highlighted the link between gratitude and well-being. Thinking about what we have puts us in a positive mood, which in turn helps us make better choices and decisions.

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval are co-authors of four best-sellers including: Grit to Great, The Power of Nice, The Power of Small, and Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World.



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