Have you heard the latest buzz word? Grit. It seems to be on the lips of every hiring manager and recruiter in the country. And, as words go, "grit" is a great word for a number of reasons. I guess it had fallen out of everyday usage, so it seems fresh again. It's a short word, and it sounds like what it conveys. Grit. It's tough, no nonsense, unambiguous. Say it out loud:

She has grit.
Do you have grit?
I have grit!

I believe this is a new spin, an effective and fun spin, certainly, but really a new spin on the old characteristic formerly (maybe boringly?) called commitment. However plain and dull the word may sound today, "commitment" did have its day in the sun, too. Remember: "He's commitment averse." "I'm a commitment-phobe."

Whatever it is called today, I want that thing! I want grit! And while grit is an amazingly powerful method for achieving a highly prized goal, I want that goal to be me. I want to apply real grit to being the best me that I can be. I want to commit to myself, first, before anything else.
For me, grit is more narrowly defined by three characteristics: zeal (another great word that deserves a fresh spin), courage, and tenacity. If, as Angela Duckworth has proposed, grit is what makes us successful, then I believe the following are truly the traits we need to develop and strengthen.


Is there something that you just don't ever stop talking about? Do you have something in your life that you always want to share with others but you almost feel goofy about bringing it up again, because you're sure people are tired of hearing about it? Do you have something like that in your life? Obviously, for me, it's medical transcription and working at home. If it wasn't, I couldn't write about it, talk about it, think about it, and do it all the time.

That sort of zeal is enthusiasm. It's ENTHUSIASM in all caps! And it is the sort of trait that will get you places. All work, no matter how much we love it or feel called to do it, has its ups and downs. Enthusiasm is like a storehouse of oomph you can call on when the going gets tough and you seemingly don't have one more ounce of strength to apply to a goal. Real zeal is sometimes the big furnace blast that sets your rear end on fire and propels you in the right direction, but very often it is also that smoldering flame, just hot enough to get you through a difficult course…or a challenging project at work…or 10 more push-ups!

I think the secret of success just has to be discovering that thing that you never shut up about! You gotta have zeal if you're gonna have grit!


Grit also requires courage, feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway courage. And while I say, "courage," what I really mean is that quality I like to call "clueless confidence." Before you judge the phrase negatively, let me explain where I'm coming from. I cannot even begin to share how many opportunities I have passed on and given up on because of one horrible notion that I personally wrestle with: I'm not good enough to do it.

The creepy thoughts that haunt me day in and day out is the voice in my head that is always telling me:

"There are so many people who do this better than you do. You will never be successful at this."
"See how much there is to know, how much you have to learn? That's why you will fail. You are just not that good. Not good enough to do it."


In fact, I have finally come to the understanding that I have to talk back to that negative dark voice and say something like:

"Who cares what I don't know! There's nothing wrong with not knowing everything all at once. Everyone starts somewhere. If I never start learning, I'll never know at all."
"I can do anything ALMOST AS GOOD as someone else and maybe BETTER THAN SOME, and that is the way it is for everybody under the sun. BUT, that's not why I'm doing this thing. I'm doing it because I love it and I want to do it." (That's where the zeal comes in.)

So the trick here is to follow your bliss, do what tugs at your heart, no matter what the negative voices – real or imagined – have to say. Listen to constructive criticism, and learn everything you can, but don't imagine that you have to be the very best, #1 expert. Free yourself from that expectation. Don't worry about not knowing what you don't know! Look around. Some of the most successful people have just stormed onto the scene in some industry or field, bringing nothing with them but heart and enthusiasm and began as clueless as anyone and found success. Clueless confidence: I don't know what I don't know yet, and that's cool! This attitude takes all of the worry and hand-wringing out of the effort. I'm free to go forward confidently and courageously.


Tenacity. Say it again slower. Tenacity. I like "tenacity" better than "persistence" because it requires more "perseverance" to say it! Actually, it doesn't matter what we call it, we all know what it is. It is stick-to-itiveness. It is what we really mean when we tell an employer that we are "can-do" people. When the chips are down, tenacious people DO NOT give up. They may regroup, take a breather, tune out for a bit, but they never give up on their goal.

Do yourself a huge, huge favor and make time to watch two different Ted Talks by Diana Nyad. First watch the one that she did in 2011, right after she made her attempt at 60 year old to swim from Cuba to Florida, and then watch the talk she gave after she achieved this incredible, remarkable feat. Tenacity has to be Ms. Nyad's middle name. She must have written the book on it! What we learn from her story are the two assertions she always makes:


The rewards for hanging in there until the end, even when it hurts, even when there is no end in sight, are tremendous. I promise you this, too: Every win, every goal you achieve for yourself, develops your grit that much more. You will discover that meeting your goals gets easier. You learn what sticking with it until the end – sometimes traveling way outside of your comfort zone – really feels like. It feels wonderful, and you’re going to want that feeling again and again. You're going to step out with courage and zeal and apply your efforts until you reach another important goal.

And that, friends, is the stuff grit is made of.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Perry is a blogger and happy medical transcriptionist, busy wife, mom, and grandmother pursuing goals and dreams including the one about living a balanced life (check!), going back to college (check!), and helping others find a way to work at home and experience their own happy results! Visit her at LearnMT.