Grit is what happens when hard work and dedication hook up and have a baby. It personifies a steely determination to get something done despite obstacles standing in your way. So many of the guests on T4C have had to cultivate grit, perhaps more than any other quality, to achieve their professional goals. But, if you’re anything like me — a sophomore in college who is trying to figure things out — that may seem intimidating, confusing and overwhelming to consider. Feeling like you don’t know where to start? Look no further; here are five proven ways to cultivate grit in your life.

  1. GET OFF THE COUCH – Young adults don’t talk about this nearly enough, but what if what you’re currently doing doesn’t make you want to work hard? Or what if you’re not even sure what would make you work hard in the first place? Joe De Sena (#51), the founder and ceo of Spartan Races, explains that the only way to find your ‘true north’ or what really motivates you, is to get off the couch.  He explains that you’re never going to find it while binging on Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But once you start moving, and doing, you’ll be able to try out different things that interest you and eventually identify what lights your fire. 
  2. DON’T QUIT – You did it! You got the job/internship/promotion that you dreamed of and you’ve been working hard for awhile, but it’s catching up to you and you feel burned out. What do you do? Sarah Robb O’Hagan (#4), the ceo of FlyWheel Sports, shares the great advice that her boss at Gatorade gave to her when she’d reached a breaking point because of a particularly difficult project.  He told her: ‘If you’re in the middle of a river, it takes just as much time to cross to one side as it does to the other.’ Basically, if you’ve made it halfway to a goal, it doesn’t make sense to quit before you complete it. Sarah took that advice to heart and said finishing that project is one of the things she’s most proud of in her career. 
  3. APPROACH IT LIKE A MARATHON  So maybe you worked hard to get that job/internship/promotion and now are ready for smooth sailing. I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t end there. Now that you’ve gotten the opportunity you wanted, you need to show that you deserve it and can actually do the work. To do so, approach it as if you’re running a marathon, not a sprint. When Lisa Shalett (#172), a former managing partner at Goldman Sachs, first started out in investment banking, she literally spent a year leaving messages every day summarizing market developments in order to get a particularly difficult client to take her calls. Every day she would leave a 60 second voicemail for the client with no response for that entire year. Finally, one year later, the client picked up the phone.  Lisa had proven her dedication and grit. It’s not enough to put effort into an application and then drop the ball once you get the job. Cultivating grit truly is like running a marathon. If you go at it like a sprint, you’ll never make it to the finish line. But if you take every day at a steady pace, and push through the pain, you’ll not only finish, but will reap the rewards of all of the work it took to get you there.
  4. PREPARE TO SACRIFICE SLEEP OR FUN – When Eve Rosenbaum (#50), international scouting manager for the Houston Astros, was still in college, she knew that she wanted to work in sports after graduation. So during a summer internship for the NFL, she was ready to do whatever it took to impress her supervisor. After she was assigned a particularly gnarly project,  Eve made the decision to flip her hours so that she started her day at 1 PM and worked through the night (and I mean literally all night, go listen to her episode) in order to properly oversee a project that was happening in South Asia which is on a completely different time zone from the U.S.. She did that the entire summer and knocked the project out of the park in more ways than one!
  5. YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE OUTCOME, BUT YOU CAN CONTROL THE EFFORT – Having grit and maintaining that level of hard work takes a lot of effort and requires complete dedication. So why do it? For one, showing grit is going to make you stand out. Evan Glass (#201), today an elected Montgomery County, Maryland Councilmemberknew that dedicating himself to his producing job at CNN meant that he was giving up happy hour and social outings with friends. But doing so helped him climb up the ladder at CNN, which got him from the tape library to a coveted political producing slot, where he really wanted to be. Showing grit also will most likely create a better relationship with your managers or bosses. Michael Kay (#149),  the Voice of New York Yankees baseball, stumbled in his early days and months on the job but had a boss who told him “don’t give up on yourself and I won’t give up on you.” The same principle applies to grit. Making mistakes is human, but if you’re really putting everything you have into something, your managers are going to recognize that and most likely be more forgiving to you than someone who puts in half the effort.

To be blunt,  Joe De Sena (#51) sums it up perfectly: “There’s no way when we are about to die we’ll say: ‘I wish I had sat around and watched more TV,’” he says. Cultivating grit is the best way to take charge of your future. If you still don’t know where to start, why don’t you actually listen to a few of these episodes?  Who knows, you might be just as inspired as I am! 

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