Developing grit is something you’re going to do as a business owner whether you want to or not. It’s one of many things you do, whether you want to or not. For instance, I wanted to title this blog “Bridget and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week and a half,” but I did not, because that wouldn’t help my SEO.
To sum it up, I was misunderstood, I misunderstood someone else, I had technical difficulties, I had scheduling problems, my ideas were jacked by someone else, and I have a very painful hangnail.
I’ve been watching #Girlboss on Netflix, the story of vintage clothing magnate Sophia Amoruso. Notwithstanding the fact that real-life Amoruso got pushed out of her own company, and then it went bankrupt, I find the show very relatable.
She goes into business for herself because she resents having to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Then, she starts running the business and has to do all kinds of things she doesn’t want to do.
She starts out here:
And ends up here:
A more accurate description of my life has certainly never been portrayed in binge-watch format.
I have a favourite client called Rael Kalley who is a habits coach. Rael is the real deal. He has lived a fascinating life where he has demonstrated his own grit. His common sense approach to making lasting positive change in your life inspires me whenever we’re together. His blog is well worth subscribing to.
A habits coach is a kind of personal coach, but instead of helping you reach your goals by changing your behaviour, Rael helps you change your behaviour by first changing your beliefs.
Rael says if you change your beliefs, your behaviour will automatically align. As a habits coach, he helps people change the limiting beliefs they hold, and their everyday habits really do change.
The first belief he begins with is always this: Finish what you start. If you hold the fundamental belief that you must finish the things that you start, it is life changing. You will notice that this is very similar to the concept of grit.
For example, Rael told me the business with the highest failure rate is any sort of network sales and marketing business. You know, the ones where you represent a product and sell to people you know. He says this is because people don’t follow through on the things they need to do to make their business a success. They don’t finish what they start.
I really relate to this as a solopreneur. Who would know if I cancel a business development meeting, or let deadlines slide, besides my clients? No one except me. I began to wonder what it is that keeps me plugging away at what I’ve started, what has helped me develop any amount of grit that I may have, and I’ve come up with 3 qualities:
Grit is Intrinsic Motivation
When I was a kid, I was very praise-motivated. I would suck up compliments like a dog snorking food off the dinner table. My parents forced me to play classical guitar, and I hated it, but I loved the praise that came from doing well. As an adult, I asked my mom why on earth she’d make me do something I hated for so many years.
“Do you ever have to do things as an adult you don’t enjoy?” she asked, an eyebrow arched.
Huh. Go figure.
All that positive reinforcement to do hard, boring, unenjoyable things seems to have actually paid off. I really did learn a lot of discipline. (Thanks Mum!)
The opposite of this would be external motivation. I am not a money/fame/awards/notoriety motivated person. This is actually helpful, because in order to make a small business successful, you have to continue to push forward even when none of those things is on the horizon.
Grit is Resilience
Bouncing back from a week like this isn’t new for me, it was just life in television. Get yelled at? With vulgar profanities? By a stranger? On live television? Yeah, that was just another day at work for me.
In TV, people said no. People said no, angrily. People yelled no. People didn’t want to talk to me. People hung up on me. People didn’t like my story. People threatened me because they didn’t like my story. If an entire week went by when I didn’t cry in the truck or at my desk, I considered that a win.
But I came back the next day. I always went back to fight another day. For many years, I loved that job and I was committed to telling stories. I stayed in that job until I had no more stories to tell in that environment. The fact that it was often a harsh, unkind environment helped me develop the resilience I need now to finish what I’ve started. And hey: this week is a Maui vacation compared to most weeks in television.
Grit is Good Vs. Great
I’m kind of in a “follow my dreams” space right now, which means I read a lot of idealistic garbage about not compromising, doing what I love and the money will follow, etc. (Note: I am doing what I love, and the money did follow, but I’m also doing some stuff I don’t love, and I spend a lot of time chasing people for money they owe me.)
There is a phrase that pops up frequently in the “follow your dreams” space and you can use it two ways:
- Good is the enemy of great
- Great is the enemy of good.
The first is bullshit, the second is true. The first one implies that you should never settle, that if you’re going to kick over the sandcastle that is your life, you need to go all in, and not accept half measures, and live for the big dream and blahblahblahbullshit.
The second one is something my Managing Editor used to tell me when I was being too precious about my writing and she knew I was going to blow my deadline. Don’t be a perfectionist. Stop pissing around trying to be perfect, and file your damn story.
Get the job done. It’s good enough.
You know what? This week sucked. I was no one’s favourite content marketer. But my work was good.the.eff.enough. I paid my bills. I fulfilled my contracts. My son got fed. I will go on to be excellent some other week.
If your standard is perfection and you don’t meet it, it’s easier to give up because “it wasn’t what you set out to achieve.” It gives you a way to chicken out. If your standard is surviving another day the best you can, you have no excuses. You just have to dig in and keep going.
I never really excelled at one thing, I was always kind of pretty okayish at a bunch of stuff. Interestingly, that’s what is making small business ownership work out for me.
Yes, I’m the boss, but I’m also the janitor, the IT specialist, the payroll officer and the weird woman who sits in the corner and chews her hair. It keeps the pressure on, but it also keeps it interesting, it keeps me fired up everyday, even after a bad day. I wake up and I want to try again, which I guess is the definition of grit.
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