David Harding: True grit is needed to succeed where others fail

It’s human nature to notice the obstacles in our path. Managers generally see problems before they see the opportunities problems can present. Customers are more likely to register complaints than praise.

As a leader, you know there will always be problems, some so seemingly intractable that they paralyze an organization’s or an individual’s progress.

That’s why I believe more effective leaders should become problem-solvers. Ask managers, employees and especially customers to bring you their problems. Make it your business to not only tackle them, but to bring the best possible solution back to them.

Being a dedicated problem-solver will win you respect among your staff and perhaps win you repeat customers that feel valued and supported.

Sweating the small stuff

I recently returned from a visit to Vegas where I couldn’t help but notice how much we all whine over relatively trivial stuff. The greens in my salad weren’t as crisp as I prefer. It was a little more difficult to get phone reception in my room than in the lobby. The weather was about 10 degrees cooler than usual for this time of year.

And it wasn’t just me. Expressing displeasure in the trivial is an ongoing American pastime. How privileged of us!
Why is it so hard for us to find the good in what we have? Are we losing the ability to actively, happily interact in circumstances that might not have perfect outcomes? Are we insulating ourselves from situations we may not like, from trying what’s new and unexplored, because the result might not be comfortable enough for us?

All this whining is very limiting, and ultimately self-destructive. When we insist on an idealized standard of perfection we miss the opportunity to truly open up to what’s different and unknown, and to grow from the experience.

Studies show that getting through a rough time can make you stronger, can help you become more resilient and possibly even smarter through learning from past mistakes.

Don’t go it alone

If you’re in the throes of a stressful life event, seek out family and friends. There’s evidence that the presence of family can kick in the positive benefits of oxytocin, a powerful brain neurotransmitter that can help mitigate anxiety. Next time the pressure ratchets up, resist the temptation to close the door and brood silently.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology set out to document how much intelligence or grit correlate to success by studying Ivy League undergrads from the prestigious U.S. Military Academy.

The findings suggest true grit wins in the leadership and success department. It won out even over those who were “prodigiously gifted.” Those naturally gifted people weren’t the ones who ended up at the top of their fields in investment banking, academia, law, journalism, high tech or medicine.

The true measure of success isn’t made of multiple degrees, Ivy League educations or a family pedigree. It boils down to persistent and concentrated drive in the face of difficult goals; true grit.