We must encounter frustration and failure to enjoy success. Wait… what? It seems counterintuitive – both in the education world as well as the business world – to find both happiness and success through failure. In the classroom, we work hard so that kids have the knowledge and skills to get the right answers. And the sum of all those right answers delivers good grades, a better college, and ultimately, a more successful life. In the business world, mistakes can be costly – both to the organization and to the individual. There is enormous pressure to deliver the best products, strategies, and solutions. No one wants to be credited with “the idea that tanked.” We earn respect through our victories, not our failures. What is the old saying…
Carve your successes in stone and write your failures in the sand.
But, recovering from failure is more difficult than maintaining the status quo and should be a badge of honor. Our attitude towards failure is essential to success in the real world. Failure happens all the time, and the only immunization is eliminating all challenges and risks from your daily diet – which is about as far from the tenets of innovation and creativity as one can get. Those that don’t know how to effectively embrace and respond to failure are more likely to stay in the safe zone where mediocrity abounds. Maybe they’ve chosen this path out of boredom, lack of vision. Or maybe they lack grit. Within any group of people – artists, musicians, athletes, students, doctors, you name the field – with similar levels of talent, IQ, and preparation, the single biggest predictor of who will become rockstars and who won’t is their level of grit.
Angela Duckworth introduced the concept of grit in a 2013 TED talk as the “key to success.” She went on to win a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Fellowship, and her first book, Grit, examines the scientifically-based concept that success hinges on the level of one’s grittiness.
But, beyond success, our level of grittiness also has a direct correlation with our level of happiness and personal satisfaction. If you want to be happy, you have to get gritty. Consider these four traits that have a direct impact on both success and happiness.
Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty. But life is often messy and complex, and there is no single solution that applies across the board. This means planning, preparing, and working toward your vision, but also continually embracing failure and experimentation when the orange cones of life present disruptions.
In his book, Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, Andrew Zolli explains that resilience comes from a combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that enables us to overcome the inevitable yet unknown obstacles along the way. It is this mindset to evaluate situations and persevere through challenges so that we have some control over our own destiny and can continually learn from both positive and negative experiences. When we view setbacks as opportunities to learn, we can bounce back smarter and stronger, and those disappointments actually enable us to bounce back with greater determination and a new perspective.
In an increasingly complex world, we can’t avoid shocks – we can only build better shock absorbers.