When I picture grit in the flesh, I envision a professional athlete devoting their entire life to becoming the best, overcoming inconceivable adversity to achieve the goals they’d set for themselves. Now, if I’m picturing grit as a 2D fictional character, I bring you Prince Phillip as he clambers through thorned bushes and slays a Dragon witch, just to visit a comatose Princess he met once in the forest. What relentlessness. What tenacity. What self-efficacy and optimism. In our minds, grit usually embodies the hero. Heroes don’t quit, and they’re in the limelight because they’re determined, devout, and relentlessly tough in pursuit of their very heroic goals. But I can’t dribble a soccer ball like Cristiano Ronaldo or throw down like Ronda Rousey. I’m all for having a growth mindset, but for the sake of argument, let’s be realistic. What about the rest of us? The average Joes working two jobs to make ends meet? That intern who just officially stapled 20,000 documents? That student who spent a semester measuring mice toes for their senior thesis? Turns out, grit isn’t always about being the hero. More often, it’s about overcoming your own boredom to achieve a goal.
Grit isn’t glamorous.
I say this because I’ve spent the past three months curating info from company sites. Basically, I flip between pages and tabs, highlight columns and cut information, copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste. I have burned keyboard shortcuts into my long-term memory. I am a machine. What I am doing is neither glamorous or heroic. But it does take grit, lots of grit. And rather than be stuck in a mindset that screams, “You are better than data entry!!!” I choose to focus on the value I am adding to my team. Grit is about being a team player, and not everyone on the team gets to drive 24/7 if the team is going to achieve its goals.
Focus on the big picture.
Grunt work is a means to an end. When you have the burning urge to quit whatever you’re doing, think about the end goal. What is the point of it all? What goals are you working hard to accomplish? Even the simplest of tasks has a purpose. Keep that in mind as you toil away. You’re persevering in pursuit of the end goal. And that’s gritty.
The completion and exhaustiveness of a gritty task is a character test. What will you accomplish when nobody’s watching? While it may be easier to cut practice short, or “forget” to do some of the labor-intensive tasks you’ve been assigned, be thorough instead. No one looks back and wishes they hadn’t worked as hard. You might not get recognition for doing a good job, but that’s not what it’s about. You were assigned a task, and you set out and accomplished it to the very best of your abilities.
Don’t lose heart. Focus on owning the task at hand, no matter how small it may be. Make it your own. It’s easy to cut corners when you’re not stimulated, so find ways to stimulate your mind. Challenge yourself, make it a game, set daily goals, and celebrate the wins. All of them. Grittiness is a mindset; a silent mastery of hard-work and daily diligence. Don’t be fearful of boredom and don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills. Make the best of every situation because hard work will pay off in the end. And that is what I tell myself every day. Copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste; never give in. Don’t be a hero. Just do what needs to be done. Grit.
Kristen Hamilton is the Co-Founder and CEO of Koru, the leader in predictive hiring. As a technology entrepreneur and executive with a passion for impact, Kristen has a successful track record driving value for customers and investors. She co-founded e-commerce pioneer Onvia and took it public in 2000. Kristen built the organization to 500 people, raised over $300 million of investment capital, and led the M&A team to acquire and integrate four private companies in two years. Kristen then shifted focus to education and talent acquisition, as head of educator strategy at Microsoft, and COO of World Learning, where she ran operations in 66 countries.More from Kristen Hamilton