(This post was first published here on November 7, 2016.) 

I am reading a good book right now called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. In a nutshell, this book is about the various psychological studies done over many years around what makes people successful.

Of course in these studies they are looking for common patterns and characteristics for those you could call champions in sports, music, education, business, or any other arena where you find champions.

Two very common characteristics that come to mind are intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). The premise of the author is that “grit,” or a person’s passion and perseverance over a long time, is a stronger predictor of success than IQ or EQ.

The book is a good read. If you haven’t already read it, and if you’re looking for that next good book, you might check it out. If you’re more apt to watch a short TED Talk by Dr. Duckworth, here it is:

Chapter 12 points out the importance of culture when it comes to a person’s level of grit. Duckworth’s premise is that if you are part of a grit-oriented culture, you too are likely to have grit. She writes about football teams, world-class swimmers, and several other examples where the culture of grit drives the individual’s level of grit. And she writes about how the leaders of these cultures are very intentional about creating a culture of grit.

If you want to be a world-class swimmer, it appears the main thing you can do is become part of a group of swimmers who are also committed to becoming world class. Then the crazy workouts you’ll have to do seem normal—everyone else is doing them. It changes how you experience the world.

She claims that there is a hard way to get grit and an easy way: The hard way is to do it by yourself. The easy way is to do it with others.

Now I’m guessing NONE of you are planning to become world-class swimmers. But maybe there is something you do want to develop in yourself that could benefit from this strategy. What would that be for you? Maybe it’s even your level of grit.

A few weeks ago Jeff wrote about how our beliefs shape our actions. The more I work in the development of leaders, the more I see the power of how people’s beliefs impact their experience of, and response to, the world around them. If you believe something is true, then you’ll make it come true. If you believe it’s not true, then it won’t come to be true. You could say that we create the world we live in by the beliefs we hold.

Do you remember the powerful Andy Stanley video that we showed back in Session One on the power of beliefs? Click here if you want to watch it again (watch from 5:33 to 14:40). There is  a line in his presentation that I think sums it up nicely: “Believing is seeing” (rather than the converse, which is so often quoted).

So, why am I talking about beliefs, culture, and grit? I believe that Duckworth’s insights about how culture impacts your level of grit also works with other things, like your beliefs and values.

You get to choose many of the people you hang out with, especially outside of work. If you are intentional and choose your group(s) based on your beliefs and values, then they will help to support— even drive—your beliefs and values.

All of this reminds me of a saying I heard around twenty years ago: “You become the average of the people you hang out with.” This made sense to me then, and as such, I started to target some people I wanted to hang out with. I believed they would rub off on me, and hopefully something good about me might rub off on them. Because I’ve done this for twenty years, I can look back and see how much I have benefitted by being selective about who I hang out with.

Do these thoughts stir anything up in you? Are you surrounding yourself with people who will rub off on you in a good way? Are you putting yourself in cultures and with people who will rub off on you in a negative way? Are you being intentional about creating a culture around the beliefs and values that you want for your team?

I suspect this is worth thinking about today, even if only for a little bit. If you do, and if that thinking leads to some action, I would love to hear about it. You know my email address and my cell phone number—drop me a line.

Meredith, Jeff, Gerald, and I are working on our passion and perseverance in order to ensure we will be successful in our purpose of growing leaders like you to be the best in the country. As we do this, West Michigan will become the Silicon Valley of leadership. This of course only happens when it happens through you! 

Thank you for being part of something big and important. Thank you for being a leader that is worth following and a leader that is shaping the fabric of all West Michigan leaders!

Make it a great week,

Image by BenBradshaw. Used under CC-BY-2.0 license.