How much does sheer determination and persistence play in success?

This is apparently a topic that I was supposed to think about because it’s shown up in a lot of places for me recently. Just this week, I was having a conversation with one of my new friends, Fran Melmed, about the potential impact this economy will have on Generation Y. For me, one of the questions that has not yet been answered is whether or not Gen Y has the resilience and work ethic to really make a game-changing difference in our workplace. I suspect that this idea got in my head via Kris Dunn in his post about selecting for Grit and probably was reinforced by the fact that I finally finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Glawell.

I’ve always felt that sheer work ethic and resilience makes up for a lack of talent in a lot of situations (just watch all the classic underdog to champion sports movies based on real-life stories). We have become infatuated with Talent in HR over the past several years, but there’s nothing more useless as a leader than an individual with loads of talent but no desire to use it.

So, this led me to think about where this work-ethic comes from. I concluded that in large part it’s formed pretty early on as you develop as a child into an adult. I fancy myself a pretty resilient guy with a solid work ethic and I think my track record has proven that out. I give my parents all the credit for that. This made me wonder what else we develop (or don’t develop) as children under our parents or guardian’s supervision that becomes critical to success later in life? Here’s my list of a few from my own experience:

Confidence. Some people are blessed with parents who brainwash them into thinking that anything is possible. Others aren’t so fortunate. Just knowing that someone else believes in you can shape how you view taking chances and seizing opportunity.

Integrity. In my house growing up, it was made very clear that there was a zero tolerance policy for lying-we always told the truth. More than that, it was also made clear that if you made a mistake or did something stupid, the best course of action was to come clean immediately and deal with the consequences. If you tried to lie your way out of a problem, it was going to be bad for you, REALLY BAD.

Respect. I knew growing up that calling people names, making fun of others, or generally doing anything that makes someone else feel bad about themselves was a bad thing and was not acceptable. I most certainly didn’t take to this lesson immediately, but I got it eventually. This caused me to be very aware of how I interacted with others and the impact my words could have on others.

Turns out, these are all important traits that I look for in a great employee these days. And, they are each things that are really tough to teach to someone as an adult if they don’t already have some sort of foundation built.

So, what do you think about the importance of resilience and work-ethic to success?


1 comment

  1. In our home, the 3-C's applied: Do not criticize, compare, or complain. Work ethic, as most other salient traits, start in the home. Work ethic trumps talent any day.

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