Persistence: The Intersection of Optimism & Grit
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started companies, and exited companies. Some gracefully, others not so gracefully. I’ve also been a co-founder, employee, advisor or investor in many companies. Business fascinates me and I’m always learning, reading and creating. I see opportunity almost everywhere and want to pursue more, but there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
One of my (self-assessed) strengths is my ability to identify ways to improve almost anything I see. This is also one of my weaknesses, as explained to me many times by my wife. I’m unable to look at something (a company, strategy, product, process, sport, game, movie, issue) or someone without analyzing and critiquing it / them. Fortunately, most of the time I’m able to keep my thoughts to myself, unless explicitly asked to provide them.
I believe this is what fuels my entrepreneurial spirit and drive. I see possibility and potential all the time. When that possibility collides with one of my areas of interest, I can get laser-focused on taking that opportunity to a point of success or a point of failure. In that respect, I’m very persistent.
My observation about persistent people is that if they feel those around them cannot match their energy and pace, they either lose interest quickly or try to take control to the degree that the adverse impact of others on forward progress is minimized.
What is the Persistence Intersection?
Persistence is the intersection of optimism and grit (see Intersection 25 image below). Optimism without grit is a participation trophy. Grit without optimism is hopeless drudgery.
Persistence is sometimes confused with stubbornness. Whereas stubbornness manifests as an unwillingness to compromise even if it puts success at risk, persistence is marked by a willingness to pivot or adapt as needed in the interest of advancement.
Optimism is the belief in possibility. Sometimes described as a “glass half full” mentality, it provides the motivation to expend effort in the interest of reaching a goal. Optimism is also the ability to cut through or even ignore pessimism. Entrepreneurs are the ultimate optimists. Without optimism they wouldn’t take the risks they do to innovate and build new products, services and companies.
Optimism is a mindset that can be cultivated. Optimists look for successes to celebrate no matter how small. Keeping positivity at the forefront can be a significant motivator for people, teams and organizations.
Intersection 25: Persistence = Optimism + Grit
Grit is the wherewithal to keep going when things are tough, and the odds seemed stacked against success. That willingness and ability to continue in spite of hardship and challenge is the other key ingredient in persistence. When I think of grit, I think of the stories my grandfather tells me about his time overseas during World War II. The miraculous-ness of what he and other veterans endured is clearly a result of their powerful grit.
In the corporate world there are many stories of grit. Most of those start with people trying time and time again to solve a problem or innovate. For example, inventors go through hundreds if not thousands of iterations to get something to work. Countless times that pursuit ends in little to nothing gained, other than the experience of trying, which in and of itself is valuable.
What Can Leaders Do?
Leaders should build a persistence mindset in their teams and organizations. They recognize the difference between persistence and stubbornness and are able to manage stubbornness out.
Leaders are optimists, but not naïve. They lead by example, promoting the belief in opportunity and possibility.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Persistence is key to the survivability of any organization. No company has succeeded without it.
Next time we’ll examine the 26th intersection of performance, which is the Maturity Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.