The one trait you need to succeed

gritcover2Do you believe that you need talent to be successful?

You’re wrong.

You need Grit.

Grit” is a trait studied by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and the bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Leaving a high-paying job in consulting, she began teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school where she realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. To learn more, she joined University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student and began studying people in different types of environments to find common factors that determine success.

“In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

gritis

Luckily, you don’t have to be born with grit. It can be developed. Studies of world class achievers show they develop grit in four stages:

Interest – This first stage happens when you start to fall in love with an activity and it becomes a passion that drives you to keep getting better at it. Therefore, you should avoid taking on roles or careers in fields that you are not in love with or at least heavily interested in. You must like what you do and be interested in becoming the best at it. Otherwise it will be impossible to become successful.

Practice – The second stage is a period of prolonged skill development and dedicated practice. This is the hardest part because it requires you to keep doing the same thing over and over and over. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve world-class mastery in a field. The Beatles would practice eight hours a day seven days a week and had played over 1,200 concerts before they shot to fame. Kobe Bryant, a world class athlete, would practice shooting from one spot until he made 400 baskets.

Same goes for nerds like Bill Gates. The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the University’s computer and had racked up over 10,000 hours of programming experience before he founded Microsoft.

Beyond-the-self purpose –  A “beyond-the-self” sense of purpose gives you a much deeper motivation and can sustain you over a much longer period. This means that you should invest your emotions, your time and your energy into your passion because of reasons other than just being rich or becoming famous or even becoming the CEO of your company. Picking a career just to make money will rarely result in success. Seek a higher purpose, even if it is as simple as being the best at what you do.

Hope – Gritty people are resilient. They have a growth mindset, which provides them with the ability to bounce back and see each obstacle as a chance for improvement. When you lose hope, you fall into a fixed mind set of “things aren’t going to change.” As you look for more and more evidence that nothing is going to change, you’ll prove yourself right because you have stopped trying.

A growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. When people read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.

willing-to-fail

In the end, success comes down to perseverance. The deep desire to complete what you started. To follow through on your commitments. To keep going even if you fail the first time or the first few times. To keep pushing for your ideas even if they get rejected initially. To keep executing on those ideas though you’re up against a bunch of naysayers or road blockers.

Develop grit. That’s how you keep getting promoted. That’s how you get to the top.

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Be a squeaky wheel…(with class)

squeaky_wheel

They say that the squeaky wheel gets greased. The message of this old idiom is that he who complains long enough will get what he wants.

In the context of an office environment, however, no one likes a complainer. At the office, complainer usually eats lunch alone. Or worst, he’s the first on the list of people to get the pink slips.

But that doesn’t mean that this old idiom should be ignored. There is some real wisdom in it. Said another way, it shows that  the most noticeable person is the one most likely to get the most attention. The key is in how someone is noticeable.

A corporate climber is someone who uses this idiom to her advantage. She communicates with her managers and other stakeholders. She asks questions often and seeks constant feedback.

When in a role, especially a new role or taking up a new project, it’s crucial that you demand (tactfully) of your superiors what is expected of you and maintain an ongoing communication with them with regards to issues you are running into.

Ask for feedback. Ask for counseling and coaching.

The quiet, new person who keeps to himself and whose work a manager has to correct is more likely to be shunned than the new person who constantly asks (smart) questions and stays on her radar.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

For example, once I had two new staff under me. One drove me absolutely fucking insane, question after question and second guessing everything, even my decisions. But as he worked he would keep me apprised of his situation and in the loop. He would seek help and clarification as soon as he encountered an obstacle or an issue. He made sure I reviewed his drafts and working files and that I helped him hone his deliverable to my expectations. In the end, his work was very good. It was always exactly what I wanted.

The other staff was quiet and solitary. I’d assign him a task, with an hourly deadline, and he’d go off on his own. No communication. I thought he had everything taken care of. Come deadline he had some half-assed work ready for me. I was not happy. Not only did he misinterpret my instructions and provided the wrong deliverable, I had to sit with him and spend hours helping him fix his mistakes. It felt like he just wanted someone to hand-hold him through the work. Eventually, I learned to rely on him less and to check up on him more frequently when I assigned him a task or project.

Moral is…make your own personal presence known among your bosses. Show you are active. Even if you are missing things and the numbers don’t add up, asking questions early and often avoids a lot of headache later. Being proactive  just shows that even though you need assistance, you are eager to learn and grow. Be the employee you would want if you owned the company.

Demand feedback.

What your “Out-Of-Office” message says about you…

Out-Of-Office
Your personality heavily influences the path your life will take. The difference between someone who’s a failure vs. someone stuck in mediocrity vs. someone wildly successful is very deeply rooted in your character traits and habits. The differences are very subtle at an individual level but add up quickly.

Recently saw this posted on by Ruslan Kogan on Linkedin which provides a perfect example of the subtle difference between a high performer and a mediocre one.

You can tell a lot about a person’s work ethic from how they word their Out Of Office email template when they go on leave. You can also tell if it’s a person that’s driven by and gets inner fulfillment from achieving an end goal or simply by fulfilling their minimum contractual obligations.

Out Of Office template for someone who always does the bare minimum:

I am out of the office until 20th January and will not be checking my emails during this time. Please email john@smith.com.

Out Of Office template for a high achiever:

I am out of the office until 20th January and will have limited access to emails so please expect a slightly delayed response. You can also contact john@smith.comwhile I’m away or if any matter is urgent, you can call my cell on 0412 345 678.

So keep an eye on what Out Of Office template your team mates choose to use. It’s a good guide.

Which one are you?

Read the entire article “Don’t hire Hotmail users & other tips to save your company culture

Don’t f#@k the drunk intern … and other career saving holiday party tips

office-party-drunk_SRS-Legal-230x300Holiday parties are back! Companies are makin’ money and the ones that aren’t being cheap are bringing back the holiday party in full swing.

While it’s supposed to be a time to hang loose and let your hair down, in reality, it’s the opposite. It’s an opportunity for you to show that you can be reserved and professional when you don’t have to be. It’s an opportunity to show upper management that you can take care of yourself and not embarrass the company if left to your own devices.

Holiday parties won’t make your career. But they can definitely derail it if you’re not careful and if you’re not on your best behavior.

Here’s how not to screw up.

Do NOT skip the party … or be really late

While there is never an obligation to attend a holiday party, don’t be that prick who’s too cool to attend. No matter how lame you think it is, you must go. The people who organize these i.e. most likely your boss(es) will notice. Even if they don’t, don’t miss the opportunity to show off your polished social skills and mingle with upper management.

Showing up extra fashionably late? You’re just being extra dumb. Senior management probably won’t stay too long. For them, this is not a time to hang loose. They’re still working. So, most of them will stick around for the obligatory hour or two and then make an exit. You do not want to miss out.

Married? Don’t take your spouse if they’re not invited. However, definitely do bring them if they are invited. Don’t have a baby sitter? Find one. They’re working? Tell them to call in sick. This is important to you. They need to show up and represent the hell out of you i.e. make you look good.

Which leads me to the one exception. If your spouse or significant other is incapable of making you look good in front of others, then save yourself and leave them at home.

Dress well

This is a no brainer. You’re going to a business social function to see and to be seen. So wear something nice. More importantly, dress with class.

Men | Wear a suit if you can. Even if others don’t. BUT…and it’s a big “but”. Make sure to wear a suit that looks good on you. Don’t pull out that 5 year old suit that’s too big or too tight. If you don’t look good in it, throw it back in the closet and go buy another.

Women | Dress to impress. Look hot without looking slutty. Tight fitting dresses are risky so instead, go with form fitting. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, it shows in your confidence. Just please refrain from showing off too much skin. Avoid making this about your body regardless of how sexy it is. Don’t allow yourself to get boxed as the “chick from legal with the hot legs.” It’s about you as the whole package.

Married? Make your significant other also follow the rules above. They represent you and your brand at this shin-dig. Don’t let them pull you down.

Don’t show up hungry

Yes, there will be food. Tons of free food. But do you really want to waste your time in the food line? Precious time that can be spent mingling. So, grab a drink, walk around and look for the key people you need to get in front of.

When you do eat, keep the items on your plate to things that can be eaten in small bites. Avoid looking gluttonous. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a conversation with a big ass chunk of food in your mouth. Stay away from anything that is too liquid (gravy, sauces, etc) or anything that can stain your clothes if it falls.

Make sure you’ve got nothing in your teeth.

Control alcohol intake

This is NOT the place to get drunk. So go with a plan to stay attentive and focused. Know how many drinks it takes to get you from a good confidence boosting buzz to tipsy. You want to stay in that “confidence boosting buzz.” So as soon as you reach it, stop drinking. Get a glass of water or coke or something. Wait 15-20 mins before the next drink.

Notice that the senior leaders are either drinking water or other non-alcohol beverages or they will nurse their one drink forever. That means, their judgments are not clouded. Neither should yours.

Leverage your spouse…big time

Your spouse or significant other knows you better than anyone else in that room. They can help you raise your profile, both in the room and at the office.

First, your significant other is your arm candy. If they look good, you look good.

Second, your significant other can be a great cheerleader and marketer of your brand. Have them with you when you approach the big boss and her husband. While you’re buttering up the boss, your partner should work on their significant other. While you make a good impression on the lady who has an influence over your career, your spouse can make a good impression on the one person who has influence over the boss lady.

Avoid talking shop

While it’s inevitable that conversations about work will come up, play it smart and keep it light and high level.

  • Don’t bitch about work | by doing so, you’re being a downer.
  • Don’t talk badly about people | anything you say can and will get back to them or worse, HR.
  • Don’t pitch big ideas to the CEO | use the time to connect with her on a personal level and then subtly request if you can put some time on her calendar to discuss some thoughts (ideas) you’ve had. Most likely she will say yes. Leave it at that. Follow through the next day.
  • Don’t linger with one person too long | unless the person is your BFF at the office, don’t hog up all their time.
  • Have a list of people you want to get in front of. Make sure that you do.

Do. Not. Twerk.

If there is dancing, keep it classy.

This ain’t an audition for “Bring it On”. Keep the booty shaking, the soulja boy, the gangnum style, the harlem shake, the anaconda and whatever else you’ve got, to yourself. You may be the best twerker on your block. Your colleagues don’t need to know.

If you’re with a significant other, dance only (or mostly) with them. If you’re by yourself, dance with a group of people you are friends with. No grinding.

Again … keep drinking to a minimum.

No flirting … no hookups

This isn’t prom. OK? The goal of the night shouldn’t be to hook up with someone. Even if the opportunity presents itself like your favorite dessert on a diamond encrusted plate … just walk away. You are being watched and you are being judged. It’s not worth losing your job over or being the known as the creep that took advantage of poor drunk intern.

Some others

  • If sitting at a table, don’t leave without asking if anyone else needs something – we know you can’t carry it all.
  • Make an effort to walk around and say hello to as many people as possible. Don’t sit at one table for the entire evening.
  • Avoid cell phone use. Post to Facebook later.
  • If you do take a call, it better be from the baby sitter or the hospital.

The Korporate Klimber looks at the holiday party as an opportunity to leverage a career boost. I’m not saying that the holiday party is where you pitch your next big idea. Definitely don’t do that. But it is a great opportunity to set the stage for next year.

Just don’t screw it up and become memorable for something stupid.

Lateral thinking and 6 new shortcuts to success

Success. Perception vs. Reality

It took the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller 46 years to make a billion dollars. Starting with a single oil refinery in 1863, and over two decades, he painstakingly built an empire.

Seventy years later, Michael Dell [of Dell computers] achieved billionaire status in 14 years. Bill Gates did it in 12. Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg, at the age of 23, became a billionaire in 3 years. Groupon’s Andew Mason did it in two.

How is it that some among us can build eBay in the time it takes the rest of us to build a house? Because most of us follow the same old pre-prescribed paths to achieve success as our parents did and their parents before them. We work hard. However, certain successful innovators break convention to find better routes to stunning accomplishments. They don’t work harder. They work differently.

They utilize lateral thinking.

Shane Snow is a serial entrepreneur and skilled journalist. His book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success delves into reasons why some people are able to achieve incredible success in implausibly short time frames. He then goes on to show how each of us can use these “smartcuts” to to accelerate our success. According to Snow,

“Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So just simply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionally done in the past.”

Snow recently talked to Eric Barker of blog site Barking up the Wrong Tree and shared six strategies to help us get better, faster. Here’s an excerpt:

1) Forget “Paying Your Dues”

If paying your dues was essential, there would be no child prodigies or Zuckerberg billionaires.

“In all sorts of industries, what you see is that the fastest risers and the most successful are often not the ones with the most experience. What the patterns show is that people who tend to switch tracks, switch from different ladders or different careers, end up amassing more skills and more flexibility and more of this critical, lateral thinking that allows them to make breakthroughs and surpass their peers a lot faster than others.”

Often when people talk about the importance of paying dues, they’re afraid of failure or afraid of breaking rules. Playing it safe can help you do “pretty good” — but it’s rarely the way to get to the very top or to get there fast.

So go ahead, shake up that old stoic corporate culture. Don’t sit around in your department, waiting for your boss to retire so you can get promoted to his role. Instead, take some risks at your job. Do things differently. Get noticed and get promoted to be the boss of another department.

2) Find Your Yoda Outside The Office

Snow’s research found that formal mentorship didn’t work. That top lady exec they assign to guide you at the office? Zero effect on your career.

But the mentors you seek out on your own? Boom. They take you to the next level in a big way. But what’s the difference between the two?

Mentors need to care about you. Here’s Snow:

“Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. They care about you and where your life goes. They are with you for the long haul. They are willing to say, ‘No,’ and to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Those kinds of relationships yield outsized results in terms of future salaries and happiness.”

And caring goes both ways. If you don’t feel a bond with your mentor and you don’t open up, you won’t get the most from them. You need to care about them too.

“An organic mentorship is built around friendship and vulnerability. You need to be open about what you’re scared about and what you’re going through. Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. This is the thing that you see in Star Wars and in the Karate Kid.”

So, go “wax on, wax off” an old Japanese man’s cars. Find a teacher who you care about and who cares about you and you’re not just on your way to a great career, you’re on your way to a primo life.

3) Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed

Seeing others screw up helps you learn. It’s a shortcut to getting around a little known cognitive bias Snow discovered in his research.

When surgeons tried to learn a new procedure, which ones improved the most? The ones who saw others make mistakes.

“Surgeons who did successful surgeries tended to continue to improve, but surgeons that sucked at the surgery got even worse. And if you saw your buddy succeed at a surgery, it didn’t help you at all. But, paradoxically, if you saw your buddy fail at a surgery, you actually got better.”

Huh? So unless you’re good from day one the only way to get better was to watch other people fail? Why?

Because your brain is trying to stop you from feeling bad about yourself. So it lies to you.

When you screw up, you make excuses. “Not my fault. Sun was in my eyes.” When you see someone else do well, you say, “Well, of course, I’d do it just like that.”

But when you see someone else bomb you say “Whoa, better not do that.”

It’s one of the fundamental differences between the beginner and the expert mindset. Beginners need encouragement so they don’t quit. But experts love negative feedback. That’s the secret to how you keep improving.

4) Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.

“I had that idea but they beat me to it.” Ever said that? Okay, you’re now officially a whiner. Because you were dead wrong.

You were actually in the better spot. Research shows the guy who starts second is more likely to win. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. MySpace came before that. In fact, it wasn’t even the second. But it is undisputedly the most successful. Similarly, Google began when Yahoo, Altavista and other search engines were immensely successful and popular. Now, most of us can’t live without Google.

When you’re first you have to waste a lot of time and energy figuring out best practices. When you’re second, you can just play “follow the leader.”

Instead of spending all your time trying to get better, work hard on studying and emulating those who are better than you.

Timing isn’t as big a deal as you thought and you can learn from those who came before you. Look around your company. Around your office. There are so many established processes that waste time and cost your company money. How many approvals does it take to submit a purchase order? Is someone doing it better or faster? Study them. Learn. Replicate. Succeed.

Then repeat.

You’re not too late. You’re right on time.

5) Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.

When you have limitations you can’t take the easy route. Constraints force you to think. And often, unless forced, we don’t think much at all.

When challenged, we have to be original.

“Constraints … give us boundaries that direct our focus and allow us to be more creative. This is why tiny startup companies frequently come up with breakthrough ideas. They start with so few resources that they’re forced to come up with simplifying solutions.”

So don’t bitch about how you don’t get the freedom to be creative at your job. You need the constraints. Change your view. Don’t look at them as roadblocks. Instead they are merely bumps that you need to figure out how to get around. Constraints help you become even more creative.

6) “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That line is from Astro Teller, head of Google X. Those are the guys who build driverless cars and other supercool stuff.

When you try to make something 10% better, your brain is burdened with all the baggage that came before. You have no room to maneuver.

When you say 10 times better, you have to reinvent the whole process. It makes you think big. You toss out the old rules and start fresh. Here’s Shane:

“If you’re aiming for 10% improvement you are going to work within the conventional bounds of what normally happens in your product or industry. If you say that this has to be 10 times better, then it forces you to get down to the first principle of what is most essential. This is a way to force reinvention, which is really what innovation is.”

And when you dream big, people want to join you. Your co-workers talk about you. Senior leaders want to throw money at you to groom you as a future leader. Ambition is a force multiplier. When you think 10x instead of 10%, you behave differently.

Research shows when you set bolder, more audacious goals you work harder than when you’re reasonable. According to Shane:

“Subconsciously, we actually push ourselves harder when we’re going after bigger, loftier, harder goals. Research shows people who set higher goals end up outperforming their peers or themselves because they push themselves harder or because they force themselves to find more creative, alternative, unconventional solutions to problems.”

So dream big. No, even bigger.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

A wager…

Here’s the deal.

First, give me $1000.

Then, give me one name from ALL the people you know.

Now sit back and relax. From now on, you’ll get 10% of all their earnings. Forever. Month after month and year after year for the rest of their life. Guaranteed!

Who would you bet on?

Obviously you’ll want to pick the person who you’ve determined will be the most successful over the course of their life. But how do you pick? What criteria do you look for?

This question was posed by Warren Buffet to a group of graduating MBA students a few years ago. Warren Buffet has made a living from picking the right people. He is one of the richest people on the planet, not because he invents things or sells great products but because he bets on people. His business model is to find a company run by the right people, invest in it and let those people keep doing what they do. All the while collecting a small percentage in returns. By doing this, he’s built a company who’s stock is worth $210,500 per share (see BRK.A).

How does Buffet find his winners?

He looks at character. Specifically, there are three traits in a person’s character that lead to long-term sustainable success:  Intelligence, Energy & Integrity

Intelligence | It’s not the person with the highest grades or the best SAT scores that possesses the intelligence required for success. It’s much more simple. It’s having the ability to assess situations quickly and make decisions that maximize opportunity while minimizing negative impact. It’s  having adaptive intelligence. Adaptive intelligence, unlike I.Q. intelligence, is not inherent. It’s the ability to see the pole coming at you while you’re running and dodging just enough to avoid a full on blow but instead take a hit on your shoulders and keep running. It’s the ability to see the pattern before it fully emerges and adapt.

Energy | Energy is keeping yourself healthy and to develop a bias to action. People who have a tendency to take action over just thinking about taking action. It’s taking initiative even when the results are not too clear. It’s about having the physical vitality recover from a cold quickly and be back at work the next day to kick ass. It’s having the strength to mentally push yourself into action, to take on more than your share of the workload and a willingness to crush it every single day.

Integrity | This is the most important one of all. Seriously! Without integrity, the other two are worthless. In fact, they are dangerous. We all know that integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. But in this case, it’s more than that. Integrity is about being true to yourself. It’s about formulating a set of values and beliefs and then ensuring that every action, every thought and every part of your life is geared to align with those values.

So, who do you bet on?

What if I told you that there was one person in the world that you know, who you can pick and for that person you don’t have to give me the $1000. More importantly, you will get to keep 100% of the income they earn over their lifetime.

That person, my Korporate Klimbing friends, is YOU.

How? you ask?

The great thing is that none of the three qualities described above are inherent. These are not qualities that successful people are born with. They are self-selected. Each of these qualities can be learned, developed and perfected.

Conor Neill, professor at the prestigious IESE Business School in Spain, gives us tools to get started on developing each of the characteristics above.

Tools for success

Build intelligence | Adaptive intelligence is not something one needs to be born with. The ability to think on your feet and to be able to “pivot” at the right time can be taught.

Write it down

Start by writing stuff down. Start a daily journal or diary. Spend five to ten minutes to write down the ideas you had today, the names of people you’ve met and describe the experiences you’ve had. By writing down ideas on a daily basis, six months from now, you won’t be the intelligence of one moment. Instead, you will have the accumulated intelligence of six months of ideas you’ve written down, of contacts you’ve made and of things you’ve learned. Write down your life. By documenting the learnings from your daily life, you will accumulate intelligence far beyond what you can get from mastering chess strategy or an MBA course.

Maximize energy | Deal with your day one step at a time. Focus your energy on small chunks of deliverables. Break large and complicated projects into small milestones that can be met quickly. High performance athletes don’t think about the finish line or the outcome at the end of the game. Instead, they focus on the next one minute, the next five minutes and what they have to accomplish in that small amount of time. Football quarterbacks focus on moving forward in inches and on moving ten yards at a time. They don’t focus on the outcome of the three hour game. They create short term goals and they meet them. Similarly, focus on the next task. Not on that deliverable due in three months.

Develop integrity | Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and consistent commitment to honor your values and beliefs.

Do you know how a child spells love? T.I.M.E. List the top give things that you consider important to you. Your kids, your parents, your career, you hobbies etc. Now list the top five activities that take up most of your time. The five activities that fill up your calendar. Are they aligned? Most likely not.

The coherence between your time and your values is where integrity begins. So little of our time goes to the things that we mean to do. Integrity is spending your precious time on the things that matter to you. Each day, hundreds of tiny decisions are made on where you spend your time that are not aligned with your values. We find ourselves inadvertently spending hours on Facebook when we just meant to check in for a few mins. Time spent watching the latest reality show. Time spent on playing candy crush. More importantly, time spent on doing things for other people just to please them. Learn to say NO. Say no to the little temptations that suck your time away. The ones that distract you from the things that are important to you. Say no to the requests of others that are not aligned to your values. 

Each one of these characteristics can be developed. More importantly, by turning these into habits, you ensure that they become part of your life.

All it takes is discipline. And practice. Lots. Of. Practice.

Will you bet on yourself?

Bet onyourself