I remember one winter as a young girl in Portland, Oregon; our house was so cold that we layered up until our arms stuck out like ginger-bread men. The old wood fireplace was no match for the storm outside.
Anyway, I remember one night – especially cold – being upset. The cold was getting to me.
It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t fair.
I looked up at my dad, buried in that massive old coat of his. To my dad, an 8-hour day was just half a day at work and he was always working something. Most people probably would have quit if they had faced bankruptcy as many times as he had. They would have given up. But not my dad. He never gave up. He never stopped believing that success was waiting for him, just around the corner.
He looked up from his work and gave me a kind smile. “We’re ok,” he said. “We’re tougher than this.”
I went back to sulking. None of this sounds idyllic, but it’s only really now that I look back that I can see the real value in the upbringing I had.
My parents were both entrepreneurs. They believed in themselves and gave themselves fully to the futures they dreamed of. And they were as hard as nails. If going a winter without heating was the price of success, then they were willing to pay it.
I think this is a potent combo – the ability to dream abundant dreams, and a willingness to put in the hard yards.
I’ve had more than my fair share of set-backs. Ten years ago my company went bankrupt and I was out of a job. Those were hard times. But ask any successful person and they’ll list of a dozen times things just didn’t go their way.
What defines us is our ability to dust ourselves off and keep going. It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. We’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to be bigger than the challenges that meet us, because there will be challenges. And more than talent, skills, education, connections or inheritance, I believe the key to success is this:
Grit is a mindset. It is the passion, perseverance and unwavering determination to pursue your dreams. For me it came through going to work with my dad and spending my weekends on construction sites. It was the typical family dinner conversations not centered around sports or school but on discussing solutions to the everyday business challenges my parents were facing. For me, I never had a choice.
And now that I look back on it, I know that makes me one of the lucky ones.