I am tired of Covid-19, as we all are. With November here, the first of the dark months, Covid-19’s effects seem to be especially repressive. Like that character in the movie, “Network,” I want to open my office window, and scream: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

I have not taken that cathartic step, yet.

Many years ago, in our main conference room, I hung on the wall this quote from Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

I agree with Coolidge and I am reminding myself of his wisdom now.

I recently read the book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” The author’s research says that a person’s “grit” – his or her ability to stay with it, to overcome challenges and hardships – is the best predictor of success. My own observations, over the course of 63 years, leads me to the same conclusion.

Nowadays, when we hire people, I reinforce this thought with our recruiters and hiring managers: does the candidate’s background demonstrate grit? If not, probably take a pass because there is too much risk in the hire.

Now, does grit mean a kind of stubbornness? To some degree, yes. But it also means adaptability.

I offer these related, but seemingly disparate thoughts on this subject:

Rajiv Jain, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer at CEG Partners, which manages $24 billion in assets, with a strong track record, explained his thinking around choosing portfolio managers, in an August 2, 2019 interview on Bloomberg’s podcast “Masters In Business:”

“The more disciplined a person sounds, the more rigid they likely are, and the greater chance of them blowing up.”

“Stability is a close cousin of stagnation.”

“And discipline is a close cousin of rigidity.”

Thus, he prefers to appoint open-minded, adaptable learners to the portfolio manager role.

Then there is Willie Nelson, the singer. I just finished reading his autobiography, “It’s a Long Story.” The book is full of wonderful stories. One theme throughout the book is Willie’s ability to learn and adapt, to avoid stagnation, which he credits for his long, varied, and successful career.

My big take away from all this: grit matters a lot – the ability to Press On. Grit plus open-mindedness to learning, plus the decisiveness to adapt, to make meaningful changes, are the key ingredients to sustainable success. Look for them when you make hiring and advancement decisions in your organization

Steve Richards
Principal & Board Member for Garnet River LLC