The Power of Grit: Lessons from Users and Startups


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 22, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Grit: Lessons from Users and Startups

In the world of success and achievement, there are often debates about what factors contribute the most to reaching our goals. Is it intelligence? Good looks? Physical health? Or perhaps something else entirely? According to Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and the author of "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance," the key to success lies in a characteristic called grit.

Duckworth conducted extensive research and found that IQ alone was not the determining factor between her best and worst students. Instead, she discovered that grit, defined as living life like a marathon rather than a sprint, was a significant predictor of success. Surprisingly, grit was not correlated with talent either. Many talented individuals failed to follow through on their commitments, while others with less talent displayed remarkable perseverance.

The concept of grit aligns with what we've learned from working with startups and their founders. One surprising realization is that most startups face similar problems, regardless of the industry they operate in. While the specifics may vary, the underlying challenges remain the same. It's fascinating how founders can often be blind to their own problems, only to discover them during a conversation or through external feedback.

Listening is another crucial aspect that founders often overlook. As experienced advisors, we've noticed that founders don't always take our advice to heart. This lack of receptiveness can be attributed to the counterintuitive nature of startup advice. When founders hear something that goes against their instincts, it's easy for them to dismiss it as wrong. It's only through firsthand experience that they come to realize the value of outside perspectives.

One of the fundamental principles we emphasize at Y Combinator (YC) is focus. Early-stage startups face a multitude of challenges, and without proper focus, progress becomes nearly impossible. YC helps founders identify the most critical problems they need to solve and develop actionable solutions within short timeframes. The emphasis is on measurable, near-term results, enabling startups to move forward with speed and clarity.

YC goes beyond simply imparting knowledge; it fosters a community of like-minded individuals. The value of having colleagues who understand the startup journey cannot be overstated. Founders need support, inspiration, and guidance from others who have walked a similar path. YC provides this invaluable network, allowing founders to connect with peers, learn from their experiences, and build lasting relationships.

The lessons from both grit and working with founders converge on the importance of perseverance and collaboration. Grit teaches us that talent alone is not enough, and it's the determination to push through challenges that separates the successful from the mediocre. Similarly, in the startup world, founders must learn to listen, embrace counterintuitive advice, and lean on their colleagues for support.

To apply these lessons, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Cultivate grit: Recognize that success is a marathon, not a sprint. Develop the ability to persevere through setbacks and maintain a long-term focus on your goals.
  • 2. Embrace feedback: Actively seek out feedback from mentors, advisors, and colleagues. Be open to ideas that challenge your assumptions and be willing to adapt your approach based on constructive criticism.
  • 3. Build a support network: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who understand the startup journey. Seek out mentors, join communities, and collaborate with others who can provide guidance and support.

In conclusion, grit and the lessons from working with startups teach us that success is not solely determined by intelligence or talent. Instead, it is the combination of passion, perseverance, and collaboration that propels individuals and companies towards their goals. By cultivating grit, embracing feedback, and building a strong support network, we can navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and increase our chances of success.

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