By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur & writer. Amine is the CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO.
I’ve often asked myself the above question, and, as an entrepreneur of over two decades, I often discuss this matter with friends, family and colleagues. Personally, I don’t think there is a single trait that makes entrepreneurs successful. Rather, it’s a mix of two crucial traits, and then there’s also the blindfolded lady of luck.
Speaking from my personal point of view, as a digital marketing and esports business owner, I find that there are two definitive entrepreneurial traits. However, there are also other ancillary traits such as dedication and attention to detail that can make a good entrepreneur great.
However, I feel the main two traits, which are grit and talent, are the two most important. Let’s get into a bit more detail as to what exactly these two traits mean, and why you need to do what you can to develop these traits if you want a successful career as an entrepreneur.
I do not doubt that talent plays a major role in anyone’s success. It doesn’t matter what you do. Whether you are an athlete, a lawyer or a software programmer, your personal talent can play a major role in how far you get.
Talent can determine just how successful you will be in your role as an entrepreneur. Without talent, it would be extremely difficult to differentiate yourself from the masses. Something has to make you stand out.
In your drive to create a great product or service, you should have talents that are well-matched to your project. When I created IronMonk and Team 33, I put to good use my talents in the fields of analytics, UX/content optimization and social media marketing.
I wasn’t born with these talents. I got into this field because I believed it had great potential. And I have always had a great interest in everything that revolves around the world wide web. So, the good thing about talent is that you can learn it. It started with learning CSS and HTML, and from there I learned other internet-related skills over the course of many years.
You can teach yourself just about anything, but, of course, you need some foundations. By this I mean a liking for the skill, and if you have an intrinsic aptitude, all the better.
Having said that, I don’t think it is so easy to just be doing something with the sole purpose of making money. I was attracted by the potential I saw in the businesses I set up, but I also love what I do. If you can choose, go for something that has money-making potential but that you also love doing.
What exactly is grit? As I see it, grit is about staying power, or perseverance. It’s the capability to continue when others give up. You can be really good at something and even have a great liking for it. But when you come across too many hurdles and let yourself be pushed into giving up, then your level of grit is simply too low.
Grit is a personal trait. However, I believe that, like many other aspects of life, it can be learned. Through experience, you can teach yourself how to be grittier.
Although it may not come so easy for some, for others it may simply be part of their personality. Yet it is still a trait we can teach ourselves—think of the last time you gave up on a project. What made you finally make that decision? How could you have done things so that you would have continued?
Asking yourself these questions can help you find the answer to persevering when things get tough. As the adage goes, when things get tough, the tough get going. In over 20 years of experience, I’ve had my fair share of setbacks. So, in 2008 when I set up IronMonk, I was determined not to drop my project.
If I hadn’t learned from my previous experiences, I just might have given up in the early stages of my new enterprise. But I stayed the course, beared the brunt and continued pushing forward. So, for me, grit is more about being able to continue despite the hurdles you come upon.
When things seem insurmountable, there may be a way around it rather than over it. Without grit, people will find a reason to give up. However, grit tells us that we can proceed further, although sometimes we may need to change course slightly or adopt a new strategy.
From what I have seen, grit is also about being able to adapt while keeping your core goal in focus. Often you might come across situations that need a new approach. You may think that it’s just not possible to do. However, it may just be a matter of finding a different way.
Developing grit isn’t easy, but it’s often necessary. For me, it involves a slow and gradual process of blocking out my desires in the present moment to appeal to what I need in the long term. It may be the case that I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to go to the gym, but grit involves acknowledging that impulse, yet going to the gym anyway. I know that going to the gym will supply me with more energy in the long run, so I go.
Even though it’s tempting to listen to your immediate desires, I recommend trying to appeal to your long-term needs first. This is how grit develops over time, at least for me. For some, this constitutes “building character” but, for me, it’s simply a matter of building grit, drive, and determination.
I believe that talent and grit are both just as important and necessary for people to succeed. And I would add that only having one may not cut it, either. If you have loads of grit but little or no talent, it’s going to be much harder to succeed.
The same goes if you have loads of talent but no grit. You could be very skillful but fall by the wayside at the first hurdle. That’s why I insist that you need both of these key skills to succeed, and my experience, if I may say so myself, attests to this necessity.