Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

November 14th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness. A hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming who had clawed her way through college sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

My working class background was worn like a badge of honor. There was pride in the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Educated elitists I met at universities ridiculed me because I wasn’t as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

The FBI liked that; when I was hired it was not because I was a female. They hired me because I was the best person for the job who happened to be female.

Entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business. Startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets. Leadership can get blindsided by investors. 

Here is why you need grit when life throws you a curveball:

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

body language

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch presented different types of adversity. Rattlesnakes in the summer and deadly snowstorms in the winter both presented life and death situations.

At an elevation of 7,000 feet, we were frequently snowed in for months at a time during the winter. My brother and I had a private tutor who lived on the ranch with us because we were hours from the nearest town. When I was in first grade, our first tutor’s vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift and she froze to death while trying to walk back to our house.

We worked hard and lived in poverty. While slick professionals in the cities discussed whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and started to stack hay bales when I was 8 years old. Believe me when I say that I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

Later, researchers noticed a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

The answer in this study suggests that adversity at a young age teaches us early in life how to deal with our emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions gives us an advantage in both business and life.

Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of dealing with them when a curveball comes our way as an adult.

What This Means For You:

No one gets through childhood without a few scrapes. We don’t all get to play with the red ball in the playground. Mine the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the way in which you dealt with blows in the past. They are an accurate predictor of how you deal with them now.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

As I worked counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant I had to lean into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just reared its ugly head year after year.

There is a difference between persistence and stubbornness. The case demanded that I change my behavior, tactics, and mindset if I planned on solving it.

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you can’t anticipate. Mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self. 

Positive thinking is another cornerstone of mental toughness. FBI agents survive because they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. We don’t go into arrest situations assuming everything will work out OK.

What It Means For You:

Don’t run from adversity or struggles if they are lying in the path of what you want to do in life. That means you will need to adapt and be flexible. Keep an eye on micro quotas as you move toward your macro goal. Anticipate what could go wrong so you are better able to predict your response and land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

If something is wrong, save your mental energy for finding ways to make the situation better.

There are so many things over which we have no control—our parents, the country of our birth, the time in history into which we are born. Most of us do not have a choice of when or where we die, nor can we control the time and manner of our death.

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. It’s important to choose what makes us significant so we live according to our most deeply felt values.

Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

Take time to find out your core values because they drive your behavior. They move and inspire you. Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, find ways you’ll make it better.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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6 Responses to “Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball”

  1. Dan Burke says:

    Great article! Glad to hear some of your Wy backstory!

  2. Terri Klass says:

    Another amazing article LaRae!

    Learning to have grit and facing our challenges straight on is essential for each us no matter our background or the adversity we experience. I think you hit it on the head with: “But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless.” We all have choices about how we handle ourselves when things get tough. For me, sharing some of my challenges coupled with staying strong and resolute have worked. A leader needs to both show their humanity while remaining focused.

    Thanks LaRae!

  3. Alli Polin says:

    Powerful stories, LaRae. Also with you on the stop whining. When life doesn’t go your way, you can’t just stop and scream and cry that it’s horrible and unfair. We need to use all of our experiences to create meaningful change – even our super crappy ones.

    Alli

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