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The Importance Of Financial Grit

 

Do you have true grit when it comes to your finances? Unless you have a trust fund waiting for you, you’ll need grit to get through when times get tough.

I’ve learned that my success financially, as well as in life, has very little to do with my intelligence, income or general ability. Sure it sounds counter intuitive but in your heart you know this to be true for you too.

Why Them And Not You?

How many millionaires have you heard of that grew their wealth though surprisingly simple ideas? How about the people you work with who have gotten promoted before you without having nearly as much talent and smarts as you posses?

What about those seemingly normal people like Mr Money Mustache who retire at the crazy early age of 30 while making humble salaries? These people certainly aren’t under any delusion that they’re smarter or better than you – well, at least most of them aren’t. MMM might be. You’re slaving away 9-5 like a schmuck and he’s riding his bike around in the lovely mountains of Colorado.

When I was young, my Dad had a way of slipping deeply insightful things into our normal chats about life. He told me that no matter where he worked, he was never the smartest person in the room – and he was ok with it. He said that it didn’t matter because there was never anyone who worked harder than he did.

He had a pretty hard go of it too, being lied to by his bosses, treated poorly, thrown under the bus and even laid off many times. It never really mattered because the man never quit. He is by far, the grittiest person I know.

Grit Beats All

There are a lot of people in the personal finance space that seem infallible – they make no mistakes, can accurately predict the future and are happy to share that wisdom for three easy payments of $19.95.

We here at Listen Money Matters certainly don’t pretend to be that knowledgeable and instead, constantly discuss our failures and focus on never giving up. Hearing what not to do can sometimes be more helpful than being told what to do. Learning from someone else’s mistakes can sometimes be more instructive than learning from their successes.

During my recent and terribly dramatic burnout, my friend Andrew M emailed me a link to a TED Talk called The Key to Success? Grit. The speaker is Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

It was incredibly motivating and really hit home – I think I may have even shed tear while I watched it. It was exactly what I needed at the time. To hear someone explain that no matter what had gone wrong, I could pull out of the tail spin through sheer grit.

In the video Angela discussed how her research showed that

The ability to learn is not fixed, it can change with your efforts

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 and that the most successful people in life “don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition”.

Let that sink in. Remember in the past that we told you to fail fast? The good doctor backs us up. You fail, analyze what went wrong, and move on to the next thing. Don’t dwell on your failures for any longer than it takes to cull lessons from them. Failure is not permanent.

I highly recommend watching the video but these two quotes distill it down to its core essence. Angela is referring to education in her research but these two statements apply to most everything in life – especially personal finance.

In the 8 years since I’ve been out of college I have run a negative budget more times than I can possibly count. I’ve contradicted almost everything we discuss on the podcast and I very well may be the textbook definition of a person who wastes money. I often find it ironic that I run a website and podcast that tries to teach people how to best manage their finances. A classic do as I say, not as I do situation.

That said, I’ve somehow been able to bring my net worth to over $350k in a very short period of time. And I didn’t do it by living in a hovel eating ramen and never going out. I still managed it all while traveling the world and drinking enough beer and cocktails for three lifetimes.

I don’t say this to brag because there are nearly 200 hours of podcast episodes on this site basically documenting me being an idiot and saying stupid things. My ego doesn’t come into this! However, the one thing that sets me apart is that I’m persistent – I’ve got grit.

Find Your Own Source Of Grit

The purpose of this article really isn’t to motivate you. You’ve got to motivate yourself. Any motivation you get from this article will disappear during your next shit while you stalk people on Facebook.

The purpose is to remind you, as well as myself, that success is measured by how far you go and not how fast you start. Last month I sucked and honestly, the last year hasn’t been all that great to me but when I look back at the past 8 years, damn have I killed it.

I may measure my budgeting success monthly or my marriage health weekly but when it comes to financial and life success, I measure it in decades. Like investing, personal finance is a marathon, not a sprint.

When the market tanks or you blow your budget, do you give up and sell your investments or do you double down an keep going? Interestingly, Angela’s research suggests there’s almost no correlation between success and intelligence. Are you the smart one or the gritty one?

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  • Agreed! Some said ‘when the going gets tough, keep going.’ It’s easy for some of us to get bogged down contemplating past mistakes and missed opportunities. Instead we need to keep our focus on the future and on what we need to do, starting now, to reach our goals.

  • voidist

    grit off course is the stuff you cant do without….but i do believe you Need also
    be intelligent……being dumb is no virtue

  • Zee Hamdani

    Agree with this post to the extent that one should always
    learn from their past mistakes and should not be weighed down by them. It’s
    like they say, when one door closes, 10 more open, but we stare at the closed
    door for so long that we miss out on the chance to utilize those new 10 doors.
    But having said that, I think being smart is also a key to success. Grit is important and does work well, but if you don’t have the brains
    to make the best out of each situation, then grit alone will not get you so far
    in life.

    Zee Hamdani ( http://personalprofitability.com/ )

  • Steve

    Good post, great post, but perhaps a little too much emphasis on intelligence almost being unimportant. I don’t know anyone successful who isn’t smart, and almost all of them sure as hell are gritty. I know a few smart folks who aren’t as successful as they could/should be though…. (myself included).

    • Steve, there’s actually been a lot of research that suggests that the majority of us are of about the same intelligence. The real question is in how you measure it. To steal a quote from my good friend Anonymous:

      “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

      • Steve

        I guess a good measure is the amount of stupid stuff people do ;) But perhaps it’s just that they can’t be bothered to use the intelligence they’re given?….

        • I think you nailed it with second half. Why try hard, it’s so…. hard ;)