This is a guest post by a friend of mine, Ope Adebanjo. Enjoy!
It seems that in life the most challenging professions or callings to accomplish have nothing to do with competence or intelligence, but have everything to do with resilience and grit. People throw those last two terms around a lot, and tell you that some people have these qualities and some people just don’t. I’m not sure I believe that. I have found that any skill can be built, and in many ways skills like resilience and grit can be built more than anything else, because they are common human traits that bind us as people. Instead, I’ve found that creating a culture of support and growth can be the best way to ensure that you are daily cultivating resilience and growth in your life.
For me, that particularly comes into play when I think about becoming a professional writer. I’ve always loved writing and do it as much as I can, but the process of becoming a novelist or a playwright seems daunting and overwhelming. These thoughts have kept me from pursuing this dream whole heartedly. But I recently read an article that described the determining factor for who becomes a master storyteller and writer and the many people who dream of becoming so and do not. It’s simply those who keep going that make it. That’s it. The ones who are able to fight through the doubt and the confusion and the uncertainty are the ones who can muster up the courage and commitment to finish and edit a full creative work. I’m working on becoming that person. The question of how to do so has consistently been on my mind.
I read an article over the summer that asks similar questions. Particularly, how do managers retain female engineers in their organizations, despite the high percentage that leave due to the demanding and male-dominated nature of the profession? The article was helpful in defining a few characteristics that were identified by women engineers who stayed as helpful in allowing them to keep going. The characteristics they mentioned resonated with me, because I would argue that they could be extrapolated and defined as keys to succeeding in any difficult or uncertain endeavor, whether it is artistic creation, scientific research, or entrepreneurial innovation. The uncertainty and doubts that inevitably come can be the most debilitating part of the entire equation. But with these key ingredients, you can cultivate a system of resilience and grit building that will guide you along the way.
Get a mentor
This mentor should provide you with challenging assignments that stretch you and build your confidence in your skills when you complete them. Even if they can only provide simple feedback, as long as they are directing your learning plan, they can prove immensely helpful.
Get specific feedback
This does not need to come from your mentor, but does need to come from a skilled person in the field. They can identify your strengths and weaknesses with a specificity that will give you clarity for what you need to improve upon.
Find a supportive group
This will likely be a group of peers or people within a similar experience bracket. These are the people you can vent to, articulate your shared insecurities and frustrations, and a place for you all to encourage each other and develop connections. There are no real requirements for a group in size or format. The only thing this group must have is trust. No judgment allowed.
Long term role models
Knowing who you want to be is more important than knowing what you want to be. Identify a role model, even if you don’t know them who is walking in the shoes you want to walk in in a few years. Read their story or biography. Understand that they too are human, and have likely faced many of the challenges and failures that you have. If they can do it, you can too.
Vision and imagination
Take the time to be specific about where you want to be. What would success in this endeavor look like? Put it into words, place those words somewhere prominent. Don’t stop until you get there.