CEO: Grit is the secret to success—here are 3 ways to get better at not giving up

Elle Kaplan
Getty Images

How can you maximize your chances of becoming successful? According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the answer is quite simple: grit. 

Duckworth defines “grit” as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.” Her studies over ten years show that talent and intelligence / IQ do not always line up with success. In fact, her data tells us that “grit is either unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent.”

That means that what beats intelligence, knowledge and prior understanding is the ability to persevere when something isn’t working out. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself these questions: “When was the last time I didn’t follow through with something because of failure? And more importantly, when was the last time I continued with something, even after failure?” The answers will give you some insight into how much grit you've got to work with.

Grit seems simple: it’s the work ethic behind your actions that dictates your success. Consistent work is more valuable than hard work alone. However, grit is not that easy to come by. The most common problem is giving up too easily and quickly, since it’s less painful than trying again and working even harder for what you want.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” - Stephen King

The world's youngest self-made billionaire may soon be Kylie Jenner

Now that you have the answer, what can you do about it? If you want to push yourself to ingrain this secret to success, read on and learn these three ways to build grit.

1. Accentuate the positive

Sometimes you do just have to fake it 'til you make it. It’s a cliché for a reason. When you feel ready to quit, it does often help to push yourself to keep going. Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, conducted a study that focused on the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When you believe that you become smarter from your failures and that that the effort makes you stronger, you’ll find yourself putting in the time and effort to achieve success.

Don’t forget to celebrate the little wins too; they all help push you forward. So, when spirits are low, give yourself a little pep talk. Remind yourself that failure is not a condition, that it is a lesson along the path to success.

2. Surround yourself with the right people

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” –Jim Rohn

Find people who inspire you and aspire for the same success that you do. When times are hard, you can turn to each other for support. Inspire each other to keep going forward. Just as in New Year’s resolutions, if someone else holds you accountable for what you have said and promised, you are more likely to stick with it.

How the co-founder of Whole30 went from drug addict to huge success

3. Stay open

Your goals take perseverance, dedication, and hard work. When you focus on achieving your goal, there’s no one right way to do it. There are many ways to get there. Remember not to limit yourself.

Instead, focus on what you can complete right now, today, to get you to where you want to be. Take baby steps day by day until you get there. All of your smaller goals will contribute greatly to your larger ones. Remember that hard work needs to be consistent to prove its value. Open your mind to the possibilities and everything will present another opportunity for you. Your success does not need to be a clear-cut path.

As Duckworth said, “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City, serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the chief investment officer and founder of LexION Alpha.

Don't miss: Google found the most successful teams share these 5 traits

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

How internships helped Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk plan out their careers