What is the True Meaning of Grit

I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur.

In fact, five years ago I’d laugh if you told me that I’d one day be the founder and CEO of my own company. It’s not that I didn’t want to be; I’ve actually always dreamed of starting my own business. But I knew the statistics.

20% of small businesses fail in their first year. 30% fail in their second. 50% don’t make it to their fifth. These numbers daunted me in the early stages of Mekky Media, when it was just an idea. Any time I began to dream about starting my own business, self-doubt knocked me back down to reality.

Look at the statistics, Michelle! What makes you think that your business can succeed when so many fail? Besides, you have a family to support. You should just stick to what you know.

The people who were closest to me said the opposite. They said that even though many entrepreneurs don’t make it, I would defy the odds because I have something not everyone has. Grit.

I realized then and there that grit has always been one of my gifts. To me, grit is the persistence to push past the rough patches in pursuit of getting what you ultimately want. Studies actually suggest that grit is the strongest predictor of success, trumping even talent. Sure, you can be naturally gifted, but grit is what you need in order to do something with your talent and make a mark on the world. Grit is what you need to be a successful entrepreneur.

My friends and family were right: I am gritty. I’m a cancer survivor and a working mother of two with no plans to slow down anytime soon. Who’s to say I can’t be an entrepreneur, too?

So, I did it. I started Mekky Media and three years later, my company is alive and well. But, while I accomplished my dream of becoming an entrepreneur, I knew the path ahead of me would be rocky (remember those scary stats from the beginning of this blog?).

Unsurprisingly, I’ve faced a lot of hardships during my entrepreneurial journey to the point where I sometimes question if it’s all worth it. Running a company requires spending long hours away from my family and little-to-no me-time. My business is my third child and sometimes I find that I can’t shake that feeling no matter how hard I try.

When I was younger, I often caught myself thinking that working full-time made me a bad mother. I believed that my kids would suffer if I missed a game or meal because I was working overtime. So, I got even grittier. I went straight from work to my kids’ games to making dinner to staying up late working, and I repeated this cycle every single day. Although I was doing my best to be the ultimate mom and businesswoman, I often felt burnt out and unhappy.

Recently I heard Cheryle Jackson speak and I was moved by something she said and how relevant this was in my life and in my constant cycle I described above. Cheryle is an incredibly accomplished businesswoman and fellow cancer survivor. She talks about Grit and Grace, and how both are critical to success. Cheryle defines grace as your love and action towards yourself. Up until this point, I had focused only on my grit, often neglecting self-care in the pursuit of being a better businesswoman and mother. After hearing Cheryle talk, I realized that grit is important, but it isn’t everything. I cannot be my best without giving myself the grace to be imperfect and spend time on my own growth.

Now, I know that I’m not the perfect mother, wife, or boss and I never will be. Amazingly, accepting this has allowed me to feel more happy and balanced than ever before.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still gritty as hell. And it is a talent I look for in people I hire now. It is almost a core value I search for aside the passion I think it takes to succeed in PR – especially at a boutique agency. How far will you go for this client? How hard will you work to succeed?

But now I am smarter with my grit. I still bust my ass in this business and feel damn proud about it. And in between the long days and the tough parts, you may just find me at a Jennifer Lopez concert in a rhinestone-covered bustier or where I am now: actually making it to friggin’ Sweden to watch my daughter play soccer on an international stage while I have a talented team on top of things back home – and still checking email and in touch as needed while being here and finding my own happiness! That’s my grace. I urge you to find yours, too.