Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes certain people more successful and fulfilled in their careers and personal lives than others. The combination of intelligence, hard work, natural ability, and luck have often been recognized as the four pillars of success. Why is it, then, that so many people who seemingly have these necessary ingredients for a successful life are just getting by? Is there a secret ingredient, an x-factor of sorts, that separates the mere mortals from the super achievers? The answer may be best expressed as a question: “Are you gritty enough?” The Merrian-Webster dictionary defines grit as “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship.” In other words, someone with grit possesses the determination and passion to pursue their dreams, despite obstacles and challenges.
The idea of grit was made popular by Angela Duckworth, who wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and delivered a highly viewed TED Talk. The Forbes article, 5 characteristics of grit, is a good summary. To find out how “gritty” you are, you can take this 10-question grit scale to see where you stand.
Although I scored very high on the grit test, I often wonder if I’m actually gritty enough. On most days, after a busy day at the office, getting my kids ready for bed, and cleaning up and preparing for the next day, I am exhausted! I suspect that I’m not the only busy mom that feels this way. The question then becomes, if we can barely manage what we need to get done each day, how do we carve out the extra time and energy needed to do the side hustle that can potentially get us ahead? How do some people (I’m talking to you Joanna Gaines!) do everything that you do and then some? Do they not sleep or have some secret superhero power that we don’t know about?
I have been, like most of America, an avid Fixer Upper fan. I have watched all the Fixer Upper episodes multiple times, fallen in love with shiplap and the farmhouse style, and watched in awe as the Gaines family successfully and often humorously navigates four kids, an uber successful hit show, and a gazillion new business ventures. How do they do it all and still manage to look so good in the process?
So maybe it wasn’t a secret that Joanna Gaines was my girl crush because both my husband and my mother-in-law bought me copies of The Magnolia Story, the back story of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their path to success. Besides being an easy and uplifting read, I thought that there were some very good lessons we can glean for our personal and business lives. Clearly they are smart, hardworking, talented, and lucky, but the one key element that took them to the top was their high level of grit. When I sat down to analyze what attributes and actions make a person “gritty”, this is what I came up with.
It sounds like a cliche but you really do need to be passionate about what you do or want to do. In any new venture, there will be countless challenges along the way and if you don’t really feel strongly about your mission, you will likely give up.
Joanna studied broadcast journalism at Baylor University and interned at the CBS Studio in New York with Dan Rather. She didn’t continue in that direction, probably because she knew that she lacked the passion needed to be successful in that highly competitive field. Although she didn’t pursue broadcast journalism in the traditional sense, she still managed to have a successful career as a television star, combining her passion for home design and renovation with reality TV.
2. Don’t be afraid to fail – step out of your comfort zone
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t be too proud to admit it when you make a mistake. If you never fail, it means that you’re not challenging yourself enough.
Chip and Joanna were flipping and renovating homes on a small scale but decided to take on a bigger project by subdividing a vacant lot for new homes they planned to build. After spending almost a million dollars developing the site for building their vision, Magnolia Villas, a downturn in the economy caused their lender to pull funding for the project. Not wanting to default on their loans, Chip talked to several business acquaintances to try to secure enough funding to keep their project going. Sure enough, they found a private investor who believed in their mission and wrote them a $200,000 check to keep the project afloat.
3. Follow through
Carefully pick the areas that you want to dedicate your time and effort to and follow through on them. Don’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. Be creative and think outside of the box when looking for solutions to problems.
Joanna started a successful home decor retail store, Magnolia Market, but after a short period of time, she made the tough decision to close it to spend more time with her young family. Even after the shop was closed, she kept in close contact with her suppliers and clients. By doing so, she was able to hold a few trunk shows each year in her home. When the timing was right, she reopened her shop, created a profitable online store, and expanded into a larger space at the Magnolia Silos. The moral of the story is that if you have the dream and you’re willing to stick with it, it may blossom into something more than what you could have ever envisioned.
4. Strike when the iron is hot
We all have moments of inspiration – perhaps an idea or a creative solution to a problem. Write it down before it gets forgotten. Follow your inner voice and act on your intuitions. If you think too long, that moment of motivation will be gone. Remember that while it is wise to carefully think your ideas through and do the necessary due diligence, be careful not to become a victim of analysis paralysis.
When Chip finds a good real estate deal, he pounces on it. Back in the day, he was known as the unofficial “Mayor of Third Street,” because he purchased, renovated and flipped so many homes on Third Street in Waco, Texas. Even though this stretch of road was close to the Baylor University campus, many people avoided it because it was home to a school for troubled youth. Chip, however, saw potential in these undervalued homes. He bought them one by one, fixed them up, and rented them to Baylor students. According to Chip, “when you’re flipping homes, there are seasons to it. There are times of the year when things sell and times of the year when they don’t, and so you get into this schedule of working overtime so you won’t lose your shot at making any money.”
5. Have the courage to be different
Don’t follow the herd and do what everyone else is doing. Go that extra mile when others are about to give up – this is your best opportunity to get ahead.
The farmhouse style wasn’t the hottest home decor trend when Joanna was designing and decorating homes. She simply drew inspiration from her farm life by reusing and repurposing unconventional objects for wall decor that lend a sense of history and wonder. In the book, she mentioned that although she had a picture-perfect home in the prestigious neighborhood of Castle Heights, she felt guilty that her kids didn’t have a space of their own. In her new house, she specifically designed a family-friendly space with weathered tables and slip-covered sofas and chairs from Ikea.
By staying true to her personal style esthetics and the needs of her family, she was able to design a home that was not only stylish, but also comfortable and enjoyable for the people who lived in it. Her big break came when a production company saw her house tour on a blog post about kid-friendly home design and asked her to do a pilot episode. That’s how HGTV’s Fixer Upper was born!
6. Strive for quality, not perfection
Quality and excellence will never be underrated, but obsessing over insignificant minute details can get in your way of getting things done and seeing the big picture.
In The Magnolia Story, Chip said “I didn’t know any more about interior design or construction than Jo did. I learned it all on the fly. If I needed to put a fence in – or anything else, for that matter – I would just get my hands dirty and figure it out.”
The lesson to take from this is to do quality work and learn as you go. If you obsess about perfecting a skill before taking the plunge in a new endeavor, you may miss many good opportunities – or worse – you may never end up doing it at all.
7. Don’t try to do it all on your own
If you have a great idea but you don’t have the skills or knowledge to execute a certain part of the project, find someone who can help you. Don’t spend countless months trying to learn something that someone can do for you in a few hours. Having a business partner can also hold you accountable to reach your goals.
Chip and Joanna have different personalities and skill sets that complement each other in life and in business. Chip is a charismatic extrovert who is not afraid of taking big risks. Joanna, on the other hand, is an introverted dreamer who likes to play it safe. Joanna said “if I would’ve ended up with that quiet guy or that stable guy or that safe guy, I would never have been able to pursue any of these dreams, because no one would have pushed me to these new places I discovered in myself.”
If you can find someone who believes in you and inspires you to be the best version of yourself, make sure to hang onto them!
Have you taken the grit test? Are you a Fixer Upper fan? Please leave your comments below.
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The post, “7 tips for success you can learn from Chip and Joanna Gains from Fixer Upper” first appeared on Happy Chic Mom.
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