April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month!
This post is my contribution to the Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival hosted by Shannon Ryan from The Heavy Purse.
What is the most important thing leading to success? Is it a good education? Having wealthy parents? Is it being a genius like Steve Jobs? It couldn’t hurt, right?
Or is it grit? You can call it perseverance, but lately I hear people calling it grit. It has more of a real world sound and implies determination that never quits. Is grit the most important factor for success? Got grit?
What is it that makes for success? I think back to how my parents built a good life from almost nothing. They did not go to college. Their parents were very poor and did not finish grade school.
How did my parents do it? They were strong believers in education. They were always learning even though they didn’t go to school beyond high school. They read books and talked to people who had knowledge and skills they admired. They were always looking for ways to learn new skills that could help them improve their lives.
They built their own house from scratch, using a contractor only to pour the concrete basement. They enlisted their relatives to help and in return helped them with various projects, including helping to build two other houses. My mom was no shrinking violet either. She nailed down the entire subfloor of the house by herself while my dad was away for ten days for his job. Now that’s grit!
Some people might say that they succeeded because they didn’t give up and because they were determined to accomplish their goals. That’s an easy assessment, but it doesn’t get to the key to their success.
Attitude and Grit Alone Won’t Get You There
My mom and dad believed in life-long learning before it was a catch phrase. They set goals and then started reading everything they could about them. They did their homework!
They had information and a good attitude. But I think the real key to their success was the way they divided a big project into small steps.
As a teacher I had been trained to do the same thing with educational goals. Why not put these ideas together? You need a plan with clear steps to accomplish nearly anything!
This is my “Ah-Ha!” moment: this method can be used for many types of goals, not just to build a house or to teach children. It’s a tool for success.
A Plan to Reach Your Goal
- Define your goal.
- Collect information about this goal. For that you have to “do your homework” just like everyone who is successful.
- Organize your information into main steps.
- Break down the main steps into smaller steps.
- Put your plan into action.
How can you put your plan into action? You break it down into steps that are easy to achieve. Then you take the first step and the next and the next . .
Keep your goals in view while you take those steps. You might lose your motivation from time to time, but remind yourself why you chose those goals. Write yourself a letter about how and why you decided on the goal. Take it out and read whenever you need a little encouragement.
What If You Get Stuck on a Step?
My parents saw any obstacle as just a new situation to figure out. They kept reading and talking to others who had done something similar. Doing more research along the way is a good way to be as efficient as possible. Getting advice from others is smart too.
Anytime you get stuck on a step, that’s a signal to break this section into smaller steps. Don’t feel that’s a bad sign; everyone has to take practical steps like that. It’s a normal part of learning.
This is a good time to do some more research. You can’t just throw a positive attitude at it and hope somehow it will work. You need understanding and know-how at this point. Replace wishful thinking with knowledge!
What’s Smart in the Real World
All of this is smart. You don’t have to be Steve Jobs to achieve your goals. Inherited wealth can come in handy, but there are plenty of people who inherit wealth only to squander it. Not smart. And no matter how much education you’ve had, you can learn what you need to know.
So if you are looking for that grit and can’t find it, it’s probably because you need to make a practical action plan! You need to work on accomplishing your steps nearly every day to make them actually happen. If you want to call that grit, that’s fine. A beautiful plan that just stays in the planning stage doesn’t do you much good.
Is this all too simple? Not really. The old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” really is true. Your dreams will remain just that. I see this as a common problem among people who are struggling financially. Even intelligent people fall into the trap of “some day” things will be better.
This works in the real world because you can make changes to your plan anytime you need/want to make adjustments. That’s important because things can change easily. Keep checking to see if you are still aimed in a direction that makes sense. Doing your homework has to be ongoing, not just at the beginning. That’s what makes it a realistic plan.
I wish you much success!
I don’t have to wish for it and neither do you! Just plan for it and put your plan into action!
Be sure to check out the posts by the other participants in the Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival. I’m honored to be listed among such bright lights of the personal finance blogosphere! Click here to see the full list of particpants with links to their posts for the carnival. You will find great insights and have your own “A-Ha Moment” when reading these posts.