RSPA Recommended Read: Grit

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

Don’t tell RSPA job applicants this, but when I receive a resume, I don’t spend much time analyzing the candidate’s objectives, their listed skills, or details about their degree. I don’t care how prestigious a school they attended or if they attended college at all.

I care far more if the candidate has perseverance and a history of overcoming obstacles. I want to know if they have grit.

That said, you won’t find this to be a surprise: When I found myself at the Raleigh-Durham airport beginning a long trip without a book in my travel bag, I purchased a copy of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania (not that the school matters).

Let’s dive into some key passages from the book before I offer a few more thoughts for VAR and ISV leaders:

  1. The highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways: (a) unusually resilient and hard-working and (b) they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction.
  2. I came to a fundamental insight that would guide my future work: Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.
  3. As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.
  4. Great things are accomplished by those people whose thinking is active in one direction, who never tire of combining together the means available to them.
  5. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.
  6. Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. It is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity.
  7. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, great prevails.
  8. Interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. To young graduates wringing their hands over what to do, I say, Experiment! Try! You’ll certainly learn more than if you don’t!

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  1. Daily rituals: All the experts in this book consistently put in hours and hours of solitary deliberate practice. They follow routines. They’re creatures of habit.
  2. Deliberate practice predicted advancing further far better than any other kind of preparation. Deliberate practice is carefully planned. It requires working where challenges exceed skill. Deliberate practice is exceptionally effortful.
  3. Grit rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. “I have a feeling tomorrow will be better” is different from “I resolve to make tomorrow better.”
  4. Go past those negative beliefs and what’s possible and impossible and just give it a try.
  5. Most people are born with tremendous potential. The real question is whether they’re encouraged to employ their good old-fashioned hard work and their grit to its maximum. In the end, those are the people who seem to be the most successful.
  6. The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.
  7. The way we do things around here and why eventually becomes The way I do things and why.
  8. Complacency has its charms, but none worth trading for the fulfillment of realizing your potential.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.5/10

Creating a gritty culture has many facets, but here are some initial actions I recommend:

  • Hire for grit. Ensure your hiring process isn’t a breeze. Schedule multiple interviews, assign takeaways with deadlines, and ask tons of behavior-based questions such as:
    • What are your top five professional accomplishments?
    • Give me an example of a problem you faced on any job you have had, and tell me how you solved it.
    • Give me an example of an important goal you set in the past, and tell me about your success in reaching it.
    • Tell me about a time you failed at something and what you learned as a result of that experience.
    • The purpose of an interview is for me to find out what is in you. So let me just ask: What are you passionate about? What things excite you the most?
  • In Grit, Duckworth quotes legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden: “Though a team has to do a million things well, figuring out the overarching vision is of utmost importance.” Do you have a stated company vision? How often is it discussed by you and your team? Do you have a Flywheel that guides your organization’s activities? If you don’t, but sure to attend the RetailNOW 2024 breakout where Blake Gillum, President of VAR/ISV DCR Point of Sale, shares his organization’s Flywheel.
  • Try, test, measure, adapt, repeat. Try, test, measure, adapt, repeat. Try, test, measure, adapt, repeat. Avoid organizational complacency by embracing experimentation. Experiments will help you improve and provide opportunities to bounce back when things don’t work perfectly. Remember Duckworth’s wise advice: “Experiment! Try! You’ll certainly learn more than if you don’t!”
  • Speaking of learning, offer learning opportunities that augment your experiments. Dedicate a portion of your annual budget to staff development. Invite staff to attend RetailNOW and the RSPA Inspire Leadership Conference. Suggest they subscribe to the RSPA Blog. Expose them to RSPA Academy EXCELerate online e-learning. See which team members take you up on these offers. (If you need help navigating these opportunities, email for details about the RSPA Education Advisory Service.)
  • Offer encouragement – lots of encouragement. Exhibiting grit is difficult. It’s a daily grind requiring deliberate practice, ferocious determination, and resiliency in the face of numerous obstacles. I’ve been fortunate to get to know dozens of gritty people, and almost all of them felt like quitting at some point during their journey. What kept them going was encouragement from someone invested in their success.

To learn more, purchase your copy of Grit here. Resolve to make tomorrow better!

Don’t forget to register for RetailNOW 2024, July 28-30 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. It’s Where The Industry Meets!

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by The CannaTech Group, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact