Personality Traits to Cultivate

Life sometimes throws you lemons. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to dodge the worst hits and make lemonade from the rest.

Here are some personality traits that will be useful in your work and your life before, during, and after the inevitable fusillade of lemons comes your way:

Fight Through Adversity

Fighting for what you want, as well as for what’s right, is always a good policy. But it’s more difficult to do when you’re losing.

That’s why it’s helpful to develop a “no quit” attitude that keeps you fighting against adversity, against long odds, even against overwhelming opposition, long after most others have given up.

I have always believed you don’t ever lose until and unless you stop fighting. As long as you’re still striving, you still have a chance of success – even if it’s a slim one.

Accept the Possibility of Error

None of us is perfect, so all of us make mistakes. Since you can’t avoid them, what’s important is getting some benefit from each of your mistakes, such as:

  • Information you glean from your mistaken effort, which may include both specifics of what won’t work and possibilities of what might work better.
  • Skills and experience picked up during the mistaken effort.
  • Contacts and alliances that result from the mistaken effort.

What’s perhaps most useful, after you fall flat on your face a few times, is developing a greater comfort with risk and with the possibility of failure. You will eventually find out that most mistakes are not as terrible as they once seemed. In fact, some people intentionally invite mistakes just to see what they can learn from the experience.

Do What’s Hard

Sometimes the best way forward requires a difficult first step, and it’s tempting to look for an easier path. But if you always avoid what’s hard to do, you’ll miss a great many opportunities to make substantial progress and uncover wonderful new opportunities.

Instead of focusing on the first step and looking for the easiest one, try thinking about the entire path: from where you are to where you want to be. From this larger perspective, the overall task, project, or goal may seem far less daunting, and that difficult first step often seems less of a deterrent.

Of course, these difficult tasks, projects, and goals never really get much easier. But with practice and determination, you will find that you get more capable.

Go It Alone

People are social animals, and we naturally find it far easier to pursue a task, project, or goal when we have company. Their presence assures and validates us. We can lean on them. We also gain confidence from their willingness to participate in whatever we’re trying to do.

But there are times when people are slow to join with us, even when our ideas and leadership are as worthwhile as ever. In these situations, it’s helpful to feel the inner self-confidence to take the first several steps entirely alone.

Going it alone helps avoid having a great opportunity disappear because of lingering inaction. It also gets the ball rolling, and creates a positive situation in which people are more likely to join you.  

Get the Details Right

Some people like to operate up at the “30,000 foot” level, from where they can see and understand the “big picture” of whatever task, project, or goal they are pursuing.

That’s useful.  

But it’s also important to get into the weeds and focus on the small details of whatever you’re trying to accomplish. In these situations, think in terms of such details as:

  • Exactly how will things get done,
  • Exactly who is responsible for each step of the overall plan,
  • Exactly what tools and materials will you require, and
  • Exactly where will you get them.

It’s the old “for want of a nail” idea: Overlooking or flubbing an important detail can lead to grave consequences that all the “big picture” thinking in the world can’t remedy.

Take Blame as Well as Credit

Accountability is a personality trait of great importance, if only because it helps other people feel good about working with you. No one is happy to put their trust in someone who steps to the front of the line only after things are obviously going well, and/or hides in the back of the crowd when satisfactory results are in short supply.

You want other people to know you won’t dodge responsibility or let others be blamed for your mistakes.

You also want them to feel comfortable you’ll be willing to share credit with others who contribute to the success of whatever task, project, or goal you’re pursuing.

This is an area where verbal promises are welcome, but where there are no short-cuts; you can build up a positive reputation for open accountability only by dint of your actual behavior during both good and bad times.

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