Key Highlights

  • Grit = secret ingredient for exceptional professional second and third acts
  • Psychological formula (grit, passion, growth mindset) for achievement/success shifts as we age
  • According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), median age for real estate agents/broker is 54 – perfect for second and third professional acts

There are thousands (millions?) of books, videos, podcasts, whatever about what’s needed for success. Most psychologists agree that the key ingredients in the success formula are passion, grit and a growth mindset – a mindset or conviction that you really can excel at a new pursuit.

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Beyond knowing that passion, grit and a growth mindset fuel success, it’s also important to know that this formula and its ingredients shift as we age. Norwegian psychologist Hermundur Sigmundsson believes that passion is THE most important ingredient but the problem with passion is that it peaks early. (Just think of children’s obsessions…first there might be the dinosaur phase and then the airplane or truck phase and then the Animal Crossing or Doom Eternal video game phase.)

The growth mindset ingredient also peaks early. Sigmundsson says, “You begin to lose the thinking that maybe you (actually) can do this.”

Grit, however, the combination of perseverance and determination, increases through middle age and peaks in your 70’s, according to researchers with Harvard and MIT. Additionally, the mind’s ability to accumulate facts and knowledge peaks around retirement age (whenever that is?) so in many ways, coming into late second and third acts is when your mind is best suited to dominate at your job.

A surplus of grit can definitely help overcome flagging passion and growth mindset. And, according to Sigmunddson, know that gritty, later-life professional success is NOT unusual.

Here are a few things you can do to help, as Sigmunddson says, “keep the fire burning:

  1. Make It Meaningful – Take a Big Risk
    1. The COVID pandemic is the perfect opportunity to stop doing a just-OK job.
    2. If you’ve been fired from that just-OK job during the pandemic, take all the good you’ve learned from your past experiences and then “throw them into the future,” said Anne Boden who, at 60, founded and is the CEO of Starling Bank, a consumer-focused online financial house.
  2. Move Your Body
    1. Sigmunddson said, “Physical activity is very important to keep the gray and white matter in your brain more functional.”
    2. Anything that gets your heart to pump will do it.
  3. Fight Weakness
    1. Help nurture your weakest trait (passion, growth mindset, grit) by finding and surrounding yourself with people and deadlines that will boost that flagging trait.
    2. Find an enthusiastic business partner to bolster your entrepreneurial passion.
    3. Find a weekly writing group and/or hire a book coach to help you write that novel you’ve been thinking about.
  4. Bonus Points for Learning Brand New Skills
    1. The more unusual and mentally demanding that new skill might be, the better.

Bottom line: Your grit, the combination of your perseverance and determination, will get you through to the success and meaningfulness you’ve been fantasizing/dreaming about.

Thanks to Bloomberg.

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