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On Hard Work & Grit

Shield AI was founded to advance the mission of protecting service members and civilians with artificially intelligent systems – and do so at great scale. 

To do this, we would gather the best of the technology and security community in one place. This group would then advance new technologies, entering the extremely challenging National Security Market, and building a company from scratch. Doing any of these three things in isolation would be challenging, doing all three at the same time is extremely difficult. While we are a long way from living up to our mission, people have asked, “What factors have contributed to your progress thus far?” 

I believe that our company’s progress has been attained through many things, but above all, much of the credit can be attributed to and summarized by hard work.

To appreciate why certain things haven’t been done before, consider the role simple hard work plays in success. Really difficult problems require extreme commitment, and for those who seek their solutions to embody the grit, the intellect, the combination of working hard and working smart to overcome the problem. In particular, solving a problem that no one has solved before requires a person to stick with it longer and push harder; it’s that additional effort which is going to amount to the ability to achieve a breakthrough that nobody has yet achieved. 

Hard work isn’t a groundbreaking idea. The fact is that anytime a successful person writes about what they’ve done or accomplished, invariably hard work is discussed. Success follows practice, commitment, and perseverance. Success follows those who work hard. 

Smart people, good ideas, and good plans are abundant. This is something that became extremely evident to me when I was a student at MIT. When everyone around you is clever and accomplished, being intellectually gifted is not unique. What is unique is somebody that has that intellectual capacity and the character qualities necessary to work hard for sustained periods of time. Somebody who is always pushing themselves beyond what is expected and putting in the extra effort. That grit and determination is the differentiation between people who are exceptional and people who are merely good. 

Truly hard working teams, such as the one assembled within Shield AI, are rare. Our willingness to work far harder than others has therefore been the single-most important contributor to our progress. Hard work allows us to quickly learn, execute, and adapt. 

It’s worth mentioning that working extremely hard is not a natural state for anybody. This explains why so much energy is wasted by people trying to figure out how not to work hard. Many people today think they can outmaneuver hard work by organizing themselves efficiently and “working smart”. Of course you should organize your work, of course you should be efficient, but for anyone who is genuinely committed to be great, there is no substitute for putting in the time. 

Hard work is something you have to practice and learn to sustain. In part, it is about approaching a problem with a certain mindset. John Wooden says, “Love the struggle.” Others may say, “Embrace adversity.” Either way, a huge part of working hard is attitude, because the hard part about hard work is sustaining that level of commitment during tough times. It is easier to work hard when you are particularly inspired by an interesting and fascinating project. It is much more difficult to maintain sustained commitment to hard work when you are consistently failing to achieve goals or employed in something more mundane. Having the toughness and the grit to work hard through the uninteresting, boring or particularly painful moments matters because success at big things is merely the sum of many small things done right, every day, by everyone. 

Having the mental fortitude to push through is substantially more achievable when you condition yourself to truly find joy in the challenge before you. It is from this mindset that the Shield AI team finds success. We strive for excellence and remain steadfastly committed to being the best at what we do. Through hard work, I believe this team will continue to inspire each other to reach unprecedented heights. I take great pride in this team and am honored to lead us on this path.

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