"To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight."
This beautiful definition of grit, cannot be more simply explained. It speaks of purpose, passion, goals and perseverance. It also speaks of not giving in to failure, but rising each time (determination).
To reach your destination you have to continue to move forward. Be willing to fail, learn how to face failure, overcome it, keep trying and do not give up. If this sounds interesting, you might also read the book DRIVE.
The West Point Example: Duckworth speaks of her visit to West Point (The United States Military Academy). Here, each year, twelve hundred new cadets go through a grueling seven-week training regimen (called Beast Barracks). Most make it through, while some do not.
Duckworth designed a grit scale test with psychologists, and revisited West Point some years later. The Grit Scale is a written survey. Candidates taking up this survey have to measure their degree of identification to the statements in the survey and answer accordingly. Statements like “Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily” and “My interests change from year to year” are included in the survey. They are designed to measure perseverance and passion. A grit score is given based on the answers.
This grit scale threw up astounding results which closely matched the number of cadets dropping out each year. Needless to say cadets with a ‘never quit’ attitude aced the Barracks Beast.
People think talent is essential for success. Talent is not a guarantee of grit, though. It is interesting that you could be really good at something and still not be the best. You have to have the determination, the grit to become the best. Talent is one thing, how we expend it is another thing altogether.
We naturally prefer talented people over hard workers. This way we protect ourselves by assigning them the gift of talent. Our subconscious does not then feel threatened by them because they have innate talent.
The Enron Ranking System Example: This system is infamously known as ‘rank or yank’ system. Enron, the energy company, employed a forcible ranking system, ranking employees based on their contribution to the company’s revenue. The bottom 15% were fired or ‘yanked’. This led to many unethical practices, toxic company culture, and ended in a disaster for the company.
Everyone is capable of extraordinary accomplishments. Talent is often overvalued and grit is dismissed. In fact, gritty people are often more successful.
Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement
This calculation clearly shows that you need twice the amount of effort as that of talent. With effort, talent quickly becomes a skill. Again with effort, this skill converts to achievement. Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and make productive use of them. Hard work and determination is found in spades in the book Blue Ocean Strategy.
The Ultimate Goal: Structure and define your ultimate goal. This should be a final, supreme and most high level goal that you set for yourself. Grit is when you are able to hold this end goal in your sights, work tirelessly towards it.
Mark many mid and low level goals on your journey to serve your ultimate goal. In this way, with a clear picture of your life map, you will find that your grit grows stronger. Passion to achieve becomes deeper and perseverance develops. This will lead to world class excellence. Another great book about success and situations that lead to it is Outliers.
Young adults may find themselves passionate and interested in many things. With maturity, they will discover their true passion followed by intense development and then a lifetime of deepening. If you’re unsure what to do read the book Poke The Box.
Their aim is to consciously acquire mastery over their incompetence, until it becomes an unconscious competence. They put in deliberate practice, which is hard and boring until they reach the flow, which is effortless and fun.
The Bricklayer Parable: Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.
The motivation behind grit can be self-interest or helping others. People who thrive on helping others have greater grit because they are working at something bigger than their own selves.
The bricklayer parable shows how the same work is viewed by three different bricklayers. Their perspective about their work will make immense difference in their attitude and approach to their work. Most of us would like to fall into the third bricklayer category. Sadly, almost all of us fall in the first two bricklayers’ category.
If your life perspective is to help others, you will be happier and more fulfilled. Intrinsic interest in work will get you to work harder. Extrinsic work will get you to work less. Stumbling On Happiness and DRIVE are other books that go into great detail about intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors.
This is an insightful and interesting book. It will change the way you approach your work. Passion, perseverance aka GRIT will take a front seat in your life.
Angela Duckworth was born to Chinese immigrants in 1970. She is an American psychologist, academic and best-selling author. She taught math and science to high school students before she moved onto research. As Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, she was awarded a McArthur Fellowship in 2013.
Duckworth is best known for her pioneering research on self-control and grit. She is also the developer of the grit scale. As a leader in her field and a born giver, Angela is a highly valued and trusted advisor to World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEO’s.
She is driven by a passion to right inequities and better the world. This is her first book and a New York Times bestseller. Her Ted Talk on the same has been viewed over eight million times on YouTube. You can find the link to the same below.