Grit – The power of PASSION & PERSEVERANCE

I’m a big fan on Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit (The power of Passion and Perseverance).

Well, to be honest, I initially listened to her talk on the same subject before actually purchasing the book.

It’s a great read. One of my favorite. 

So, who is Angela Duckworth?

She’s a MacArthur Genius and University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology, she founded an award winning summer school for low-income children. Awesome effort.

She also created and serves as scientific director of the Character Lab, and has advised the World Bank and NBA and NFL teams.

She has a Harvard BA in neurology, an Oxford degree in neuroscience and a University of Pennsylvania PhD in psychology. 

Although her credentials suggest otherwise, her writing is simple and straightforward and prose. Her chapters functions as stand-alone and complete entities, so I can pause with less guilt.

More about the book

She clearly explores on how talent relates to skills and how both are related to efforts. She describes “talent” as a measure of how fast your “skill” advances when you apply yourself to your chosen task, be it playing the viola or shoveling the driveway.

I prefer my own example of “talent” and “skill”. That is an analogy of a computer. Meaning, one with high level of talent is like a computer with a higher capacity of processor, meaning it can process a lot more at faster rate. However, if such capacity is spent on awful choices might lead to “virus” infection into the system, it will considerably slows down the processing speed or might even rendered the once super-computer completely useless. So, a mighty processor is only as good as the task it was put up for.

The grit formula suggested by Angela Duckworth was ” Talent X Effort = Skill” and her 2nd formula is “Skill X Effort = Achievement”.

“Talent X Effort = Skill”

“Skill X Effort = Achievement”

Under this paradigm, native ability and even genius don’t count for much unless hard work is included in the equation. That talent of ours need hard work to improve.

And what matters most, she says, is continual effort. We must persevere to build our skills, and when we experience setbacks or disappointments, and especially persevere when we are, by our own standards, successful. 

Life however, demands a nonstop effort, which both requires and nourishes grit. The paradox is, we need grit to keep going; and keeping going grants us more grit.

She quotes a renowned and revered lifelong ceramicist who told her,

“The first 10,000 pots are difficult, and then it gets a little bit easier”

Even though celebrated for his genius since his youth, this potter never stopped trying to learn and improve, he had the discipline to work on his craft daily.

Following that model, Angela takes a hard line.

“Unless you keep trying, your innate abilities amount to only ‘unmet potential’.

Therefore, unless we strive, our talent and learned skills become only what you might have done. Making your skills valuable takes continual exertion. 

Then, there’s something about the ‘Grit Scale’

She uses her grit scale to predict someone success.

She uses it to forecast almost exactly which cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point would drop out before the end of their 1st years. If I were hers, I’d opened a booth for a paid premonition during the cadets registration and made a fortune there. 

West Point’s rigorous initial training tries to cut students whom lack grit, and as it stand, the Grit Scale proved the best tool for predicting who’d fail.

How the Grit Scale Works

The Grit Scale suggests 10 personal descriptors, such as ” I am a a hard worker” or “I am diligent. I never give up”. Then, the Grit Scale asks respondents to list on a scale of 1 to 5 whether in describing themselves they agree or disagree with each statement.

The Grit Scale appears superficial to me, but Angela maintains that it would be able to predicts with remarkable accuracy who will be able to persevere in the face of physical and psychological discomfort. 

 As with her sports examples, she suggests parallels between West Point cadets suffering during their indoctrination or “Beast” period and the challenges you face daily. And, as with her sports examples, this linkage remains somewhat unconvincing in the context of self-help guidance outside of super rigorous settings.

Grit – The Key Components

Grit is made up of passion and perseverance.

Therefore, if we care deeply about what we do, we’re more likely to keep at it. If we keep doing something we love, we’re likely to love it more and more. Each fuels the other. And if we lack either dedication or love, then we’ll have difficulty mustering the other.

If we dislike what we do at work day after day, we won’t care about getting better at it. If we can’t be bothered to improve at what we do, then we’re unlikely to embrace it.

What matters, Duckworth teaches, is “consistency over time.” We will prove our passion and perseverance by working to hone our skill at a steady “intensity” level for enough time. If you start something and stop when improving gets tough, it shows that we lack grit.

But don’t keep grinding at a task we despise and waste our grit. Instead, turn your attention to something that inspires you.

Awesome example is that of Muhammad Ali when he said,

 I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

Something about “The Hard Thing Rule”

It’s something that Angela Duckworth and her family adhere to. They each undertake a hard thing. Anyone can quit doing their hard thing, but only at a natural external “stopping point”, for example, ballet season must end, a cycle of classes must come to a close, and so on. 

The rule is, nobody can quit in the middle just because their hard thing turns out to be harder than they thought. But everyone picks his or her own hard things. Duckworth and her husband never pick the hard things their daughters are going to. 

When both of her daughters reach high school, the Hard Thing Rule will have a new component: Both must make a two-year commitment either to the musical instruments they’ve been learning or to something new. Duckworth believes the Hard Thing Rule develops passion and perseverance and, as a result, grit. She argues that because the rule applies to everyone in the household, her children recognize it as a worthy tool for self-development. They don’t regard it as unfair. Everyone in the family faces the same challenge.

Now, it’s deliberate practice, my kind of practice

Practice never makes perfect, but deliberate practice helps you improve.

Swimming daily won’t make you faster, but deciding to add speed at every swim will. Deliberate practice includes:

  • A stated objective that will “stretch” you – such as a faster lap-time.
  • Complete attentiveness and exertion – no half-measures.
  • Instant and helpful feedback – like a coach correcting your technique.
  • Thoughtful replication with continual “refinement.”

As Duckworth demonstrates, this level of deliberate practice requires and builds discipline, passion, perseverance – and grit.

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