Pick up grit on the way to greatness

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“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.”

Why Grit?

Reading the book, Grit by Angela Duckworth brings about the realization that a life without hunger, purpose and direction is not worth living. As I walked back my 8 year old son from school last Thursday, I told him all morning I had been working on writing about “not giving up” and he asked me if I knew the song, 

“I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
Till I reach the end
And then I’ll start again” from Zootopia. 

Ms. Duckworth points out that, while we might all have potential, what we choose to do with it, can be quite the story. For achieving success, grit, the quality that makes you sustain your effort a big longer until you make it is very essential. Grit will distinguish you from your work ethic than by your intelligence. Here are a few excerpts from her book that are worth thinking about. Allow her to challenge you, “If you are not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why?” 

Paragons of Grit:

In France Galton’s words from 1869, “Outliers are remarkable in three ways. They demonstrate unusual ability in combination with exceptional zeal and the capacity for hard labor.”

  • They are constantly driven to improve. 
  • They are paragons of perseverance.
  • They are satisfied with being unsatisfied.
  • Their passion endures boredom, pain and frustration.
  • They are unusually resilient and hardworking.
  • They not only have determination, they have direction.
  • They are hungry to learn from mistakes and from harder assignments.

Rising to the occasion almost never has anything to do with talent, what matters is a “never give up” attitude.

The Naturalness Bias:

If we can’t explain how anyone has done something jaw droppingly amazing, we are inclined to throw up our hands and say, “It’s a gift!” When we can’t easily see how experience and training got someone to a level of excellence that is so clearly beyond the norm, we label that person a “natural”. We believe in effort but value naturals more because we prefer our excellence fully formed. We love naturals when it comes to endorsing greatness over effortful training. We judge the naturals to be more likely to succeed and more hireable. 

“With everything perfect”, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “we do not ask how it came to be. Instead, we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic. Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of genius. To call something ‘divine’ means, ‘here there is no need to compete’”. In other words, mythologizing natural talent, lets us relax into status quo. 

Being doggedly Gritty:  

The road to the goal, is a long winding one which can be difficult, discouraging, demoralizing and scary. Develop positivity and support around you so there is no limit to your ambition. Care about your goal in an abiding, loyal and steady way. Try, try again, then try something different until you make it to the peak. Start by having priorities in order. 

Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you are willing to stay loyal to it. It’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love – staying in love. 

The Two Components:

Passion and perseverance make up Grit. 

Passion indicators on the Grit Scale:

  • Degree to which he works with distant objects in view, as opposed to living from hand to mouth. Active preparation for later life. Working toward a definite goal.
  • Tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something fresh because of novelty. Not “looking for a change.”

Figure out what you enjoy doing most in life, and then try to do it full time. Life is short. Follow your passion. – Will Shortz.

Perseverance indicators on the Grit Scale:

  • Degree of strength of will or perseverance. Quiet determination to stick to a course once decided upon.
  • Tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.

Sticking with things is believing you can do it. That belief comes from self-worth.  – Francesca Martinez.

Have a Life Philosophy: 

“Pitching is what makes me happy. I’ve devoted my life to it. I live my life around the four days between starts. It determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I’m awake. It determines how I spend my life when I’m not pitching. If it means I have to come to Florida and can’t get tanned because I might get a burn that would keep me from throwing for a few days, then I never go shirtless in the sun. If it means when I get up in the morning I have to read the box scores to see who got two hits off Bill Singer last night instead of reading a novel, then I do it. If it means I have to remind myself to pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand, then I do that, too. If it means in the winter I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down, then I eat cottage cheese. I might want those cookies but I won’t ever eat them. That might bother some people but it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy the cottage cheese. I enjoy it more than I would those cookies because I know it will help me do what makes me happy.

Life isn’t very heavy for me. I’ve made up my mind what I want to do. I’m happy when I pitch well so I only do those things that help me be happy. I wouldn’t be able to dedicate myself like this for money or glory, although they are certainly considerations. All I want is to do the best I possibly can day after day, year after year. Pitching is the whole thing for me. I want to prove I’m the best ever.” – Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver

Talent X Effort = Skill

Skill X Effort = Achievement

“Any successful person has to decide what to do in part by deciding what NOT to do.”

Assets aiding Grit:

The four psychological assets that aid Grit are: Interest, capacity to practice, purpose and hope.

As Friedrich Nietzsche says, “Great things are accomplished by those “people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them.” 

Developing Interest and Purpose:

In a 2014 Gallup poll, more than 2/3rds of adults said they were not engaged at work – actively disengaged. Worldwide only 13% of adults call themselves engaged at work.

She points out at a title of a post on Reddit: “Fleeting interest in everything, no career direction.” Consider her observations from her days as a teacher: “How smart even my weakest students sounded when they talked about things that genuinely interested them.” 

“What prevents a lot of young people from developing a serious career interest is unrealistic expectations. Take the case of choosing a romantic partner, we are all seeking someone who’s really attractive, smart, kind, empathetic, thoughtful and funny.”

Deliberate Practice:

Means investing more time on task. The basic requirements that fulfill deliberate practice are quite unremarkable: 

  1. A clearly defined stretch goal
  2. Full concentration and effort
  3. Immediate and informative feedback
  4. Repetition with reflection and refinement

“I learned that being a “promising beginner” is fun, but being an actual expert is infinitely more gratifying.”

Parenting for Grit: 

Some believe grit is forged in the crucible of adversity. Some want to balance out affection and respect on one hand and firmly enforced expectations on the other. While you raise a child centered family by putting your children’s interests first, its important to realize that they are not good judges of “how hard to work” or “when to give up on things.”

Psychologically Wise parenting is appreciating that children need love, limits and latitude to reach their full potential. Parenting authority should be based on knowledge and wisdom rather than power. A child being raised by such parents should be able to feel this way: 

  1. I can count on my parents to help me out if I have a problem.
  2. My parents spend time talking to me.
  3. My parents and I do things that are fun together.
  4. I can share my troubles with my parents.
  5. I get praised and congratulated for my achievements.

The Plurality of Character:

Grit is one of the most important virtues that makes up the plurality of our character. Its part of the three clusters of virtues: 

  1. Intrapersonal or Self-management skills: Which are known as the “Resume” virtues. The strengths of will like Grit and Self control over actions. 
  2. Interpersonal or Moral character skills: Which are known as the “Eulogy” virtues. The strengths of the heart like Gratitude, social intelligence and self control over emotions.
  3. Intellectual skills: The strengths of the mind like Curiosity and zest. 

“I am not a genius. But I will have a calling and I will challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”

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