Career Success. Life Success. It’s something we all want; even if our definitions of what is success is varies, I assume the very fact you are reading this blog shows you have the motivation and intention to create YOUR version of success. But how much is success within our control? Are we limited by our biological “talent” destiny, or can we work hard to gain results? This is the premise of this month’s book club book, GRIT: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success.*
The author, Angela Duckworth, has made her goal to uncover the real reason that people achieve. Duckworth is a Psychologist that studies the psychology of success. But her interest is not just an academic one. After starting her career as a high-flying consultant, then moving to teach the seventh grade in a New Your public school, she witnessed the variety of factors that separate struggling students from successful ones. And it isn’t just IQ, as many people assume.
The book draws from all walks of successful life; from academic, to business, sports, musicians to even the high-pressure world of the Junior Spelling Bee! What links all of these is Duckworth’s drive to uncover what makes these people leaders in their field. What keeps the student Marine focused through the harshest of conditions or the child committed to learning a range of really complicated spellings?
There comes a time in most people’s lives where they sit back and state “I’m just not made this way”. I can’t do it; so-and-so can as they are NATURALLY this way. It gives us an out to not try any harder because THEY are talented. It is in their DNA.
Duckworth has discovered, that is a cop-out. Talent isn’t the reason that these people are where they are. It is more than likely their Grit.
The fascination with talent and where it comes from has been of interest to scholars way before GRIT was published in 2016. Even as far back as the 19th Century, figures such as the Philosopher Nietzsche and Francis Galton (who happened to be Charles Darwin’s half-cousin) were reflecting on how high achievers are, well, achieving what they achieve.
What they uncovered, and is shared in Grit, is that as a society, we assume brilliance or excellence is innate; that it can’t be learnt. If someone is succeeding, there is a natural assumption or bias that it comes from talent and not hard work! As Nietzsche sums it up so eloquently:
“With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be. We rejoice in the present of fact as though it came out of the ground by magic”
What is Grit?
Duckworth has uncovered something very striking during her research. The people that are considered successful seem to have a few key similarities in their personality makeup. They are resilient (keep going after failure), they are hardworking, and they know what they want. Simply, they are determined, AND they have a direction. This is the essence of Grit.
Grit has two main components; passion and perseverance. It is “about working on something you care about so much that you are willing to stay loyal to it”. So, you keep going even when it’s hard, even when you see no immediate reward, even when you are the only person witnessing your effort. (Sounds a bit like parenting!)
Where do skills fit into all of this?
What is fascinating about this book, is the acknowledgement of the power of hard work. There is no doubt having a natural skill is useful as a starting point. Duckworth shows that being labelled as talented by peers, teachers and parents does provide more focus and opportunity; however, skill alone does not create success. In fact, having an interest in a topic/subject /area is MORE important than having the skills. Whilst there are limits, skills can be taught and learnt and grown over time.
What does this mean for you?
Very simply, hard work pays off. There are no shortcuts to success, but you can develop your own Grit, and that of your children (which is a nice addition to the book) over time.
This book is EPIC. I have, to date SEVEN pages (both sides) of notes, and I am working on creating something meatier in the coming months for my clients; I felt like I was back at University with the studies and theories.
If you aren’t up to reading the background that shows that Grit is real, and why it matters, these are the key things you need to know if you want to become “grittier”.
Do these four things in order:
1. Find something that interests you
You MUST enjoy what you do. At the very core of Grit is interest. You may not have found something that interests you yet; feel free to experiment. You may have already found it
– it is the thing that unpins everything you do. Mine is Psychology! You will know if you have an interest as you will never get bored of this topic; your knowledge just gets deeper.
2. Find the opportunity to practise
You need to take part in this interest every day. Duckworth talks about “daily practise”. This is easier to picture when your “thing” needs to be practised (often people think of musical interests) but this simply means accessing it every day. So, the practise could even be reading or studying.
3. Find your purpose
What is the point of what you are doing? The most successful people were found to not only enjoy what they do themselves, but also found that their interest could have an impact on the wellbeing of others.
4. Find your Hope
This is not the final stage, this is something that is present within all the other stages of building Grit. Very simply, whenever something gets hard, really hard, then you have hope that you can carry on.
So, there you have it. Very simply, you need to work hard for success. It doesn’t happen overnight, and the ones you may assume are where they are due to talent have A LOT of hard work behind the scenes. Start your GRIT journey by asking yourself what is the consistent interest in your life?
* You can grab the book through this link – it’s an amazon affiliate link (so I get some pennies for you clicking through; but there is no extra cost to you!)