Grit is passion and perseverance. Grit is rising to the occasion. Grit is the never-give-up attitude. Grit is beyond talent, grit is an effortful endeavor developing what looks like effortless talent. Grit takes potential and fulfills the heck out of it. Grit is work ethic. Grit counts twice, if intelligence counts once. Grit is for dreamers. Grit is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This article is heavily built off the amazing book by Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It talks about the undervalued concept of just showing up and the changes we should make in our mindset and our actions in order to achieve what we really want. Over the course of this article, I will take you through this process, starting with the changes we need to make in the way we think to how we should put that into action. Finally, we end with what all this means for our ambitions.
To imbibe and exude grit, we must first understand the underlying mindset and philosophy behind it.
1. Disintegrate labels of "not smart" or "not talented".
When we're growing up, we're either showered with praise for being talented or simply labelled as "not smart" and society sets expectations for our success. We internalize this by either feeling entitled to greatness because we're talented, or setting our goals modestly because we're just not destined for bigger things.
Both these scenarios are setting us up for failure.
The first mindset shift needs to be that from fixed mindset to growth mindset. It is the belief that the brain is malleable, and we can be better than yesterday, learn more, do more, enhance our performance, if we put in the effort for it.
Make effort the indicator of your success, not your talent, or intelligence, or whatever society has made you believe your boundaries are.
Bet on yourself with sincere effort. And you will go as far as you can imagine.
You grow into your success, not born for it. That's gritty.
2. Start to truly believe that there is no shame in making mistakes.
We attach so much shame and embarrassment to failure that we'd rather not try at all, than face failure. We feel fragile in the face of failure. It chips away at our self-esteem like nothing else.
The second mindset shift is depersonalizing failures.
If you aren't making enough mistakes, you simply aren't trying enough.
The only way to try enough is to take your self-esteem out of the equation when you try, and actually expect to make mistakes. Expect it to come, expect failures, but don't let it touch your self-esteem. Observe it from afar, from a healthy distance, and simply learn from it.
It's easier said than done for most, because we're conditioned to be emotionally invested in our work so much so that it defines our identity. So, making mistakes or failures seem like an attack on our identity.
Depersonalization is a habit, it is an intentional practice. We need to try enough, to fail enough, and learn to not take it personally enough number of times, and then try again.
When we stop trying, that's when we know that we're probably drowning in shame due to our last failure.
End the shame cycle, and keep trying.
Your mistakes don't define you, you coming back to try does. That's gritty.
3. Adopt a positive mindset that you are in control of your circumstances.
The only antidote to hopelessness is to believe that you can take action to change your circumstances positively. To believe that you have the control to make a situation better, and then getting proactive about it.
The ones who keep trying again and again are the ones who believe that trying again and again will make a difference.
We need to have unwavering faith that our action is valuable.
It's difficult to have faith, though. Especially when we try, try, try but still our situation doesn't seem to improve. Our brain needs more than just faith to rewire itself positively. It needs evidence.
And the way to get evidence, is to play the numbers game. Try enough number of times, try enough of the right things, you will be on the receiving end of positive experiences. Leverage on these positive experiences to give you the moment to try even more.
Believe that you are in control of improving, growing, thriving. That's gritty.
1. Find your interest with playful experimentation.
Grit is equal parts passion and perseverance. And it's important to experiment with fields before settling in on a passion and committing to it, the way grit demands. And it's even more important to have fun while doing it, in a stress-free environment.
Playful experimentation is putting your hands in several cookie jars and see what you like best. It also helps the brain to cross-train its neural pathways and transfer skills from one to another. You can do this one after another, getting into considerable depth into each, getting a taste of what it would be like to dedicate your life in this direction.
This is when you play the field and find something worth falling in love with. Grit is useless if you don't find something worthy to pursue. And it should be worthy for you. You choose it.
2. Pick an interest and commit to it, be loyal to it, stay in love.
It's not just enough to fall in love, you need to stay in love, and be loyal to it. Even if it isn't a lifelong commitment, it needs to be long-term enough, and you need to make efforts to stay in love and not run away at the first sign of trouble.
This is what they refer to as single-mindedness.
Of course, jump ship if it is no longer serving you even after you tried, but make sure you try your hardest. Especially because you've presumably chosen something worth trying for, worth fighting for, worth sticking to.
3. Make deliberate practice a habit, and incorporate the science behind it.
Deliberate practice is a well researched technique to scale your mammoth of a goal.
Pick a stretch goal, narrow in scope, but specific, and quantifiable.
Allot time for practice and give 100% of your focus and attention.
4. Keep your ego out of your work, and voraciously seek negative feedback.
We get hurt while trying and failing because we're emotionally invested into our work. And society conditions us to derive our identity from our achievements. But the path to achievements, is counterintuitive to whatever pop-culture definitions of passion teaches. It's to emotionally distance yourself from your work and actually seek negative feedback. Or critique, to be more politically correct.
Why? Because true passion is to want to get better at something, and do your best, even if your current work isn't up to the mark. True passion is to the path to achievement, even when it's unpleasant.
The sooner we embrace the constructive criticism and not expect praise for everything we do, the sooner we actually can deliver great work. Grit keeps ego out of the equation. Grit is humble.
5. Practice grit in not just your career, but also something fun like extracurriculars. The skills transfer like credits.
Seek to develop grit in something other than your career as well. Mostly because there are far too many interesting things in the world to simply let your career consume you entirely. Also, because it's a heck load of fun.
Musical instruments, sports are great options. They are already structured in such a way to help you develop grit: instructors or coaches with high standards who hold you to it, and help you grow into it. They expect discipline, regular dedicated practice, the very cornerstones of grit.
And once you learn it in one field, you'll transfer those skills like credits.
1. Greatness is doable. It is simply a collection of mundane feats achieved consistently.
Greatness has been an elusive, mysterious concept. We're awestruck at the flawless execution of their talent by the greats, but we rarely ever see the incremental progress they make, every damn day. Why? Because it's boring to watch. It's not something magical. It's actually very much in the realm of possibility. It's nothing surreal. It's mundane wins performed consistently. Over and over again. But the result? Oh, that's nothing short of magical.
Too often we see someone achieving something fantastic and get smitten by how glossy the results are.
When peered through a magnifying glass, it's not magical anymore. It's consistency, it's effort, it's single-minded focus, it's stellar performance.
And that means greatness is something doable. Even by us.
All it takes is a little grit. And then some.
2. Doubling down on effort takes you from talent to achievement.
Going from talent to achievement is a two step process.
First, talent x effort will give us skill.
t x e = s
This is the practice phase. Where we learn, fall, make mistakes, learn, fail, and keep improving and sharpening our sword.
But it's not enough to just have a sharp sword. We need to apply it. To produce what we're capable of.
Second, skill x effort = achievement.
s x e = A
We compound our skill with even more effort to turn it into achievement.
So, effort counts twice.
(t x e) x e = A
My Approach to Grit
I personally have one overarching goal for my career, relationships, extracurriculars, lifestyle, and creativity each.
I spent considerable time introspecting which goals truly matter to me, and are worth pursuing. And I'm stubborn about it.
I end this with a Woody Allen quote I adore so much I made a wall poster about it.
80% of success is showing up
What are you showing up for today?