Angela Duckworth defines grit as "passion and perseverance for long-term goals". In a world where the everyday professional is constantly being told to "reinvent himself" and "shift gears" this is a unique and refreshing concept; evocative of old westerns and heroes who truly had what it took to win the long-term battles of survival in a rough and tumble world. However, aside from old western titles like, "True Grit", what does grit mean in today's world? Duckworth tells stories of ambitious entrepreneurs who make start-ups just to sell out in a couple of years. She uses this as an antithesis to grit. Grit, it seems is more like tedious toil watered by years of dedication and increasingly finer and finer crafted skills to become adept at something that takes years to master. Despite having changed careers 2-3 times herself, Duckworth asserts that it is not only long-term career dedication that is exemplary of grit, but can be simply perseverance through difficult, but shorter trials that may make you give up at something such as boot camp, freshman year in college, or that first week of daily exercise.
Grit is something that she sees as lacking in this generation. Actually making the claim that older generations were more likely to show grit, with younger and younger generations being more likely to flit about, give up, and chalk their failures up to external circumstances beyond their control. Fortitude to persevere is something she believes could be fostered through education. She believes that young people today need to be given the opportunity to struggle and be encouraged to see it through difficulties and strife. With high college drop out rates, high rates of underemployment and high turnover rates in job markets, she sees this as a sign of the times and a call to duty for educators, psychologists, parents, coaches, mentors, and bosses alike - to mentor you people in developing the quality of tenacity: grit.
Short-term payoff seems to be the norm these days. We want 10% back for signing up for emails, we want fast food for cheap, we want weight loss without dieting, we want health without exercising or meditating, and we want peace of mind without cultivating this in a daily practice. And it seems like everyone is selling a "quick fix" from study guides for not having to read the book, to diet pills to eat whatever you want and still lose weight, to ab exercises that work in only 10 minutes a day, to every other scheme people can cook up...the possibilities seem endless. Sometimes we have to realize though that a problem, challenge, or adversity may not require a bandaid but an intensive, long-term, dedicated solution. The solution Duckworth suggests? Grit.
She gives many examples in her book on grit of paragons of grit (perfect examples). She mentions artist, educators, business people, and more who are examples of grit. What these paragons of grit have in common is near continual decades of diligence and dedication that included many diverse and nearly defeating setbacks which the paragons overcame by showing tenacity, doggedness, and persistent backbone in the face of adversity, hardship, and even disaster. She talks about the research of experts on world-class experts and how what paragons of grit all have in common is eventual, sometimes monumental, success. What young people today don't realize is that success isn't handed to you after putting in a couple years of 60 hour work weeks, a couple of intense study sessions or other intense periods of work. Rather, this is something that comes with seeking negative feedback, experiencing failure, learning from mistakes, cultivating a spirit of dogged determination and honing your skills over a lifetime of struggle.
So next time you are wondering how to sharpen your edge, boost your marketability, or mentor your child, you might take a long hard look at grit and ask yourself, "how can I commit to more passion and perseverance for my long-term goals?" Instead of, "What's the quick fix?"
- Betty Lynn