September 13, 2021
This weekend I reread one of my favorite books, Grit by Angela Lee Duckworth . Every time I (re)read this book, I gain a different perspective on how we learn and develop our skills. In a Blog titled The Learning Process, I wrote about Grit and my failed attempts at learning music compared to my children’s success at developing proficiency in music.
Today, I want to explore a few other key ideas from the book.
Early in the book, the author quotes a hard-hitting quote by the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, ” our vanity, our self-love promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are NOT obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”
We all romanticize the idea of talent because if we can explain away someone’s success as being down to just talent, it means that we can use that as an excuse, and we don’t have to do the hard work and put in the effort ourselves.
The book’s key message is that more than talent, our effort contributes towards any form of success in life. Angela Lee postulates in the book that “successful” people display two typical traits.
- They are resilient and hardworking.
- They know in a very deep way what it is they want in life and they have this inherent desire and passion towards that thing they want to go after.
It would be helpful for any form of success to have the two virtues of determination coupled with direction. Angela calls the alchemy of these twin virtues GRIT.
Passion+ Perseverance = GRIT
We all have a natural talent bias. But, once we get past this natural bias and get comfortable with the idea that we don’t need to be super talented to be good at anything, we can get better at anything with GRIT.
How Do We Discover Our Passion?
Angela Lee argues that passion is not some magical destiny anyone gets naturally.
There is this one beautiful phrase in this book that eloquently captures what passion is.
Passion for your work is a little bit of Discovery, followed by a lot of development and a lifetime of deepening.
To all those people hoping to figure out their passion, Angela says, you get to discover your passion only by trying out different things that interest you, stepping outside your comfort zone.
When you try your hand at different things, you get to hone in on what interests you. The approach could be to try different roles in one organization or one industry, or it could be trying out different roles in other organizations or different industries, or it could be going on your own as an entrepreneur.
You will discover your passion only when you have tried your hand at different things !!.
Perseverance and Deliberate Practise
The next part of the Grit equation is perseverance. Angela draws on research done by another psychologist Anders Erickson around the concept of deliberate practice. The skill you develop anything is a function of some basic competence you have that you sharpen through a lot of focussed effort.
Talent X Effort= Skill
Skill X Effort = Achievement
Achievement= Talent X Effort X Effort = Talent X Effort 2
It’s not just effort but the quality of effort that determines how good you get at anything. Anders Ericsson calls this Deliberate practice. Achievement is always a function of deliberate practice that involves the following four components.
- Having a clearly defined outcome that you seek when developing your skills
- Putting in high quality and concentrated effort.
- Getting immediate and value-added feedback on the effort, you put in for you to course-correct.
- Constant repetition, reflection, and refinement of the effort to help you move positively towards the outcomes you seek.
By engaging in this form of deliberate practice, you can continuously improve your skill at anything and move towards achievement.
Perseverance and A Growth Mindset
Perseverance requires having an outlook of hope and faith. You will not be resilient and determined if you operate with a pessimistic attitude. Angela argues that having a positive outlook is vital for achieving any sort of goal because you will encounter challenges, and it is this hope that will help you deal with adversity. Hope is the confidence that your future will be better than your present. A growth mindset is also another form of hope because you believe it is possible to improve.
Figure out your passion by trying your hand at whatever interests you. Commit yourself to deliberate practice that will help you hone your skills in that domain. As you hone your skills and develop expertise in the domain, you identify your passion as a sense of achievement kicks in. If passion doesn’t kick in, don’t be afraid to move on and test other domains. At some point, you will discover that you can use the skills and the expertise you have developed for a bigger purpose beyond yourself, for the betterment of others. At that point, you are driven by this clear sense of the future that you are willing to put in the effort with a smile, knowing it is all going to be worth it.
GRIT becomes your attitude.