The book Grit, written by Angela Duckworth, had been high on my reading list for quite a while but it never seemed to make it to the top. When my daughter entered kindergarten last year her school motto was “Let’s Get Gritty” which I was excited about and now I knew I really needed to read the book. I put Grit on my Amazon list and of course never bought it and so never read it. About a month ago I stumbled onto the Libby app which allows you to check out audio books through your library on your phone. The app works great and you may have to be patient to check out the book you want but it’s totally free so bonus.
Anyway, this summer I decided to listen to Grit and really liked the book. The long and the short of it is that, according to Duckworth’s study, being gritty is the most important trait when determining future success. Persevering in the face of a challenge or simply having the determination to put in more effort is a trait that gets people far in life. If you are not this person you certainly know who they are. The person that seems to always put in the necessary effort. They often have unexplained drive that seems to set them apart. I think there is certainly something to the nature effect that people are born with a personality that predisposes them to the focus that can help facilitate grit. I also think there is a lot to the nurture effect that people can be raised to be more or less gritty, and Duckworth discusses these ideas so I’m going to direct you to her for more insight into that.
Since reading, or rather listening, to Grit I have come up with my own theory. It is not substantiated by science, there is no study, and certainly no Harvard degree to back up this theory. If there is someone reading this with the grit to do a study to substantiate my theory that would be great, it’s not happening from this guy.
My theory is that grit is very often tied to interest. What we see as determination is actually desire, a desire that is driven by interest. When someone is doing something they are interested in, they are much more likely to work through a challenge and overcome a setback. From the outside looking in it can look like grit, especially if what they are doing does not interest you, but they may simply be enjoying what they are doing. I have seen this in athletes where the most naturally talented may underachieve while the less talented, gritty, teammate overachieves. It may not have anything to do with actual grit, it might be all about interest. Put those same to people in a different activity and the roles may be reversed. Children are notorious for doing what seems like a boring task for hours only to not have them focus for a second when their parents ask them to do something seemingly fun or even worse, productive.
If my theory is correct, and let’s assume that it is until someone goes through the trouble of disproving me, then maybe our focus should not be in developing grit but in putting people in a situation where their grit naturally comes out. Whether in business, at home, in school, or simply at play; put people in a situation to spend time doing what they are truly interested in and I think that grit will show up resulting in a lot of high achievers. In order to do this, we need to put people in a situation to discover their interests. Let kids explore, open up opportunities at work, don’t make the tall person play basketball, let the artist explore.
Instead of enviously watching the gritty among us, or trying to force grit on our kids, see if you can have grit occur naturally through interests. If grit is a trait that can be developed, I can’t think of a better way to develop it. If it can’t and you end up just spending some time doing something you enjoy that doesn’t seem so bad either. Who’s ready to get gritty?