Notes from Grit
There is a gap, James declared, between potential and its actualization. Without denying that our talents vary - one might be more musical than athletic or more entrepreneurial than artistic - James asserted that “the human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. … The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.”
Nietzsche implored us to consider exemplars to be, above all else, craftsman: “Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it) … They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.”
Rather, what definitively set apart the eminent from the rest of humanity were a cluster of four indicators … Two indicators could easily be rephrased as passion items for the Grit Scale.
- Degree to which he works with distant objects in view (as opposed to living from hand to mouth). Active preparation for later life. Working toward a definite goal.
- Tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something fresh because of novelty. Not “looking for a change.”
And the other two could easily be rewritten as perseverance items for the Grit Scale.
- Degree of strength of will or perseverance. Quiet determination to stick to a course once decided upon.
- Tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.
Together, the research reveals the psychological assets that mature paragons of grit have in common. There are four. First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do. … Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. … Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters. … And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance.
Kaizen is Japanese for resisting the plateau of arrested development.
Likewise, in her interviews with “mega successful” people, journalist Hester Lacey has noticed that all of them demonstrate a striking desire to excel beyond their already remarkable level of expertise. … “It’s a persistent desire to do better,” Hester explained. “It’s the opposite of being complacent. But it’s a positive state of mind, not a negative one. It’s not looking backward with dissatisfaction. It’s looking forward and wanting to grow.”
Other than getting yourself to a terrific coach, mentor, or teacher, how can you get the most out of deliberate practice and - because you’ve earned it - experience more flow? First, know the science. Each of the basic requirements of deliberate practice is unremarkable:
- A clearly defined stretch goal
- Full concentration and effort
- Immediate and informative feedback
- Repetition with reflection and refinement
That’s also how people mistakenly think about interests, I pointed out. They don’t realize they need to play an active role in developing and deepening their interests. “A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find,” she tells advice seekers. “It’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do - whether you’re a janitor or the CEO - you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”
There’s an old Japanese saying: Fall seven, rise eight. …
Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.
There’s no either/or trade-off between supportive parenting and demanding parenting. IT’s a common misunderstanding to think of “tough love” as a carefully struck balance between affection and respect on one hand, and firmly enforced expectations on the other. In actuality, there’s no reason you can’t do both. …
Below is a figure representing how many psychologists now categorize parenting styles. Instead of cone continuum, there are two. In the upper right-hand quadrant are parents who are both demanding and supportive. The technical term is “authoritative parenting”, which unfortunately is easily confused with “authoritarian parenting.” To avoid such confusion, I’ll refer to authoritative parenting as -wise parenting, because parents in this quadrant are accurate judges of the psychological needs of their children. They appreciate that children need love, limits, and latitude to reach their full potential. Their authority is based on knowledge and wisdom, rather than power.
Mike tells me that two key factors promote excellence in individuals and teams: “deep and rich support and relentless challenge to improve.” When he says that, a lightbulb goes on in my head. Supportive and demanding parenting is psychologically wise and encourages children to emulate their parents. …
This reminds me of something Pete said at the start of my visit: “Every time I make a decision or say something to a player, I think, ‘How would I treat my own kid?’ you know what I do best. I’m a great dad. And in a way, that’s the way I coach.”