Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about “grit.” Anyone else notice that you can’t scroll through your LinkedIn news feed without seeing an article on the topic these days?
I’ve seen several different words used to describe this perceived problem – lack of zeal, perseverance, hard work, resilience, amount of effort, skill, etc. These observations have left me wondering if grit was something you naturally have, or something that is nurtured through personal focus on building grit and experiencing gritty environments.
Wanting to more concretely define grit, I gravitated to Angela Duckworth’s work. In her book and TED Talk, she says grit has two components – passion and perseverance. Specifically, she points out that grit is more about stamina than intensity and means you are committed consistently over time. She discusses the double impact that effort has on skill development and achievement:
Talent x Effort = Skill => Skill x Effort = Achievement
This resonated with me. People are born with talents naturally, but it’s how they develop them that matters—or how gritty they are. Michael Jordan was born naturally talented at basketball, but he wouldn’t have reached superstardom had he not consistently worked on developing and building upon his natural ability. I worked hard in college and loved getting my engineering degree, however, something else sounded more interesting—a career in consulting. Making this choice forced me to take the skills I had gained and figure out how to apply them in new and different ways. I was learning every day, gaining focus on what I truly enjoyed, and–while I didn’t know the word yet–practicing my grit!
Duckworth also describes the four psychological assets of grit—interest, practice, purpose, and hope—as commodities you can grow from the inside out. Similarly, in the book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle focuses on how greatness is grown through three basic elements—deep practice, ignition, and master coaching. The key is understanding that interest takes time to develop, practice means hours and hours of working to get better, and you need people to help coach and support you.
Over the years as a consultant, my passion became apparent, helping people learn and grow in their own careers. With the support of coaches and the grit I had gained, I changed careers and became a talent management professional. I believe that everyone can grow and develop. Developing your grit is no different than developing your organizational skills. You can develop any skill through hard work, commitment, and practice.
Succeeding with Grit
Whether or not you are naturally born with grit or not, you can grow grittier. If you want to increase your grit, don’t forget to think about your daily environments. Is the culture at your work gritty? Do the people in your life demonstrate resilience? Do you have a coach who gives you feedback? Are you looking for those daily opportunities that interest and challenge you, testing your skills on new assignments, and responding openly to feedback and trying again?
For me, I am grateful for the satisfaction I get from coaching people – seeing them reach higher and achieve their goals. I appreciate the opportunities to do what I love, fail and try again, and learn new things. Life is a marathon, and what we achieve throughout depends greatly on our grit.
Life is a marathon, and what we achieve throughout depends greatly on our grit.Melody Mattox