Here is the full article written by Silvia Ascarelli for Marketwatch. I applaud her discussing this topic in a business forum. It has applications in all aspects of student and adult development.
Grit, the dictionary says, is defined as having courage and resolve.
Angela Duckworth says it’s doing hard things you care about, or a mix of passion and perseverance.
The University of Pennsylvania psychology professor and author of the recently published book “Grit” has created a five-point scale using responses to 10 statements to determine people’s level of grit.
You claim you don’t have a passion? Sometimes, Duckworth says, it’s hard to spot in yourself what might be obvious to others. In her book, she discusses a technique attributed to Warren Buffett that she says can help set priorities and highlight a passion.
Here’s how it works: Write a list of 25 (!) goals. Decide which are your top five. Then discipline yourself to avoid the remaining 20 because they’re just distracting you from what’s most important. Duckworth tweaked it by lumping together those that serve a common purpose — in her case helping kids achieve and thrive — to help spot a theme.
She spoke with MarketWatch about finding a passion and developing perseverance in both children and adults. And, yes, she gives you permission to quit — just not on something you care about. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Q: How can an adult who has no passion in or outside of work learn grit?
A: Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski had an experiment at Google where people were randomly assigned to craft their own job. Without changing your job, you can look for ways to make it more interesting and meaningful. What do I find interesting? How can I do more of it in my job? And what things do I find completely tedious and not aligned with my values? Can I get someone else on my team who likes it to do it?
It sounds a little naive and pie in the sky. But weeks later, people were more satisfied in their jobs through this tiny intervention and their managers said they performed better.
Q: What’s your advice for developing grit in children?
A: Kids need choice. There’s this really awesome theory of human motivation — that human beings all want three things. One is to be competent, one is to belong, and one is be free, as in to have choice, to not be told what to do but to choose what to do. Kids will never fully develop a passion for something unless at some point and in some way they feel they have chosen what they’re doing as opposed to having it chosen for them.
For my own kids, I gave them choice as soon as they were in kindergarten. They could choose something that was hard, in that it needed to be practiced, so they could learn to practice, practice. It wasn’t an infinite list. I did impose a discipline, which is to say you don’t get to quit in the middle. I did make them finish the semester.
Q: How did you come up with that?
A: I knew that my kids needed choice and autonomy. But I also knew that children who are 5 years old are not going to finish hard things or submit themselves to a hard thing or any practice. Children are not born knowing how to deal with frustration.
Q: What do you think of that Princeton professor’s CV of failure?
A: I thought it was so awesome. What do we do when we show each other not only our resume, but the photos we post on Facebook? We show people our polished, best self. It’s just the highlight roll. What I loved about that resume is that it gives the whole story. Some of the things we do are great, but they often have these iterations that are not great. We screw up sometimes. We get rejected.
Q: How can companies hire for grit?
A: One thing is look for evidence that someone has been persevering and is passionate about something. Maybe it’s not what you’re hiring them for, especially if it’s a 22-year-old. I know a lot of executives, very successful ones, who look for evidence of grit through being a varsity athlete. You can make an educated guess that the person knows how to practice, know how to lose the game and come back for the next one, that they know how to sustain interest in something for years, they might have a sense of purpose broader than themselves. It’s not just sports; it can be other things. If you looked at my college resume, there is no sports, but I had a lot of continuity and accomplishment in community service.
Q: The hardest part may be learning to pick yourself back up.
A: It’s hard, don’t you think? There’s something about taking path of least resistance that makes a lot of sense. But at the same time we have to figure out which things in life are worth struggling through.There is this kind of discomfort you have to have to get better at things, and that’s part of grit. If you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain and discomfort, you’ll never get better.
Q: Why is this a science? It sounds like common sense.
A: If it were easy to be gritty and we didn’t need anyone’s help, that would be great. But I still find how to be gritty a question that I can’t even fully answer myself and I’ve been studying it for years and years and been trying to do it personally for more years than I’ve been studying it.