True Grit: Passion and Perserverance

What does it take to be successful? Is it just turning up for work doing the 9-5 or does it need that extra bit of perseverance and dedication?

A significant predictor of success is Grit. In a study of who is successful and why the conclusion by Angela Duckworth was not based on IQ, social intelligence or even good looks but it was grit. What does grit mean? It means living life like a marathon not a sprint. Persevering not just for a couple of weeks or months but for years. Gritiness of an individual is even more powerful than IQ as a predictor of success.

The TED Interview: How to turn grit into a lifelong habit | Angela Duckworth

Grit is unrelated to talent and even inversely proportional in many cases. If people with talent don’t follow through on their ability that is such a waste. It’s so important to work on something you enjoy than to just work. We are passionate about things that interest us, but we find it hard to do things that don’t interest us.

I totally agree grit is a key part of success in life. The daily grind of just getting on with the hard, inconvenient, and downright boring parts of the job. Reflecting on that this week after working on a particularly challenging project with multiple vendors, tight deadlines with multiple new features. A recipe for lots of challenges. However, through working through each issue we were able to come up with a working solution.

Olympic paradigm

Olympic athletes have to sacrifice years of their lives for a few seconds of opportunity at the Olympics to show their talent. There is an interesting documentary on the mental health challenges faced by athletes showing how difficult that is. Well worth a watch, the weight of Gold. Spoiler alert: It takes hard work, frustration, belief and doubting yourself and sometimes the mental toll is too much.

Nature versus nurture

So how much does it depend on the individual and how much does it depend on the environment and situation you find yourself. Are you born with a silver spoon in your mouth or do you come from a broken home.

That’s a tough question to answer, it is a dance between the individual and their circumstances. You have to overcome the challenges your environment throws at you. They could be a catalyst for the individual to overcome the most unfair disadvantage. Or those challenges could stop the individual from ever succeeding. The ingenuity of the human spirit can usually find a way and true inspiration comes from those that overcome the impossible to achieve their dreams.

Practical Grit

Getting practical what can we do to be successful. A good project manager is constantly battling challenges, overcoming them, working through our own weaknesses, and dealing with other people’s quirks as well as the project challenges.

1. Chase your passions

What gets you up in the morning? What interests you? Focus on these things as these are your natural passions. It’s easier to focus on the things that you enjoy and have an interest in. If you can’t think about what those are then think about what you find boring.

2. Reflection

Take time to think about what you are doing. Sometimes we can be too busy we don’t stop and reflect on the direction we are going in. The good thing about the Covid-19 lock down’s is that it has given many of us time to reflect and consider which way we should go in our careers or our lives.

A good way to find out what you are good at is to ask a friend “Why are we friends?” and don’t be satisfied with a superficial answer. Probe their answer and ask them how they see you, what makes your friendship strong, what is in common and how do they see your gifts. It’s bound to be an interesting exercise.

3. Just do something

You know something needs to be done but you’re not quite sure what is the best forward. There is a need to avoid analysis paralysis and sometimes it is better to just do something than to constantly reflect. The solution you find may not be the perfect one you were looking for but it can teach you valuable lessons that progress you to where you need to be.

4. Build knowledge

There is no such thing as a wasted experience nothing is wasted if you don’t waste it! A knowledge gap is an opportunity to learn something new. I love just trying new things whether it is learning a new language or reading up on the latest geopolitical challenges or the latest technological ideas. All knowledge can help us to grow and develop our ability to relate and solve problems. There is usually someone with true grit who has overcome the problem you are facing that you can learn from.

5. Stay focused

One of the greatest characteristics of highly effective people is the ability to stay focused on the most important activity. They have learned to say no to everything else and just focus on what is important. That takes true grit, passion, and perseverance. So next time you feel like giving up, remember to stay focused and get the job done. Jonny Ive described how Steve Jobs was so focused and how that was an inspiration to him.


Further reading / resources:

Grit: The Power of passion and peserverance – Angel Duckworth

Ted Talk: The Power of passion and perserverance.

The Marshmallow Test: Delayed Gratification in Children

The TED Interview: How to turn grit into a lifelong habit | Angela Duckworth

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