Duckworth cut her teeth as a grit psychologist working with the military academy Westpoint, in the US. It’s an almost unimaginably intense and competitive environment. The central question they had for Duckworth: why do some people make it through the gruelling training and others don’t?
They had looked into every standardised testing metric they could get their hands on and still couldn’t get any answers. But Duckworth had a different take on it. It doesn’t matter, she discovered, whether you get straight A’s in school, excel at sports, or anything else easily quantifiable. The X factor is grit.
What is Grit?
Grit is not giving up at the first try. It’s not just accepting your weaknesses. And most of all, it’s not changing your mind about your central goals. This quality, more than any other, determined who would make it through Westpoint’s training. Importantly, it’s way more important than talent. In fact, I dare say talent often makes people complacent.
Do you have it?
You can take the Grit Scale survey here, and find out!
Can I develop it?
Duckworth gives many examples of people who have overcome adversity to achieve great things. One such person was a student of hers in bottom-set math(s). He wasn’t a born mathematician by any standard, but every time he got something wrong he wanted to know why. He kept coming back to problems that other kids often understood on their first attempts. Now the boy is a man, and he works as a rocket scientist. He is almost unfathomably brilliant at maths. He is God’s gift to maths. He’s so “talented”, people say…
Does that mean I shouldn’t quit anything?
No, it means you shouldn’t change your central goals. Duckworth herself was a Management Consultant at McKinsey (no mean feat), then became an inner-city school teacher, before becoming a psychologist. The important thing was that she pursued her passions and interests with absolute unflinching determination. These passions need to be developed too, so that means trying things out.
This is simple. It’s one of those ideas that seems obvious at first, but just because you know it deep down to be right.
It’s the ultimate life hack. Most people don’t give everything to anything. If you choose an idea, passion or interest and follow without compromise, you win. You can get anything you want, you just need to give yourself space to develop a passion and then cling to it come hell or high water. The good news is that once it’s a habit, it won’t be as hard.
So what are you waiting for?