For a while now I've been more and more interested in the science of expertise. What are the attributes that some people have that others do not, or tend to have in smaller quantities?
Strength of mind; great courage or fearlessness; fortitude.
And in some sense I agree, but this sentence doesn't really manage to convey what I perceive as grit.
What is Grit
Let me try to explain this, by showing the opposite, which is a story from my own life. I grew up in a fairly academical family, my father has a PHD in physics and my mother is a psychologist, I'm the youngest of three boys, and also my middle brother who is 5 years older than me has a PHD in microbiology.
Needless to say, I come from a background which should foster academical paths. However I don't have a degree, I've studied a lot at the university but I do not have a degree, I'm a dropout. And I'm not Bill Gates smart, not even close. But I'm not an idiot either (except maybe for not finishing my degree(s)).
But I do lack something fundamental, the ability to handle setbacks and to struggle through with something. I beleive that I started to feel challenged for real in school when I was around 17-18 years old, taking one of the more advanced maths courses. Sure I tried to learn french, but I never took it seriously and still managed to get acceptable grades.
Fast forward to university, it's time to write my thesis. For the first time in my life I must produce something of 'real' academical value. I freeze, I just can't do it.
On the other hand my brother, the one with the PHD, he has severe dyslexia. He had to struggle through his school years, having teachers that thought that he wasn't intelligent. What did he develop? He got used to struggle, and he got used to know that if he struggled he'd be rewarded. I'm not saying my brother had a pleasant childhood, and I am fourtunate that I didn't have to go through the hell he went through. But I do believe that in a sense this helped develop the perseverance to actually accuire his PHD.
So what is grit? Grit is knowing that you can do it, you might have to struggle for it, but you can and will do it. Because you know how to fight.
Angela Duckworth lists 4 parameters for growing grit, interest, practice, purpose and hope. Out of these 4 I firmly believe that it is practice that is the most relevant for growing and maintaining gritiness. I base this on only my own assumptions from reading books and looking at myself. So this is a higly subjective perspective.
But my theory is that with practice and specifically purposeful practice, that kind of practice that actually makes you better at something. With that kind of practice something happens inside of us, it becomes more interesting and we want to excel even more at what we're doing. Harnessing this effect I believe is what helps us maintin and grow grit.
Now, this does in now way make the other 3 parameters unimportant, rather they are bot a prerequesite and a requirement. Without hope, interest and purpose we will have an extremly hard time comitting ourselves to deliberate practice.
For me it is trying to come up with ways to perform deliberate practice. I'm currently investigating combining SMART goals with Stretch goals to set targets for myself, with wich I would need to do deliberate practice to actually achieve theese goals.
I'm still far away from being a gritty person, but I'm sure as hell am going to become one.