Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Grit - What it is and Why You Need More of It In Your Life.

I am writing today about grit – a new trait that will make you eminently more successful in work, school and your marriage. Grit is a combination of perseverance, optimism, passion and focus. And the best news of all - grit can be learned!

Helen Keller wrote, “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.” Helen Keller overcame more obstacles than every one of us. She had grit.

And now, the most recent information on grit – the latest personality trait to make it to the big times.

While we are often led to believe that innate talent paves the main road to success, research is demonstrating that grit - a combination of passion, perseverance and optimism - may lead to the biggest successes of all.

While the advice to “try, try again” seems like trite lip service, grit has been shown to be as good a predictor of future success as those provided by genes – intelligence and ability.

Compelling new studies show that gritty people are more likely to succeed in school, excel in the workplace, and discover new achievements. This may be because their commitment, passion and optimistic outlook have enabled them to stay the course despite the unavoidable setbacks that accompany any long term goal. As I’ve said before, it’s not just talent and intelligence that matter, it’s also about character.

Experts talk about the 10-year rule which states that it takes a decade of focused hard work, minimum, to become highly successful in most areas – from managing people to sales to writing non-fiction. So the ability to keep at it despite setbacks is nearly always an essential component in major accomplishments. The exciting news is that grit can be learned, whereas intelligence and talent are much more difficult to learn.

So, you may be asking, what role does innate intelligence have versus other factors such as grit?

Intelligence has a larger or smaller role depending upon tasks involved in any given situation. However, there are large scale studies that suggest the following, more direct answer. Intelligence only accounts for a mere 25% of the differences between workers in job performance.

So if intelligence explains only 25% of the differences in performance, what explains the remaining 75%? The other 75% of job performance is explained by personality factors such as grit, optimism, and perseverance, creativity, luck and emotional intelligence.

Hard work and persistence is essential even for geniuses. That is, if they want to succeed. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever met are happy driving trucks and working as parking lot attendants, which makes me wonder if there’s something they know that I don’t!

In any case, the amazing thing about grit is that it explains a great deal about those individuals who are not geniuses yet still achieve tremendous accomplishments. We expect someone who is highly intelligent, persevering, and ambitious to succeed. Yet there are many stories of folks who are of average IQ and remarkably tenacious and gritty. They never give up. They never lose sight of the long-term goal.

Grit is the same mental arena as motivation, self-discipline and perseverance, but it’s a trait unto itself and has only recently seen renewed interest in research. Past studies have shown that grit was the most accurate predictor in distinguishing the most successful men from the least.

Many of you are familiar with gifted children and adults. You may even have one of your own. These are the folks who learned reading before being taught to read, understood calculus before the book was opened. They have an intuitive knack for learning and application. A often cited study by Joseph Renzulli from the National Center on the Gifted and Talented, believes that “task commitment” which is made up of perseverance, endurance and hard work, is on the three major hallmarks of giftedness (together with ability and creativity). And, he adds, that the evidence that these nonintellectual factors are necessary for giftedness in “nothing short of overwhelming.”

So here are some of the reasons you might want to improve your level of grit. A study at Penn State found that grit is helpful in academic settings, particularly spelling bees, where the winners were found to be the grittiest. They prepared the most. Grit is the best predictor of which new cadets will make it through West Point’s punishing first summer of training. Grit was a better predictor than SAT scores, athletic experience, grades, and teacher ratings.

Grit is likely to be one of the best kept secrets to long and successful marriages. Paul Glick found that high school dropouts were more likely than graduates to wind up divorced. This leads to the thought that people who give up on difficult long-term goals, like completing high school, may also be more likely to give up on other goals, such as marriage. On the other hand, highly persistent people are thought to be more likely to persist in other areas of their life such as their marriage despite inevitable tough times.

The idea is that passion and zeal fuel perseverance. So if grit and, thus high performance, are founded on passion, then it is critical for parents to expose their children to a wide variety of academic, athletic and artistic activities so the child can find his or her own passion.

Also included in grit is the concept of ambition. Gritty people set challenging long-term goals. What’s more they view difficulties as challenges, NOT as insurmountable problems.

Self-discipline is a part of grit, but not in the way you might think. Gritty people are self-disciplined. While perseverance implies the ability to keep going after a goal, self-discipline implies the ability to stay away from distractions and temptations. This means that gritty people are more likely to stay away from goofing off, alcoholism, drug use, and more.

And finally, gritty people are realistically optimistic. You must have optimism to keep you going, to help you hang in there, during the setbacks. You have to believe that, in the end, when all is said and done, you’re going to win. You’re going to succeed. And until you do, you just keep on keeping on.

So how do you develop more grit? I’ll share that with you …tomorrow!
All my best,

Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self
KDIA 1640 AM
Monday – Friday
5 pm – 5:30 pm

Guide To Self(C) 2005.


Post a Comment

<< Home