Pursue What Matters
Episode 56: Book Review: Grit
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
We’ve all heard the term grit, right? Maybe your grandparents talked about it. But these days, psychologists and CEOs are talking about it all the time. So what is it? And more importantly, how can you get some? Because seriously, we need some grit these days, my friends.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:20
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. grit was a great word. It’s been around for a long time, when I think of that word, I think of my grandpa’s, who are both working men with dirty hands and honest hearts, I think of my dads who were both working men with dirty hands and honest hearts, who spent, you know, a lot of time underneath trucks and on their hands and knees and fills all of these men who I love so dearly, have had a lot of grit, literal grit, and also the kind of grit that we’re going to be talking about today. So join me, let’s talk about it. And of course, you know, I am totally committed to helping you pursue what matters in love and work, right.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:35
And especially helping you develop the confidence to lead wherever you’re at in your life. And so today with the podcast, I really want to help you develop the confidence to lead with curiosity, and also with clarity. So you know, when it comes to leading with curiosity, I really want to help you develop grit or to strengthen grit, I’m sure plenty of you have a lot of grit already. Because curiosity is all about developing and increasing your self awareness and this awareness of Okay, what are your gifts? What are your skills, what are your characteristics and traits that help you to lead with confidence. And so when we think about curiosity, it is about cultivating self awareness and building the secure foundation to help you lead well, so you really can pursue what matters. And so grit is one of those really wonderful traits that can help you lead confidently. And so that’s definitely one of the skills that we’re going to help you with today. And then also, the podcast today is very focused on leading with clarity, because as you will learn with the podcast, grit is all about seeing you through on the long game, right. So it’s all about being able to pursue and stick with those long term goals, because it’s hard. It can be really hard. And of course, when it comes to leadership, clarity of purpose is what it is all about, as a leader in you know, whatever domain, whether it’s at home, whether it’s at work, whether it’s leading a team of five, whether it’s leading a team of 500, you must have clarity of purpose, you must know what your vision is. And you’ve got to be able to, to be in it for the long haul and have a view of the long game. And so grit is one of those essential characteristics that will help you with that clarity of purpose. And so as we think about helping you develop the confidence to lead, we’re really focusing on leading with both clarity and curiosity today. So there you go. Let’s learn a little bit more about this great book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:04
So the book title is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and it’s by Angela Duckworth, who we will also introduce you to. So, “in this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist,” I’m always reviewing books by psychologists. That’s that’s not entirely true. But they do tend to have lots of great books. I may be just a tiny bit bias there. But she “shows anyone striving to succeed, be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people, that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a special blend of passion and persistence that she calls grit.” And that’s one of the best. My favorite parts about Duckworth’s research and this. This special blend right this trait that she has that she has been able to, to outline in the research is that it’s not based on talent. It’s not based on luck. But it’s this. It’s this skill that you can develop and that you can build. And, and so that’s what we’re going to learn about. And I think it’s, it’s really cool.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:19
So let’s hear what other people are saying about Duckworth and about her research and this book in particular. So this is from Daniel Gilbert. He is Surprise, surprise, also a psychologist. He’s the author of the best selling Stumbling on Happiness. He’s a Harvard psychologist, he does a ton of research on happiness. He’s done a lot of PBS specials on happiness as well, he’s a popular speaker, I’ve had a chance to listen to him. And he’s, he’s very engaging. He’s done a lot of great work on happiness research. He said, “psychologists have spent decades searching for the secret of success, but Duckworth is the one who found it.” And then from Arianna Huffington, of course, from Huffington Post, she said, “with a mix of masterful storytelling, and the latest science shows that perseverance and passion matter at least as much as talent and intelligence, and far from simply urging us to work harder for the sake of working harder. Grit offers a truly sane perspective, that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.” And I really like that. So it’s not just about working harder, but working smarter and working with purpose. So I think that is really wonderful. And I think that one of the things that Huffington kind of alludes to in her endorsement is a growth mindset, which, of course, if you’ve listened to any of the podcasts, you know, I am a big fan of and Duckworth definitely talks about a growth mindset in her book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:02
Okay, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the author. So Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and in 2013, was named a MacArthur Fellow. Prior to her career in research, she was a math and science teacher at public schools in New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia. She was named a MacArthur Fellow, which is she got a Genius Grant. So she’s also known as a genius, which, if you read the book, it’s there’s kind of a funny story about that in the book, but it is an engaging read. It’s also an engaging, listen. So. And I think what I really like about it is it’s applicable to lots of different settings. So like, if you’re a parent, and you you’re wanting to apply this to helping your kiddos, it’s really great. It’s also really very applicable and wonderful for leadership applications. So it’s, it’s very applicable for lots of different settings. And Duckworth, really, her work became very popularized with her TED Talk. And so I will link to her TED talk in the show notes. So you can check that out. That’s a nice introduction to her work. And so that might be a good thing to check out. And then you can decide if you want to read or listen to the book. But I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s very good.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:38
So let’s take a look at some of the main points of the book. And then I will, I will talk with you about how I think this book can strengthen your love and work, your leadership, right? Because that’s what we’re focused on. So the The question is, why do some people succeed and others fail? So, you know, this is what Duckworth really focuses on in her research. And of course, the book is his report of her research. So she explains why talent is hardly a guarantee of success. And I think that’s, you know, for a lot of a lot of decades, that was kind of the belief like if you’re talented, you’ll be successful. And what we know is talent enough. Our talent alone is not enough, that you have to have purpose. You have to, you know, you have to be consistent, those sorts of things. And so, grit, which is a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. And so that’s really what Duckworth’s research is focused on. So she’s also found that scientists she’s also found scientific evidence That grit can grow. So right. So you need to have passion and perseverance towards a really important goal. That’s the key with grit. And it’s something that you can develop. So we can all develop grit. So that’s good. Because otherwise, you know, why would we look at it, you know, just be like, oh, there’s a lucky few with grip. But of course, it’s something that we can develop.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:26
So grit is passion and perseverance for long term goals. But one way to think about grit is to consider what it is not. Because it’s a really popular term, people throw it around all the time. But let’s talk about what it is not. So it’s not talent, it’s not luck. It isn’t how intensely for the moment you want something. So instead, it is about having what some researchers call an ultimate concern. So this is a goal that you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. So grit is holding steadfast to that goal. So even when you fall down, even when you screw up, even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow. So one way that I think about this, you know, if you’ve listened to some of the earlier podcasts, especially the pursue what matters or the the three part series that I did at the beginning of 2020, when I was talking about vision and purpose, and goal setting, one of the ways that I like to think about vision and purpose is thinking about a mountain, and you have vision as your mountain peak, and you can see it off in the distance. And that goal, or that vision does not change. And sometimes it’s shrouded in clouds. And you know, it’s, it’s far away, and you wonder if you’re gonna make it, but you have this ultimate concern, or this ultimate goal, that organizes and gives meaning to almost everything that you do. But then, right, like, grit is holding steadfast to that goal. But as you climb the mountain, like you’re gonna fall down, you’re gonna screw up, you know, progress toward that goal is going to be halting and slow, right, so anyone who’s done any sort of hiking knows that, that the path to the top of the mountain is full of twists, full of turns, you’re going to fall, you’re going to stumble, you know, you’re going to get turned around. But you, you never lose sight of your ultimate goal. But it’s never a straight course, to the top, right, like there, there are going to be things that trip you up, but you are focused on getting to the top of the mountain. And that’s exactly what grit is, like you are getting to the top of the mountain. But right, like, you’re probably going to, you’re probably going to have some twists and turns on that path. And so the idea about grit is that it’s an ultimate concern.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:20
And, you know, I think one of the best examples that I have, personally in my life for that is, is my husband and his commitment to medical school. And I think I’ve talked a little bit about this before, but you know, he always wanted to be a physician, he was one of those kiddos, you know, when he was quite young, who wanted to be a physician, and, and then he was like a regular teenager who, you know, didn’t really pay much attention in school. And he was he’s always very, very smart, but didn’t really apply himself. And, and yet, he still wanted to be a physician. But, you know, his path was pretty twisty, and turned. And, and then, you know, as he got into college and started taking things a little more seriously, he he really, you know, started developing more of that ultimate concern of like, okay, I can see that mountain summit, I’m going to get there. And even though, you know, he got rejection letters, and, you know, he had people that were trying to dissuade him and said, like, no, like, you shouldn’t do this, you should do something else. But he had a lot of grit when it came to medical school. And, you know, he had twists and turns on that path and things that didn’t go according to plan. But that ultimate goal of you know, he wanted to be a physician never altered for him. And so it did require a lot of grit on his part. And so, you know, if you think about your own life, you can probably think about situations like that, hopefully, where you had to display some grit in your own life that where you just had to kind of dig deep to see something through.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:13
But one of the things that Duckworth points out is that you can be gritty in one area, but not another. And I think sometimes that can be kind of confusing for people because they kind of see grittiness as an all or nothing trait. So they’re just like, I’m not gritty. But the truth is like, you can have a lot of grit in one area, but not in another. So maybe when it comes to school, you might have a lot of grit, but you might not have a lot of grit in another area. And you know, that’s okay. And if you think about, like, maybe you have a lot of grit in school, but you don’t have it in another area of your life. The good news is that you can take some of the lessons that you have in the grittiness in one area and start to apply those in another area. So so you could, you know, learn some lessons there. Right. So grit is really good for some goals, and not very good for other goals. So grit predicts achievement in really challenging and personally meaningful contexts, right. So when you got a really big mountain to climb, grit is where it’s at. So an example would be graduating from high school or college, rather than dropping out. Like that would be a goal where grit would be important to have. But there are other goals were having passion and perseverance. Like, they just don’t apply. Like they’re just not relevant.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:47
So for example, like get…not that this applies this year, because the tax date has been moved, like probably the first and only time it’ll ever happen. But getting started on your taxes before April 15. Like that takes self control more than grit, right? Like you do not need to have passion and perseverance to get going on your taxes before April 15. Right, like, you just got to get it done. Like it just takes a little bit of self control to do that. And so, you know, I just think about grit as like, it’s a fine tuned tool. But you don’t throw grit at everything, like don’t use grit for everything, like use grit, where it really matters, like the goals that really matter for you. So you know, if it’s writing that book that you’re really passionate about, you’re going to need passion, you’re going to need perseverance to do that. Because you’re going to have resistance, you’re going to have fear, you’re always going to have other things that get in the way. And so grit is going to be important for that. But some of these smaller goals where it’s just about consistency, it’s just about changing a habit, grit is really not going to be very effective for that. So hopefully that distinction makes sense to you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:08
So let’s talk about some of the characteristics of grit. So the first one that I want to talk about is courage. Another way of thinking about that is purpose. So this sense of courage, or purpose, this is one of the most important characteristics of grit. And it is your ability to manage fear of failure. And this is essential, because when you have a big goal in front of you, you’ve got to be able to move forward despite your fear. Because of course, you’re going to have fear. And you’ve you’ve still got to be able to take the next step. And your ability to manage your fear of failure is one of the biggest predictors of your success. So not whether you have fear, but whether you’re able to manage your fear. And that’s what we call courage. Right? Like just the ability to move forward despite fear, that is one of the most important characteristics of grit, are you able to move forward in the face of fear? That’s what we call courage. It’s one of the primary characteristics of grit. So, you know, you’re able to recognize that there are valuable lessons in defeat, and that the vulnerability of perseverance is required for high achievement. So do you recognize the gifts of failure? Do you recognize that it’s okay to stumble, and that when you’re climbing the mountain, you are going to stumble? And it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean that you’ve messed up it just means that you are climbing a really big mountain and good for you. Good luck. for climbing that mountain.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:02
I think the best quote, the best message to inspire this characteristic of courage is, of course, from Teddy Roosevelt, when he was speaking in France in 1907, of course, Brene Brown has used it as part of a title of her book it is it’s become known as the man in the arena, quote. And it is this this is the quote that is so famous. And the part of the quote that Bernie Brown has titled her books from is daring greatly. And so you’ll recognize it when, as I share it to you. So this is the quote from Teddy Roosevelt, shared in France in 1907:
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:51
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who airs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. But who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:39
I love that, that is all about courage and a recognition that when we dare greatly, there will be failure. But also that’s where we develop courage, and courage, fuels grit. So that’s what we want to understand about that. The second characteristic of grit that we want to pay attention to, is this idea of conscientiousness. And it’s this idea of learning to be achievement oriented. Okay, so let me break this down. So there are what’s known as five big personality traits. And so conscientiousness is one of those traits. And it is the one that is most closely associated with grit.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:32
Okay, so let’s talk about about this. So conscientiousness, it in this, like, when it relates to grit, it is this idea of being careful and meticulous, right? So it is this idea of, really, you know, being focused and being being careful in your approach to something. So it, you know, I kind of think of that ultimate concern, right. So like, you’re really, like, you really care about something. So how this shows up with grit is that, you know, you, you tend to be an achievement oriented individual who works tirelessly tries to do a good job, and completes a task at hand. Right, and that, that these traits predict job proficiency, educational success, you know, these are the people you want working for you. And think about that as it comes to, you know, having a big goal. I mean, obviously, these are really great predictors for goal achievement. And so when it comes to credit, you know, this, this ability to commit to a goal, and to really focus on doing your best, makes all the difference. So when we think about conscientiousness, it’s being achievement oriented, it’s doing your best because your best really matters and completing the task at hand. You know, rather than just showing up, it’s showing up and doing your best. And whether that’s because you know, your values demand it, your integrity demands it, because, you know, you have a goal. This achievement oriented conscientiousness, is a key characteristic of gripped and so, you know, one of the kind of old school ways that I think about this is like, if you do a job do it well, right. I mean, that’s something that I heard from my dad a lot. Right. And, and I think that there are a lot of a lot of ways that that can show up. But, you know, one of the ways that I, I mean, I hear myself saying some of these things to my kids all the time, right? Like, if you see something that needs to be done, do it, right, like, don’t just show up, like, show up and do a good job, show up, like, if you show up to a workout, show up and leave it all on the field, right, show up and do your best every time. So that is the kind of conscientiousness that is a big predictor of grit. So it’s not just showing up for practice, but it’s showing up and leaving it all on the field showing up and doing your best every time. So that’s what matters. So dependability is not enough, you got to be achievement oriented, in the showing up. So hopefully that makes sense.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:54
Okay. And then look at the third characteristic, which is really thinking about long term goals and endurance. And this is all about the follow through. Another way of thinking about this is practice right consistency, which I’m kind of all about the consistency. So I’ve got a quote here, from Duckworth. She said, achievement is the product of talent and effort, the ladder of function of the intensity, direction, and duration of one’s exertions toward a long term goal. So achievement is the product of talent and effort. And effort is a function of the intensity, direction and duration of one’s exertions toward a long term goal. And, and right, like it’s not just enough to dependably show up to practice, right, like in the example that I just shared. Like, do you have intensity? Do you have direction? Do you have duration? Right? So that’s what I mean, when I say like, I talked about that with my kids all the time, like, okay, like you’re going to lacrosse practice every day. How are you doing lacrosse practice? Right, I think about this all the time with my workouts. I’m a power lifter. So I’m always thinking about how am I showing up to my workouts? And that would be a question I would ask of you, whether it’s your workouts, whether it’s your meetings, whether it’s your relationship, right? Like, if it’s your date night, how are you showing up? Right? Are you? Are you there? Are you dependable? Or are you fully present? Are you fully engaged, so practice must have purpose. That’s where the long term goals come in. So they provide the context and framework in which to find the meaning and value of your long term efforts, which helps to cultivate drive sustainability, passion, courage, stamina, and of course, grit. So, you know, when you have a goal, your your practice really takes on a different meaning, right? So, you know, if we think about powerlifting, like, if I have a beat on the calendar, my workouts are totally different. I don’t have a meat on the calendar, which probably maybe I need to, but that’s another discussion. But practice must have purpose.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:36
Okay, the next characteristic of grit. So this is number four is resilience. So optimism, confidence, and creativity. Another way of thinking about that is hope. So resilience is the ability of people, communities and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity among unforeseen shocks and surprises, right. And of course, we’ve all been dealing with so many shocks to the system. So many challenges, that gritty people believe everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not, all right, it’s not the end. So right, like it’s a great attitude. And something that can be really helpful. So resilience is absolutely a very important characteristic of the gritty and so so part of that resilience is optimism and confidence and creativity and all of that combined together to create hope, not only in yourself, but in the future and in relationships. And so of course, that’s really, really valuable. So I’ve just done a podcast on empathy and resilience, and I have a really good freebie on skill building related to resilience. So I will link to that in the show notes. I think that could be helpful for you as it talks about the six core factors Resilience this, if you want to focus a little bit more on that, that could be a useful resource for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:07
And then the fifth characteristic of grit, and this will I talk about this one so much, especially in my clinical work as an eating disorder specialist, this idea of excellence versus perfectionism. So how many perfectionist Do we have out there? So I definitely consider myself a recovering perfectionist, work in progress on that one, that gritty people don’t seek perfection, but instead strive for excellence. And there’s a big difference there. This is something who I talk about all the time. But perfectionism tends to be tends to really be focused on others perceptions of you. And it’s really like chasing a hallucination, it’s anxious. It’s, it’s all about chasing, self worth, right? Like, if I’m good enough, if I’m perfect enough, if I can present the ideal image, then I will, then I will be okay, then I will be enough. But the truth is with perfectionism, you’re never good enough. Like there’s always someone smarter, there’s always someone richer, there’s always, always someone thinner. And so it just becomes an endless, an endless Chase. And so and it becomes a barrier to success. And so perfectionism is always externally focused outside focus, where excellence is all about being connected to purpose, and really being able to look at your internal values, and your own sense of purpose, and really learning to live to those values. And really looking at this fulfillment of purpose and looking at how can I contribute? How can I contribute my gifts? And how can I contribute at my highest level, excellence is self compassionate, where perfectionism is self critical. Excellence is forgiving, where perfectionism is judgmental, and so gritty people are a focus on excellence, rather than perfectionism. So that’s a really important distinction. And, you know, think about that, with perfectionism, there’s so much fear of failure. And so a lot of times, if you’re stuck in perfectionism, you won’t even set the big goals. So you won’t even have the goal is at the top of the mountain. And so it really prevents you from developing grit. And so of course, individuals who have more grit, really do focus on excellence, because they recognize that are going to be bumps along the way. And they use those mistakes or those challenges to strengthen them. And they recognize that there’s vulnerability, and taking on big challenges, and they’re made stronger by that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:09
So I definitely hope that you will check out this great book, it’s really good. So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this website for this, got this website, you go to my website for that. But to check out our resources for this episode, there, I will have a link to the book, I will also have a link to the grip scowl. So you can kind of see how greedy you are, that can be helpful that might be kind of a fun thing to do with your team, or you know, with your family. And then also I will link to Angela Duckworth TED Talk. She also has some other videos and resources there that I think can be helpful, and will also link to a Forbes article that included some of the resources that I talked about here. And then I will also link to my podcasts on empathy and resilience. And that was a really great freebie on resilience skill building. So if that could be helpful for you definitely check out the show notes. And you can catch all of that by heading on over to my website. www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-56 one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-56. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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