(at 2017 Willow Creek GLS to learn more about leading our Operation Christmas Child team)
It is truly an honor for me to be here. I think some of you have heard about grit. It’s what I study as a psychologist. Each and every girl and boy, man and woman can develop grit.
I think all people are ambitious. When I was a child I thought only some people were ambitious but now I think all are. If people have a choice they would be excellent at what they do.
What is grit? Four Questions:
1) I am a hard worker.
2) I finish whatever I begin. (this is the single most predictive item of who will go on to achieve challenging goals)
3) I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to achieve.
4) My interests change from year to year.
1 & 2 have to do with perseverance and 3 & 4 have to do with passion.
Grit scores and age – as age goes up so does grit
Why? Millennials grew up with more ?
Maturity principle – with age and experience and character strengths get better
Either because of culture or experience, grit can change. This tells me we can build grit and we can start today.
Will Smith – (my favorite psychologist) said, “The only thing different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. If we get on a treadmill together, either you’re getting off first or I’m gonna die.”
Talent vs. Effort
1869 study Sir Frances Galton “The truly eminent have ability combined with zeal and with capacity for hard labor.”
Charles Darwin – “I have always maintained that men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work.”
GRIT is sustained passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.
It is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. Talent is nothing if you don’t apply yourself. Talent X Effort = Skill
Skill X Effort = Achievement
Of course talent counts but effort counts TWICE.
Anders Ericson did decades of research on high achievers. No matter who you are or how much talent you have you start at the bottom of the learning curve. Even talented people have to learn and need practice to get better. You need deliberate practice that makes people better faster. After thousands of hours you might get a chance to be world-class.
You could get better for a few years and then plateau. This happens in all kinds of professions = arrested development. This describes many if not most of us.
You could drop out – start and not finish. Every one of us have dropped out of something. We are not able to retain the skills we no longer practice.
Three possibilities –
n What is deliberate practice? – begins with a stretch goal. World class experts know exactly what they are working on. Next they focus 100% on practice toward that goal; then they get feedback for improvement. Then, the hardest might be to reflect on your performance and refine it. This is what sets experts apart. But it’s hard! 2006 National Spelling Bee—Winner Carrie Close describes her practice as she kept a diary of preparing for this competition. They were categorized—first was leisure reading which was enjoyable. Second was being quizzed which was more effortful and less enjoyable. Last, deliberate practice was done alone and was rated as the more effortful and least enjoyable way they prepared. Grit predicted how many hours of deliberate practice they completed and that was the predictor of achievement. This keeps you learning and improving
n Many of us drop out of things too early—We studied that by going to West Point Academy and gave the Grit scale on day 2 of the summer training and then waited to see who would drop out. We found the higher the Grit score on day 2 the more likely the cadet was to stick it out in the program. West Point has a measure called the Whole Candidate Score measuring various abilities but this does not predict success in the first summer of training. Ability was not related to Grit.
n What do you give up when you develop Grit? Individuals who are passionate and persevering in what they do are usually deeply satisfied with their life.
So how do we build Grit? (in chronological order)
1) Develop your interests before training your weaknesses. Interests are central to the development of Grit. Interest is the seed of passion. Interest is the first and most important part of emerging passion
2) Know the science of deliberate practice – reflect, refine, and repeat
3) Cultivate purpose – “In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether it will benefit other people.” Usually develops in middle adulthood. The higher your commitment to other people the greater your passion and perseverance.
4) Change your mind about changing your mind. Dr. Carol Dweck contrasts a Fixed Mind-set with a Growth Mind-set. Growth mind-set leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges. We find Growth Mind-set in children and adults predicts Grit.
Before I conclude I’d like to think about the people around us. Let me tell you of an Olympic swimmer who said as a young boy he wanted to quit and his father said I don’t want you to quit just because you’re losing so he told him he had to practice and when he got to the top of his age group he could quit if he wanted. The swimmer said, “My parents loved me so much they didn’t want me to quit on a bad day.”
We all have a chance to create a culture that will cultivate and embrace Grit. Grit is something I believe you can build in yourself and in others. It unlocks the ambition in all of us so we can be as excellent as we are able to be.