Definition: I see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. I am not defeated by setbacks and choose to endure and overcome.
- I start strong and finish the job
- I honor my commitments
- I see conflict through until it is resolved
- I view failure as a path to improvement
Angela Duckworth has been obsessed with one particular question that has driven her research: Why do some people succeed where others fail to follow through? To put it another way, what counts more: Talent or effort? Our culture tends to venerate talent as the ultimate testament to true mastery. If one can learn quickly and easily, we think this is the best way to measure competencies.
But psychological and social scientific research suggests the reality is more complicated. Duckworth lays out two formulae for us:
Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement
As she puts it, “Talent only counts one; effort counts twice!” This has led her to conclude that, in fact, grit trumps talent. We have our DD definition of grit above, but Duckworth expands on this: “Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Grit is stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in and day out: not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. Grit is living life like it is a marathon, not a sprint.”
And, crucially, we can grow our grit. Duckworth lays out four aspects of this process:
- Develop fascination
- Even Darwin admitted that he was a bit slow on the uptake. Quick and easy mastery does not determine long-term success! Darwin’s deep interest in the natural sciences and long-term obsession with certain questions led to his breakthrough in evolutionary theory.
- Daily improvement
- “Whatever it takes, I want to improve. It doesn’t matter how excellent they already are.” Compete with who you were yesterday! No matter how small or large the daily improvement, the point is long-term goals.
- Greater purpose:
- Studies show that higher levels of purpose directly correlate to higher levels of grit. When our ultimate aims are felt to be deeply connected to the world beyond ourselves, we are “grittier.”
- As the story goes:
The Three Bricklayers
Three bricklayers are working together, side by side in the hot summer sun. A young child, passing by on his way home from school, stops and looks at the bricklayers.
“What are you doing?”, he asks.
The first bricklayer replies: “I’m laying bricks.”
“And you?” Says the child. “What are you doing?”
The second bricklayer answers: “Feeding my family.”
“I see.” Said the child.
The third bricklayer is then asked the same question: “What are you doing?”
“I’m building a cathedral, a house for God.”
- Growth mindset:
- Long-term success is dependent on your core belief. Is failure a “permanent condition”?
- Do you think, “I can’t learn anymore. I am what I am. This is how things are. My skills are fixed.” This simply isn’t true! Even from a purely neuro-scientific perspective, our brains are very adaptable with a high level of plasticity.
- In other words, we can always learn and attain mastery as long we can believe we will.
The nature of these four phases are very close to what is important to us as consultants. Furthermore, they correspond to another four-phase cycle very near and dear to my heart. It is called Quadratos (run by Alexander Shaia) and poses the following four, interlocking questions:
- How do we face change?
- How do we move through suffering?
- How do we receive joy?
- How do we mature in service?
The way these are formulated allow them to be applied across a broad swath of life scenarios, but I want to suggest that they are profoundly apropos to our work at DD. With customer value at the center of all we do, we inevitably encounter difficulties along the way. This, of course, requires grit.
But why should we stick to it? Change is hard! Indeed, many of our projects are for org change issues. Our clients see and feel that change is hard, and they reach out to us for help. We recognize that we are involved in problem solving, and the second step in that journey is, “It does get hard!” But how do we respond to that? With creativity, design, analysis, experiments…in other words, grit! We are enabled to move “through suffering.” The following diagram helps illustrate how I conceive of this process as it revolves around creating customer value:
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