Today is July 8 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how much grit do you have?” The 365 daily questions that make up the Navigate the Chaos series examine the traits, habits, and behaviors of successful people. Through individual backstories, historical references, and academic research, Navigate the Chaos illustrates how the path to success contains both common and unique elements.
One such common element is grit. It would be nearly impossible to find someone who has navigated the chaos and who never had to overcome an obstacle, resolve a problem, or address an unforeseen issue. If you want to translate your dreams into reality you will want to understand how much grit you have.
The latest research suggests that for those who engage in deliberate practice, greatness is a possibility. Three books that specifically examine the theory of deliberate practice are Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Over-rated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else and Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Each book examines how individuals achieved world-class mastery that put them at the top of their field.
In her 2016 New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth 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 she calls “grit.”
As a MacArthur Fellow, Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, defined grit as the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Doing so equips individuals to pursue, especially challenging aims over years and even decades. Duckworth noted that people who “accomplished great things often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.” Duckworth wrote “grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity.”
Colvin and Gladwell understand “everyone who has achieved exceptional performance has encountered terrible difficulties along the way. There are no exceptions.” Second, “what the evidence shouts most loudly is striking, liberating news that great performance is not reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.” Colvin concluded that talent, IQ, and experience, once thought to be the three pillars of success, play a less important role than previously thought when compared to one’s drive, decisiveness, and grit. Both authors believe that “great performance is available to you and to everyone.” Deliberate practice research indicates that long-term success requires a minimum of 10 years of engagement, coupled with grit, or the ability to persevere difficult situations and a willingness to adapt to challenges as they arise.
The literary world is filed with authors who demonstrated grit to get their book published. One such example is The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter that publishers rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million copies.
Entrepreneurship ventures also has plenty of examples of those who needed to have a high level of grit. When Jeff Bezos launched Amazon, he was met with a lot of questions about whether it could even get off the ground. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he explained the juggling act he had to do to raise early funds for the business. “I had to take 60 meetings to raise $1 million, and I raised it from 22 people at approximately $50,000 a person,” Bezos recalled. “It was nip and tuck whether I was going to be able to raise that money. So, the whole thing could have ended before the whole thing started. That was 1995, and the first question every investor asked me was: ‘What’s the internet?'”
Bezos needed grit to both acquire the funding necessary to launch and grow Amazon and for the nine years it would take for his company to make a profit. By 1996, Amazon had sales that reached $15.7 million and $147.8 million in 1997 but the company was still in the red.
As Drew Hendricks wrote in Inc. “By the end of the decade, Amazon was not as promising as it once seemed. Despite having revenues of $1.6 billion in 1999, Amazon still managed to lose $719 million. Things did not get better in 2000, when it was found that Amazon had just around $350 million of cash on hand, despite raising billions of dollars. Bezos finally turned a profit in 2003, which was nine years after being founded and seven years after going public.”
To determine your level of grit and measure your tenacity for sticking with long-term goals that require you to go from one failure to another without any loss of enthusiasm you can complete the True Grit Assessment developed by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and West Point and published in November 2012 edition of The Intelligent Optimist. The researchers development this assessment to test their hypothesis that persistence was as important to success as intelligence.
To measure your own grit, answer the following questions using the following scale:
· A meaning very much like me
· B mostly like me
· C somewhat like me
· D not much like me
· E unlike me
1. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.
2. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.
3. My interests change from year to year.
4. Setbacks do not discourage me.
5. I have been obsessed with a certain idea for a short time, but later lost interest.
6. I am a hard worker.
7. I often set a goal, but later choose to pursue a different one.
8. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.
9. I finish whatever I began.
10. I have achieved a goal that took years of work.
11. I become interested in new pursuits every few months.
12. I am diligent.
Directions to determine your grit score:
For questions 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 12 assign the following points:
a = 5, b = 4, c = 3, d = 2, e = 1.
For questions 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 11 assign the following points:
a = 1, b = 2, c = 3, d = 4, e = 5.
Now, add all your points and divide by 12. The maximum score is 5 (meaning you are extremely gritty) and the lowest is 1 (you lack grit).
How much grit do you have?