Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Lee Duckworth was the person who came up with the term Grit after teaching seventh grade math. Her experience was that the students who could grasp the material were the ones who worked hard at understanding the material. IQ, family history, and many other factors did not have nearly as much effect as the passion of the student to understand the material and the perseverance to truly understand what was being taught. Angela Duckworth gave a TED talk that gives a background of how she developed her passion for understanding Grit. As is seen at the end of the following video, understanding Grit and how people develop Grit is only just beginning.

At Colorado Early Colleges in Fort Collins, Michael Brown gives presentations on Grit for this school year. It was when I heard an interview of Angela Duckworth that I developed a better understanding of what Grit meant. The segment of that presentation was her description of the basic training at the Naval Academy for first year cadets.The training for the first year at the Academy is tough. Those that are passionate about their own success (and helping others), and are willing to persevere through the many challenges, are the ones who are the most likely to achieve success at the Academy. The natural talent of a cadet is not as strong of indicator of success as the effort the cadet puts into achieving success. In fact, Angela came up with a formula for achievement:

  • Talent x Effort = Skill
  • Skill x Effort = Achievement

Notice that effort is used twice in the formulas where talent is only used once, and that is at the very beginning of the Achievement process. Our effort is twice as important as our native talents. There are four things we need to do every day to develop our Grit and they are:

  1. Develop a Fascination for what we are learning. Strive to learn more than what the instructor is presenting. My Middle School class showed this when I gave them a simple assignment toward the end of our HTML/CSS/JavaScript module. They went far beyond the assignment and learned how to embed far more into their website than just a simple video.
  2. Daily Improvement gets you where you want to be. How are you going to make yourself better today than you were yesterday?
  3. Greater Purpose is a stronger internal driver for us that our desire for pleasure. When we understand WHY we need to learn a new topic or achieve a desired goal, we can achieve great things. The classic example is of a mother lifting a car off a trapped child when there is no way she could do that without knowing the greater good of saving her child. Another example is of a bricklayer who was building a church. Which is a higher purpose, just laying the bricks or building a lasting monument to God? Which would cause the bricklayer to do the best job possible.
  4. Growth Mindset is essential to reaching the best possible outcome. I love to learn new material. This keeps me young at heart. No one on earth knows everything, even though there were proposals in 1900 to shut down the U>S. Patent Office because everything that will be invented has been invented. Think about all the discoveries since 1900, and compare that to your knowledge. Each of us has the knowledge relative to the people of 1900 America compared to the knowledge and skills we can learn. What is holding us back, how can we eliminate those obstacles and become capable of achieving great outcomes in our lives. My biggest obstacle is my own limitations I place on myself. What are yours? How do you plan to overcome those?

A good description of some of Angela Duckworth’s ideas is explained in the following video:

There was a study done a long time ago about who made the best baseball coaches. Surprisingly, at least at the time, was that the best coaches were the ones who did not have the super talent, they were the ones who had to persevere to achieve any success in professional baseball. They were the ones who had to learn how to become the best player they could be, then were able to share what they learned and how they learned it with other players. As a side note, the greatest learning occurs when you share what you have learned with others. Having to explain what needs to be done to achieve success reinforces what you have learned.

I am from Indiana. I love basketball. I know that is redundant, but it does show one of my passions. I tried out for my high school basketball team, but was not able to make it my freshman year. I worked hard the following year to improve my game. My sophomore year I was one of the last people to be cut. I had improved my game. I then started playing in a church league because I really enjoyed playing. When I taught high school on Guam, I went to play basketball every morning at the high school. The head basketball coach of the Warriors (one of the two teams the high school had) noticed me and asked if I would like to be an assistant coach and coach the JV team. I jumped at the opportunity. The second year I coached, we only lost one game and tied for the league championship. To this day, I know exactly what I needed to do to improve my coaching based on that one loss. We did not lose another game for the rest of the season. In fact there were no really close games after that one loss. But I probably learned more from that one game than any other game. Losses are just learning opportunities. They may hurt when they happen, but we must not give up because of one failure. I know I need to learn from failure and improve. There are enough mistakes to be made, there is no excuse to repeat any one mistake too many times. Learn and grow, never be afraid of pushing the boundaries of comfort in your life.

Grit can be developed. It is not easy, but it can be done. Start with one small idea of how you can improve yourself in one area. Then do it. Be better today than you were yesterday. Help someone else learn what you just learned. Understand the higher purpose in what you are doing today. Then learn and do. As someone I greatly admire once said: Do It! Do It Right! Do It Right Now!

Assignment for My Middle School Class

The assignments are:

  1. Daily: On the top of your assignment, answer the question How am I better today with computers than I was yesterday?
  2. Weekly: On the last day of class each week, answer the following four questions:
    1. How have I improved my understanding of this subject this week?
    2. What have I learned from my Daily Improvements?
    3. What Greater Purpose does what I learned this week have in my life?
    4. How have I grown this week, especially my Mindset?
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10 Responses to Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

  1. Pingback: Choosing a Career | Cook Health Alliance

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  3. Lacey says:

    Such an inspiration! Great blog!

  4. Marin S. says:

    Thanks for being a great teacher and not getting angry like most teachers 🙂

  5. Christina R. says:

    hi you do a great job teaching from c.r

  6. Jeanne says:

    Thanks so much! Maybe we will wait a bit.Aloha

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