Angela studies people like those listed above... but maybe a bit more—normal. No one is normal. Okay, “every-day” people, but people who have one very similar trait in common with the famously exceptional human beings listed above.
Angela used to teach mathematics to 7th graders. She truly believed every one of her students could pass her class if they worked hard enough to understand the material. However, not every student applied himself or herself and therefore some students didn’t pass her class. This was not surprising. What was surprising was that consistently, year after year, the top performing students in her class weren't necessarily "the smartest".
This inspired Angela to quit her job and go back to school for psychology. Now she studies Grit.
What is Grit?
“Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t.
Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.
Instead, grit is about having what some researchers call an ”ultimate concern”– a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.
Talent and luck matter to success. But talent and luck are no guarantee of grit. And in the very long run, I think grit may matter as least as much, if not more.”
Which teachers working in really tough, low socioeconomic schools would make it through the year?
Which sales employees at private companies would perform the best?
Which cadets at West Point Military would make it to the next year?
Which contestants at national spelling bees would prove to be the most successful?
In every situation, Angela and her team of researchers would ask the same question, "Who is most likely to succeed and why?"
Across the board, taking into account general influencing, relative factors, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success: Grit.
"Grit is the quality that allows an individual to work hard and maintain focus – not just for weeks or months, but for years." - Angela Duckworth
So it goes back to the age-old concept, "You can accomplish anything you put your mind to." Talent and luck do play a part—but not necessarily the most influencing part. You don’t have to be the best or the smartest—you just have to be the most determined.
Why? Because I am a writer. And like most writers (and artists in general), I am pushed to the brink of insanity to create something I love, all the while grappling with my own wild insecurity about my work.
When writing my first book I would read about people with "Grit" before I knew what "Grit" was. Before the famous TED talk (above) and Angela’s studies hit the internet. I read about as many people as I could because I needed, more than anything, PERMISSION to pursue this dream despite the jilting anxiety shaking me deep in my bones, always rattling off a list of reasons why I was wasting my time.
I didn’t have any education in writing or know the right people. I didn't use an impressively extensive vocabulary. I was in the “wrong” vocation. I was terrible at spelling. Hell, I didn’t even know where to place a semicolon. I felt like a fraud. But my passion for writing outweighed my insecurity. And so I vowed to keep going.
What I lacked in education, I made up for in stubborn tenacity. I figured it out. I'm still figuring it out. Slowly but surely, I've learned through each and every early morning writing session, staring at my computer until my eyes glaze over, that eventually I'll make it through to the other side.
So how do you go from an unsure beginner to an "achiever of this great thing?"
Have a messy, stumbling, stubborn resolve to fight your way through. Look like a fool. Stand alone.
But at the end of the day, stand proud.
I want to write. All the time. I want to create beautiful books - even if they are only beautiful to me. I want to write stories that play like movies when I close my eyes at night. And I want to share those stories with the world. My brain of course doubts me (it probably always will), but my heart keeps pushing me forward.
I’m a dental hygienist. That’s what pays the bills. I have a two-hour round-trip commute, meaning I’m gone 12 hours a day. So if I want to write, I have to get up in the early hours of the morning to do so.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I have a dream of writing a trilogy. It’s fiction and it’s wild and I believe it to be a beautiful story.
Am I good enough? (That’s always the big question, isn’t it?) Will anything become of it? I’m putting in a lot of work for something that may never “pay off”. But at the end of the day—it doesn't matter. I'm going to follow my dream and I'm going to put myself out there. Because at the end of it all, when I'm wrinkled and elderly, I want to hold my head up high and say I worked hard and I didn't give up. And if anyone can be proud of me, it will be me.
Tenacity. This is the marker, guys. It’s smothered all over any great story of any inspirational human you’ll come across. They all failed. They all worked hard. And the biggest lesson of all – they didn’t give up.
Hold tightly to your dream and fight for it with feverish tenacity.
So that’s me. At the end of my life, when someone asks me how I spent my days, I will hold my head high and say,
I was a writer.
I created beautiful books.
I wrote stories that still play like movies when I close my eyes at night.
What is your dream?
Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!