Grit offers us the staying power to succeed, not just in our jobs but in anything we pursue.
How do you define outstanding achievement? Is it natural talent that helps us achieve, or is it tremendously hard work and practicing our talent day in and day out?
I am in awe of outstanding achievers but have always wondered how they got to that achievement level. How does someone become a National Spelling Bee winner, spelling words I have never heard? How does someone go through years of rigorous training to become an Olympian—training that I could not endure for more than a day? Or how does an association executive find success and stay in the same position for 10, 20, or even 30 years?
As a newer AE, I am hungry to discover the secret to success or—as Angela Duckworth calls it—Grit. Fascinated by what makes someone a high achiever, Duckworth has spent her professional research career discovering how these high achievers become successful. Her research led her to develop the Grit Scale, described as more effective at predicting job retention than any other commonly measured personality trait, including extroversion and emotional stability.
Where you fall on the Grit Scale depends on your unique combination of passion and perseverance. Curious, I followed the instructions and did not overthink my answers to the questions in the version of the Grit Scale offered in the book. I was not too surprised to discover that I scored 4.3 on the 5-point scale, which means I am grittier than 80% of Americans. While I’ve always known I am a self-starter, I am by no means a prodigy in any one subject. The good news is that the book goes on to clarify how you can grow grittier by developing four psychological assets: interest, practice, purpose, and hope.
How does an association executive find success and stay in the same position for 10, 20, or even 30 years?
Interest is developed by exploring what you are curious about and then continually following up on that curiosity. Encouragement from those around you can help you discover your interest. Then, to further that interest, you need to deliberately practice by making it a habit. Establishing daily rituals can help create the habit of practice. Purpose is defined by Duckworth as “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.” For example, knowing that we are making positive contributions to society is an important component of grit. In the case of AEs, do we see our occupation as a career or as a means of making property ownership possible for all? Finally, we also need the kind of hope that helps us get up after mistakes. It’s an optimism that perseveres over adversity.
One of the most interesting parts of the book discusses the culture of grit. For most of us, culture is a powerful identity shaper. The culture that surrounds us often influences our human experience. Duckworth suggests that to be grittier, we should find and join a gritty culture. If you are a leader who wants your organization to be grittier, it’s up to you to create that gritty culture.
To discover more about these secrets to success and work on your own special blend of passion and perseverance, read Grit. It would also be a great book for parents to help encourage their children on a healthy path to becoming a high achiever.