On Grit

Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance was a book I read for myself. I was hoping to learn how to be resilient and mentally tough. I wanted to know how to stick to goals and keep pursuing what I wanted, even in the face of adversity. 2017 was a year where there were good reasons to struggle, but I don’t know if 2018 is going to be that much better. So I wanted to learn how to persevere.

I didn’t pick it up thinking I’d learn anything about KRH, when in fact I think I walked away with more to think about for him than for myself. If you haven’t heard Duckworth’s TED talk, I recommend watching it, which I’ve helpful included below.

Let me say, first of all, that as a writer perseverance has been my ideal goal for a couple of years now. I did a lot of writing in my late teens and early twenties, but in a scattered sort of way. I’d work hard for a few days, then get lost in video games or other things. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized the only way I was going to achieve my goals of publication and success was to regularly put my nose to the grindstone. I set a target of 10,000 hours of practice, not because I thought I needed that to succeed, but as a way to track my progress. So I’ve been pursuing perseverance as a writer for some time now.

So I was a little surprised that Grit was in large part about the value of perseverance, rather than skills about how to obtain it. A good part of the book is about finding the thing you’re passionate about, something I’d already done, and citing examples of people who’d done this, and then persevered in their pursuit of their goals until they reached success. It’s not as simple as that, and Duckworth goes into the evidence in favour of not just practice, but of improvement.

What I think this was perhaps most useful about is thinking about how I’m going to help KRH find his passion and develop grit. I knew, from my early teens, that I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until far later that I was able to develop some perseverance in the pursuit of it (and I’m not where I want to be yet, as the last year just proved). But I would not have described myself as a passionate or motivated teenager, to what I’m sure what the frustration of my parents. I know now, of course, that whatever intelligence or talent I may possess isn’t going to get me anywhere, but I spent a fair part of my youth thinking so, or just not thinking about it. So I appreciated Duckworth’s ideas about how to find passion by trying many things, about knowing when to quit, and about the value of working on hard things.

Until recently, CRH and myself had disagreed a little about KRH. CRH wanted to support the development of his passions, to encourage him to explore interests and extra-curricular activities. I was prepared to let him be a little more lax in the development of his interests, because I figured that his passion and motivations would come in time, like mine did. I wanted to support him this, but not push him to find those interests.

Now, I’ve started to think CRH might be right. I think the way might be to encourage and support KRH in finding his passion, but to also have high expectations of him in pursuing those things. I think that maybe I could have benefited from that myself. I’d be a lot further in pursuing my goals if I’d started working consistently five years earlier. In fact, I wish I had, when I consider that I spent a good deal of that time doing things that didn’t really end up developing my interests or myself. There could still have been plenty of time for World of Warcraft and games and watching anime and spending time with friends, the things I mostly did with those years, but I could be a lot closer to where I want to be.

In the end, time that’s passed has already passed. Now, I look to the present and the future. Grit was an excellent read as a parent, and I’m glad I read it.

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