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Angela Duckworth on How to Develop Grit

Stashed in: Luck!, Practice, Awesome, 10,000 Hours, Will Smith, life, Willpower!, Life Hacks, Grit, Success, Success, Farnam Street, @emilialahti

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One thing that comes up again and again when we talk about how to develop mastery is deliberate practice. You can’t just repeat the same task over and over, you need to break it down and work on the individual parts. You need to work on the hard stuff.

The other thing about reading people as they do deliberate practice, try to get better, get feedback, work on specifics, and work on their weaknesses, is that they actually conceive of themselves as the sort of person who is loyal to their interests and steadfast about their goals, a harder worker.

Have you ever listened to Will Smith? He says, “Nobody will outwork me. If you and I are getting on a treadmill together, two things, either you’re getting off first, or I’m going die.” It’s really that simple.

Keep in mind, that a relentless focus on our goals can make us blind to danger. Too much grit can be a bad thing.

I don't understand why grint is associated with competition here.

Can't anglo-saxon culture envisage being successful without competition, without trying to show off one is better than an other?

(I'm voluntarily exaggerating, but the question is asked)

Competition is not a motivator for everyone, but it is the only motivator for some people.

For example, many venture capitalists are motivated by something we call FOMO -- Fear Of Missing Out. Which is to say, one of their peers gets into a hot deal that they themselves cannot get into.

On my opinion, these are victims of their educational system.

You're very right -- that's why our challenges in America are deep rooted.

Without teaching people to be motivated by things besides competition, and by emphasizing things like athletics and American Idol where people fight each other to win, we've done our culture a disservice.

It does seem to be anglosaxon as much as gender based.  There are auite a few studies that show, for whatever reason (nature/nurture) that men both like and outperform women in competitive environments,  interestingly, there are also studies showing competitive environments underperform vs cooperative environments ... Suggesting to me that while men may enjoy competition in the workplace, it's probably better on many levels to encourage a cooperative workspace.  On ipad or I'd dig out more studies...  Been looking at this for awhile. 

So I think the notion that cooperation and competition are at odds is mistaken. They quite often feed off each other. In team sports a team competes against another team, but there is cooperation between team members. The same is true for other kinds of organized behavior. I also think it is a profound error to make any identification of one as more of a male tendency and the other as more of a female tendency. There may be general trends in male and female styles of cooperation and competition, but assigning the behaviors a gender bias strikes me as something politically motivated. While I'd agree that men seem more favorably disposed to participating in competitions with clear rules and easily identified win/lose metrics, I'd also have to point out that a great amount of competition (perhaps the majority) doesn't have clear rules. For example, if you think about it, you can compete with others based on how much you cooperate. 

In my opinion the primary problem in the US isn't competition, it's greed. Competition founded on honor can be intense, but it strives to be fair. Competition founded on greed, however, can never be satiated. No matter how often you win, no matter how much you have, it is never enough. Moreover, any means justifies your acquisitive ends.

As for grit, I don’t think it is simply something you have or you don’t. I suspect gritty behavior is contextually specific. People who have it in one context, may not have it at all in another. Grit strikes me as a mix of desire, hope, and a learned ability to be successful at something an individual considers most important. To be successful at one activity may require an incredible level of selfish behavior. You have to be gritty in maintaining your selfishness, but that very same grit may utterly sabotage any chance of your having success in a situation calling for selflessness. 

I also think the basis of what constitutes success needs to be questioned more closely. In our present moment it seems based on an individual's measures of wealth, power and ability at domain specific skills. Success is an individual who maximizes their standing in one or more of these areas irrespective of how they behave. But focusing on those measures seems to cause people to ignore the most important drivers of individual success. After all, individual success is never an individual effort. At the very least, the contribution of mentors, public education, organized society, culture, technology and luck are at least as important as individual effort. If anything, monomaniacal devotion to the worship of individual success has led to the vast concentration of wealth in very few hands. When wealth is that concentrated it seems only those who are both incredibly selfish and incredibly lucky can be successful. The only grit that gets recognized under those conditions is that of the lucky, selfish few.

Can grit be learned in a new context?

I don't see why not. But to do it purposly would require something akin to building willpower. Otherwise it would require a lot of luck. Example: the mild mannered <insert cliche character> faces an emergency and struggles, but with luck survives then thrives. It's the foundation of many heroic stories and movies. The key is that they luckily survive initially, and then learn to survive in the new environment. It's similar to what happens in war. If a soldier survives his first few combat situations his statistical chance of survival increases dramatically. Parsing out exactly what is luck and what is innate character is an artificial habit of the human attempt to rationalize. Most soldiers who have experienced a lot of combat consider themselves very lucky to have survived (in fact some of them so much so it causes a lot of guilt), although they also recognize they have a significantly better level of fighting skill than someone who has not been in combat.

What irritates me about the cult of individual achievement is how little those who worship it recognize the luck of circumstances. That said, I also get irritated with politically left-leaning types who promote an extensive nanny state, because the best way to improve someone's situation is to do it in a way that they learn to help themselves. The old "teach a man to fish". You can't just give people everything for free and expect it to work out well.

Seems like every survivor has at least some luck. 

Building grit is like building character: It develops when things aren't working well. 

Definitely food for thought. I'm still thinking grit can be learned.

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