Meaning of Grit

We all think that we understand what grit means: it is perseverance. However, there are aspects of grit we do not fully understand. At least I did not until I came across a key message in Angela Duckworth’s book Grit. Here is what she says.

Sometimes, when I talk to anxious parents, I get the impression they’ve misunderstood what I mean by grit. I tell them that half of grit is perseverance — in response, I get appreciative head nods — but I also tell them that nobody works doggedly on something they don’t find intrinsically interesting. Here, heads often stop nodding and, instead, cock to the side.

“Just because you love something doesn’t mean you’ll be great,” says self-proclaimed Tiger Mom Amy Chua. “Not if you don’t work. Most people stink at the things they love.” I couldn’t agree more. Even in the development of your interests, there is work — practising, studying, learning — to be done. Still, my point is that most people stink even more at what they don’t love.

So parents, parents-to-be, and non-parents of all ages, I have a message for you: Before hard work comes play. Before those who’ve yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest. Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice. But at this earliest stage, novices aren’t obsessed with getting better. They’re not thinking years and years into the future. They don’t know what their top-level, life-orienting goal will be. More than anything else, they’re having fun.

In other words, even the most accomplished of experts start out as unserious beginners.

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