I still remember the first time I heard the expression, “You either make dust or eat it.” I was at a corporate retreat and the presenter was trying to “motivate” us.

On the screen (it was pre-PowerPoint) was a slide of seven cowboys galloping across a field. A huge cloud of dust was billowing up behind them.

The next slide was of the poor sap who was trailing behind them.  He was barely visible as he emerged, stumbling over the rocks in the field, trying to cut his own path.  He was waving his hat in front of his face, wafting away the dust. His face was streaked with dirt and tears were streaming down his face. He was coughing his guts out.

The next slide said, “Who do you want to be?”

I wanted to be the lead cowboy, of course. Wouldn’t you?

(This is the fourth in a series of posts on deliberate practice.  Click here, here, and here  to read parts 1, 2 and 3.)

But becoming the lead cowboy doesn’t happen overnight.  In fact, you’ll probably fall off the horse a number of times.  But those who are able to dust their butts off and get back on the horse are the ones more likely to achieve what they want in life.

They have grit, according to Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. (You can view her 18-minute Ted Talk below or click here if you are receiving this via email.

Grit is not about intelligence, talent, or self-discipline, although they are certainly important.

Grit is about having a high degree of sustained passion, so you don’t get distracted by new projects. andextreme perseverance, so you don’t let inevitable setbacks discourage you, helping you to finish what you start.

Gritty people are tenacious—they don’t mind being uncomfortable when the work gets hard–they relish it.

They get up each morning, isolate their weaknesses, figure out what they don’t know and work almost exclusively on those. They don’t worry about the easy stuff–the stuff they already know. They get to work and then do it again and again and again until it’s done.

“There is really no domain of expertise that has been studied where the world-class performers have put in fewer than 10 years of consistent, deliberate practice.”~Dr. Angela Duckworth

It’s been years since I saw that presentation.

In light of Dr. Duckworth’s research, maybe I should have wanted to be the “sap,” the one trailing a bit behind, pushing himself to go farther, despite the dust and discomfort. The one who, perhaps, realized the easy path isn’t always the best one.

The one who puts in the deliberate practice (10 years, 10,000 hours) needed to become world-class in life and in love.

“Men do not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think {this} is an eminently important difference.” ~Charles Darwin

What do you think?