Get Grit

January 17, 2013

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. and extreme 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?


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In praise of perseverance

January 7, 2013

It’s been about a week now, so how are your resolutions going? Have you started each day focused on the “prize” I talked about in my last post, regardless of what happened the day before?

Did you stop and take the time to clearly define what you wanted?

Setting goals is fairly easy, but doing the daily stuff you need to do to achieve them can be difficult.

Perseverance is critical if you are serious about succeeding.

As my mother told me many times over the years, perseverance is my middle name. I think she really meant stubbornness, but that’s other story…

Let me tell you a story about me from years ago that illustrates this point. Picture this:

I am in fifth grade and pierced ears are all the rage–I’m 56 years old, so I imagine it’s something like wanting a tattoo today–and I am desperate to have them.

Of course, my parents said, “If God had wanted you to have holes in your head you would have been born that way.”

But here’s the thing.

I knew in my heart, as only a 5th grader can know, that I needed those pierced ears. I could picture all the different kinds of earrings I would wear, the sounds the dangly ones would make, and the way they’d make me feel.

And so, I didn’t take no for an answer.

Instead, I devised a detailed plan to make my parent’s capitulate.

This was the plan:  I would ask my parents for pierced ears every day, a minimum of 3 times a day, for as long as it took. I would vary the times I asked and the ways I asked, so they never saw it coming.

It took the better part of a year, but they finally relented.

Yes, I know–it must have been a challenge, to say the least, to have me as a child. But that’s beside the point at the moment.

When I was in the sixth grade I got my ears pierced the day after Christmas.


It tastes as sweet today as it did all those years ago.

I think it’s because my success was the direct result of my efforts.  I learned to persevere in pursuit of what I really wanted.

My sister, who was 2 years older than me, had her ears pierced then, too.  To this day I remind her that I did all the hard work and she reaped the rewards.

But that’s another story…

The important point here is that knowing what you want and putting a plan in place to get it is not enough.

You have to work the plan.

And keep your eye on the prize.

I hope you’ll share your experiences with perseverance in the comments section.


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New Years Resolutions: How to increase your chance of success through Conscious Choice and Deliberate Practice

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July 14, 2012

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I’ve been debating for the better part of a week about whether to wade into waters stirred up by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent Atlantic Monthly article, titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” For those of you who been busy with your own lives and missed it,  you can click here to read it. As someone who enjoyed […]

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The dream of a different life sometimes starts out like this picture–a kernel of an idea, but hazy and lacking definition. You’re intrigued by the notion of a better life, though you ‘re not quite sure what that means and if you actually want it. Maybe you start by trying to define what this new […]

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 You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair…Chinese proverb I love old Chinese proverbs, don’t you? They just get right to the heart of the issue. You can’t control everything in your life, much as you might want to. Sh**t […]

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