“Grit” has become a surprising buzzword in the last few years, repurposing the word’s linguistic power with more creative purpose than even John Wayne could have inspired. We’ve written before about MacArthur Genius Angela Duckworth’s TED talk and the conversations that have resulted from her book of that title. The word itself is evocative and satisfying, starting with a growl and ending in plosive certainty. But the real surprise is in how durable and “sticky” this conversation has been, parlaying Duckworth’s solid research beyond the meme and into genuine zeitgeist, crossing cultural boundaries and working its way into everything from serious academic discussion to mom culture to reality TV to, on several occasions, Trumpian rhetoric. (We certainly won’t hold her responsible for that, of course.)
What we know is that “grit”, in the singular, non-culinary usage (apologies to the South), is absolutely essential to making it in the arts. Without this sort of deep-seated determination, it is nearly impossible to develop the resilience and adaptability that maintain an ever-evolving career. Creativity means trying, failing, and trying again, or else its spark is lost in infancy. Popular quotes are full of trial-and-error cheerleading, e.g. “fail better” and “hang in there, baby”, and it’s all rooted in the same truth. And if you can take your little bit of born-to-you grit and develop it into something even more powerful, there is no telling what you might achieve.
So where are you on the Grit Scale?
Duckworth’s website offers a quick way to assess yourself, and if you’re really honest as you choose your answers, you may be surprised at the results. Give it a try:
- You can start with Duckworth’s book, of course (pictured), or
- You might turn to a Navy SEAL for advice.
- Be sure to look at what you’re trying to do, and make sure it’s driven by real passion — that’s a key element to finding the determination that gets the job done.
- Your intellectual self may want an article outlining research-backed options.
- It may also be a matter of habit: deliberate practice only goes so far, and building a habit of resilience can speed up the process.
Get out there. Fall down — a lot. Get up — more. You can do it.