As I watched my dad heroically fight cancer the last 10 years of his life, I marveled at his high spirits and gusto for life. His body slowly failed, but his spirit hung amazingly tough. Not one for introspection, when I asked how he did it, he’d just say, “Sugar, old age isn’t for sissies.”
My dad had grit. Grit for building his electrical contracting business. Grit for enjoying what time he had left.
Angela Duckworth has written a book about what my dad had. The book’s called:
What is grit?
Grit is passion plus persistence. Duckworth defines passion as “direction.” With direction, we know where we’re headed. She defines perseverance as “diligence.” Perseverance is our diligence to hang tough with our goal. If we’re knocked down seven times, we get up eight.
Grit = Passion + Persistence”
Whether we’re going for that third act win or fighting through a medical diagnosis (not specifically mentioned in the book), our tolerance for adversity and the probability of meeting our goals increases with grit.
My friend Dee, 68, has grit. She’s peeling off chin-ups every single day. She’s improving her wind surfing skills for her annual wind surfing pilgrimage to the Caribbean. (She’s getting scary strong.)
Jim Alves exhibited grit when he reinvented himself from environmental lawyer to mental health counselor. He was willing to be the old guy on a college campus, endure the scrutiny of being different, and triumph over unspoken stereotypes.
Duckworth, a graduate of Harvard and Penn, pulls out all the scientific stops when she writes about grit. From U.S. Army Special Ops or national spelling bee champs, she writes about how grit is a clear distinguisher of success. We’re regaled with grit-tales ranging from the NFL to Chicago Public Schools.
Raw talent, intelligence, and physical prowess can help, but at the end of the day, it boils down to grit, she says.
The good news is we can grow grit.”
The good news for we Boomers is we can grow grit. Indeed, grasshopper. We can apparently get grittier. Who knew?
Grow your grit
We can increase our grit by:
- Cultivating our interests;
- Practicing daily the skills that help us advance our interests;
- Connecting our work to the benefit of others; and
- Learning to hope when all seems lost.
What does all that have to do with grit? She tells you with a series of questions and exercises you do to increase your grit and accomplish your goals.
Boomer, if we’re not going to be pummeled by the ravages of old age and society’s attitudes toward aging, we could all afford to get grittier. Duckworth’s book is designed to spread the good news that we can do it.
A psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, her writing tends to be scholarly in tone, but there’s a lot here you can use—in my opinion. Your mileage may vary (YMMV).
Pick up a copy at the library or have a look at the reviews before buying it here.
P.S. Those of you interested in applying grit to education may find her Ted Talk interesting.