Grit

We are all emotional beings. We are driven by different things in different ways. It’s not all innate - decided at birth, who will be cleverest, who will be strongest, who will win. What you do with what you are born with, both physically and between your ears is often what makes the difference. By the end of this masterclass you will understand the importance of grit over natural ability, you will be more aware of how to increase your grit and you will feel more able to achieve what you want to in life.

Grit

Welcome

If you want to achieve more in life, you’re in the right place. what we’re going to do today is explore how important grit is in what we achieve. We’re going to think about what grit is, how to be more gritty and how to get your team to be more gritty.

By the end of this masterclass you will understand the importance of grit over natural ability, you will be more aware of how to increase your grit and you will feel more able to achieve what you want to in life.

We are all emotional beings. We are driven by different things in different ways. It’s not all innate - decided at birth, who will be cleverest, who will be strongest, who will win. What you do with what you are born with, both physically and between your ears is often what makes the difference.

What Is Grit? How Does It Contribute to Excellence?

In this video we’re going to explore what grit is and the impact it can have on your performance and success. By the end of this video you will understand how much grit you have and how your grit level contributes to the achievement of excellence.

I’m going to start by talking about Ultimate Hell Week. A BBC Series where members of the public get put through SAS training - I love watching anything like this. I want you to think about how big some of these people are, how fit but as we know it’s often not the biggest or muscliest person who wins. In tests like this it’s not fitness or strength that decides the winner, it’s mental toughness.

Research by Angela Duckworth, shows that it’s not how talented you are, or how accomplished you are, or even how fit you are that ensures success in the world of high level military training but how ‘gritty’ you are.

She came up with a test that predicted with incredible accuracy the people who would succeed in training like this - unlike any of the military’s other tests, whether psychometric or physical which hadn’t been so successful at predicting who would pass. But what is Grit? Have a quick think and jot something down in your notes.

Grit is more than conscientiousness, more than desire to do well, more than resilience. Bouncing back after setbacks is part of it, working hard is part of it, but it’s about working incredibly hard on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it. Grit is better described as ‘ferocious determination’.

So if we can identify what Grit is, can we measure it? How gritty are you exactly? And does it matter outside the world of the super fit. Well, the answer is yes, it does matter, quite a lot actually. If we think of some areas of life that require grit there are surprisingly many: getting a person to like/love you, getting a job, keeping a job, getting up early to go running/swimming/gymming, delivering a project on time, success at school, hitting targets, doing things you don’t like but know are good for you, sticking to a diet.

Your ability to do all of these things is predicted by Grit, how gritty you are. Talent or potential is one thing, but it’s how gritty you are that determines how far you go. David Beckham for example had extreme determination to succeed as a professional footballer. In his autobiographies, which I have read, I’ll have you know, he wrote- “all my other friends would gather together after school and hang out, I went home and kicked free kicks.” David was willing to forego friendship (perhaps), coolness (at the time) and leisure in order to work hard towards an uncertain future.

You might think he’s a one off, but he’s not. Andy and Jamie Murray have been trained by their mum to be top tennis players since they were able to hold a racket. Venus and Serena Williams are fulfilling their father’s decision to create top women tennis players. He decided by looking, when they were just babies, at the potential earnings of all sports. He chose tennis and he determined that his girls would be world champions. It is not talent that determines your success - it’s how much work you put in.

Have a think about 5 people in your life who you think show grit. Don’t just whizz past this bit, it’s important. What is it that they do that makes you think they’re grittier than others in your life?

We live way below our potential. We settle for ‘doing okay’ when we could be ‘doing brilliantly’. William James, the philosopher, said, ‘the plain fact remains that people the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.’ Sadly, it’s very true. I completely acknowledge that this is the truth about me in some areas of my life where I do actually really want to be better, like fitness and strength.

There’s no greater insult than that we’re doing ‘fine’ is there? Adequate? That’s me. That’s not enough, is it? We want people describing our output as fantastic, impressive, inspiring. We want our family, our partners to see us as wonderful, amazing, soulmates. Not ‘fine’.

In what areas of life/work do you display grit? There will be some - give yourself credit where it’s due. Come up with at least 2. And which areas of your life could you put more work into? Personally and at work. List 2 in each area. Pause the video and have a think.

Which 1 area are you going to commit to today? Underline it now without thinking about it too much.

Okay, let’s see how likely you are to achieve that. Let’s take the Grit Test.

Grit Scale

Here are a number of statements that may or may not apply to you. There are no right or wrong answers, so just answer honestly, considering how you compare to most people. At the end, you’ll get a score that reflects how passionate and persevering you see yourself to be.

Answer each of the questions by using this scale:

New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

  1. Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily.

  2. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

  3. I am a hard worker.

  4. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

  5. I finish whatever I begin.

  6. My interests change from year to year.

  7. I am diligent. I never give up.

  8. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

  9. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

To score yourself score each odd numbered question where 5 points is for ‘not at all like me’, 4 points is for ‘not much like me’, 3 for ‘somewhat like me’, 2 for ‘mostly like me’ and 1 for ‘very much like me’. Then score yourself for the even numbered questions in the opposite direction so 1 point is for ‘not at all like me’, 2 points is for ‘not much like me’, 3 for ‘somewhat like me’, 4 for ‘mostly like me’ and 5 for ‘very much like me’

Take a minute and add up your score now. Then divide by 10. The maximum score on this scale is 5. So if you scored 3.8 or above you are grittier than average, if you scored 4.3 you’re glitter than 80% of the population, 4.7, 90% of the population, 3.3 and your grittier than 30% of the population.

How does our score make us feel? Pleased, disappointed.

But there’s more to this scale.

Look at your scores again. Grittiness can be separated into 2 components: passion and perseverance. Calculate your scores for each now by adding up your points for the odd numbered questions and your points for the even numbered questions then divide by 5. Your passion score comes from the odd numbers, your perseverance score from the even numbers.

If you scored highly on passion, you probably scored highly on perseverance too. For most people their perseverance score is usually slightly higher - so they are better at working hard and bouncing back after setbacks than they are at staying consistently focused on goals over time.

Remember the predictive ability of those with high grit scores and success in tough military training, success in a sales role, academic success. Surely we should all want to work on our grittiness. The more gritty we can make ourselves, the greater our success will be, right? Yep, but working on our grit requires grit in itself.

Abraham Lincoln, the ex-president of the US is a great example of grit. Everyone knows his success but, Lincoln had endured a significant number of setbacks, personal losses, struggles, disappointments and “failures" before he reached the pinnacle of his success in life. Here's a brief chronology:  

After 28 years of failure and defeat, Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860. 

He’s an extreme example, of course, and chosen here because of it, but many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person makes on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.

How many of us have bought all the gear for something and then 3 months later it’s gathering dust? How many home vegetable plots have been started then left to fail? How many diets have been started this month alone, that have already gone by the wayside.

Anyone heard of Ian Thorpe - Thorpedo? He won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian, and with three gold and two silver medals, was the most successful athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics. At the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, he became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championship. In total, Thorpe has won eleven World Championship golds, the third-highest number of any swimmer.

Surely a talented individual? When we ran this masterclass in person we ran a video of Ian Thorpe swimming. It wasn’t the video people expected to see. Everyone expected a video of those medal swims, the world record breaking swims. But that isn’t what led to his success. We ran a video of Thorpe doing swimming drills. Endlessly going up and down the pool, length after length after length.

In a study called The Mundanity of Excellence, Dan Chambliss wrote about competitively successful swimmers. His conclusion was that most superlative human achievements are, in fact, the sum of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary. Once theses elements are learned, or stumbled upon, they are then drilled into habit and fitted together in a synthesised whole.

There is nothing superhuman or extraordinary about any single one of those actions, just the fact that they are done consistently and correctly and that all together they produce excellence.

As Aristotle said:

We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not a skill but a habit.

Take a moment now that this video is ending to think about your life. Where could you be more gritty? How would that help you achieve your goals? Is it that you really could do an extra run a week, or a faster run each week? Or is it that you could put aside an hour each evening to read up on a skill that you need to excel in the workplace? Could you get up half an hour earlier and prepare a healthy lunch so your diet sticks? Think of each area of your life and ask yourself the questions: Where could I be more gritty? How would that help me achieve my goals?

How to Make Yourself More Gritty

Is it easy to make ourselves more gritty. No, otherwise everyone would do it. But it is easier than you think. But to be honest not many people will even be thinking about how gritty they are and the role this has in their success. Most people are not so self aware, many do not take responsibility for their own success. But that’s where you’re different, of course, and that can make all the difference. By the end of this video you will know how to make yourself more gritty and we’ll also explore what role talent has to play in success, so you’ll feel more confident in achieving your goals.

So, how can we make ourselves more gritty?

In order to improve our grit, our ferocious determination, we need to first identify what it is we are wanting to achieve. Watching the masterclass on goals will help you identify what your ultimate goals and any victory goals that act as milestones on the way to those goals are. This is your starting point. Always. You must know where you want to be in order to set off in the right direction and plan your next steps.

In the video about what grit is I asked you to list 2 areas in which you could have more grit, at home and at work. So lets take that as a starting point today. I want you to think of 2 ways in which you can make yourself more gritty in 1 of your areas.

Here we’re looking for specific actions you can take. For example, I could get up earlier and spend 15 minutes learning Spanish/reading self improvement books. A client of ours learned to speak German by doing this. He couldn’t believe the progress he made by committing to it and just doing 15 minutes a day. You could perhaps walk to work - helping the environment and your own health. You could start each working day by asking yourself, which jobs on my to do list could a member of my team do that would help with their development and my workload? Using grit to increase your performance doesn’t mean it has to be hard work, it just has to be a consistent application of a simple action, remember. And those simple actions all add up to excellence. Being an excellent leader involves delegation and development of your team, so this action would fit in here. So now think of 2 ways in which you can make yourself more gritty in 1 of your areas.

So now you have a couple of ideas about areas of your life in which you could be more gritty, we need to think ahead to what will challenge our newly gritty intentions. Part of Grit is having ‘planned resilience’. Knowing that at some point your resolve will be challenged and having a plan to deal with that so that you overcome the hurdle with the minimum of effort. So what are the challenges you are going to face in achieving more grittiness?

The first step then is to identify what the challenges are going to be? Is it just apathy, a bit of laziness, ‘it’s Friday so I won’t get up that Hal hour early and work on that project, it’s raining so I won’t go out for a run, he’s difficult to talk to so I won’t have the conversation that needs having about performance today? As always, don’t judge yourself, just get the likely challenges written down. Take a few moments right now.

Now we can address the challenges we will face in grittily achieving our goals. We know we’re going to want to fail at some point so what do we do when we are facing the decision? Address each challenge and think of way you can prevent failure at this point. For example, if your challenge might be the fact that you’ll want a sleep in on Fridays, make sure you set an auto alarm for each weekday morning so it’s not a decision you make on Thursday night when you’re tired. Make sure you tell your partner that you are going to bed at whatever time it is that you need to go to bed so that you can get 8 hours sleep before your alarm goes off. Tell your partner to nudge you awake again if they can if you don’t get up straight away with the alarm. Take responsibility for yourself and your sleep schedule. Don’t just let sleep happen to you when you’re not doing or watching anything else, make a definite decision. Getting to bed on time and giving yourself an 8 hour sleep opportunity is the best way of making sure you’re likely to get up when you should be getting up in order to maintain your grittiness. It’s how I maintain my early morning Deep Work slots. If I let myself watch another episode, which I often want to do, then I would struggle to get up in time to give myself 1.5 hours to get my quiet distraction free work done every day. That would mean that I’d fall behind in my strategic goals and that’s not something that I want to do. So right now write down what measures you need to take in order to ensure your grittiness can continue. Communicate with whom you need to communicate with, give yourself the best chance.

Chambliss says, ‘the main thing is that greatness is doable. It’s made up of many individual feats and each of them is doable.’ The difference between winners and losers - the winners do them, repeatedly, and achieve excellence. Repetitive behaviours become easier the more you do them because eventually they become habit. If you always say no to biscuits it’s a habit that is easy with time and will support healthy living goals. If you always get up at 6 then it’s easy, with time. It takes, on average, 60 days to develop a habit. Make sure you give yourself the chance to build that habit and then notice how much easier that behaviour is now than it was at the start.

But what about talent? Doesn’t that make a difference in the achievement of excellence?

Have quick think about 2 areas in which you are talented. It might be Talking to people, playing an instrument, singing, selling, organisation, sport.

But what actually is talent? Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is then what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.

Ian Thorpe the swimmer’s success has been attributed to his work ethic, mental strength, powerful kick, ability to accelerate and a physiology suited to swimming. But his return to swimming was thwarted by ill-discipline at one point. It takes more than talent to succeed. This should reassure you rather than disappoint you.

Now think about how often you do your talented areas? If it’s selling, how often do you get out practising selling, not just making a sale but selling? If it’s getting people to tell you what’s really going on in their lives, how often do you do that? Is it running? How often? Is it yoga, how often?

The thing about talent, is that it often makes it easier for us to invest the effort in doing something. We are more likely to do more of the things we’re good at which means that we get better and better at them because practise makes it even easier. We all know the phrase practice makes perfect but that isn’t actually true. What is true is that Practise makes permanent. If you practise something again and again and again you get good at doing it that way. If you practise rubbish sales techniques, you’ll find it very easy to do those sales techniques in a rubbish manner all the time. If you practise sitting quietly in meetings and not speaking out you’ll find that easier and easier as time goes on. We need to be deliberate about what we practise, knowing that we’re practising behaviours that take us towards our goals and who, or how, we want to be rather than away from it.

We’re going to get mathematical on you now in terms of talent. So here are 2 equations.

Talent x effort = skill

If you are a talented piano player you might be able to follow a tune a bit without music, or string together a tune of your own. But if you want to get really skilful you need to put the effort into that day after day after day. Then you develop skill. But skill alone is no good - what do you do with it? So here’s the second equation:

skill x effort = achievement

Talent you have naturally, but skill takes hours and hours of practise. Without effort though, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.

Angela Duckworth, who wrote a book about Grit, used to be a teacher. She taught maths and was continually distracted by ‘talented’ kids who got the concepts quickly and easily. She always used to expect them to be the highest achievers at the end of the school year and yet it wasn’t those kids that succeeded the most. It was the grafters, the ones who turned up and paid attention in every class, who didn’t look out the window, mess around. It was the honing of their lesser talent into skill by effort and then continued effort that won every time. Even in Maths where it’s supposed that talent plays a huge part.

What are our achievements though? How do we know where we’re going? This is where goals come in. And we all have them, whether or not they are written down in a Goal Book or not. They might be things like, pay off the mortgage, become fit, be able to go away for a holiday without worrying about work, being able to delegate work effectively, feeling in control of my life.

People with more grit tend to display more coherence, with their goals all leading towards some major identifiable goal. So, if your goal is to pay off your mortgage then you might find someone with grit working extra hard to hit targets some 20 years previous to the likely realisation of that goal. Their mind is on the main goal but their actions are focused on a shorter term goal, save money. Achievement can take time and effort. It should not be underestimated.

Planning is what it takes to achieve what you want in life. You need to plan out all the steps that you need to do in order to achieve your goal and if possible put dates on them. Make it public, if you can, so you have to live up to them.

What are your long term goals and how could grittiness in your life now help you towards them. Take a few minutes on your own to consider one thing you would like to achieve long term in your life. Then how would Grit help you achieve that? Crossing off days on a calendar that you achieve your goal (not drinking, exercising, not spending any money, or using ticks on a wall planner, spreadsheets, little A6 books - how can you chart your progress? As this video end, think about it, quietly, on your own for a few minutes before you get up and get on with the day’s business and just end up living today the same way you live other days. Reflection is a large part of grit and a large part of goal achievement. Reflection is key. How did I do this week towards my goals, if I failed, or underperformed, why did that happen, can I prevent that happening next week? So continue sitting still for a few minutes after this video ends and take the time necessary to consider one thing you would like to achieve long term in your life. Then how would Grit help you achieve that?

How to Increase the Grit of Your Team

How can we take this back in to our workplace and help our teams? By the end of this video you will have an action plan to increase your team’s grit and therefore their chance of achieving their goals, both at work and at home. You are one person, not two, so any work you do on increasing your grit at work will rub off in your behaviours at home too. Why is this important? You might get more buy in from your people if they know it’s going to benefit them personally as well as benefit them in the workplace, which some sceptics see as only benefiting the business owners.

So here’s what to do to get your team involved:

If you all became more gritty at work, how would things look and feel in 6 months time? Get your team involved to answer this question.

To finish I’m going to tell you a quick story about a man I know. At 16, Thornton Tasker was a window cleaner, working with his Granddad. He used to clean the windows of a beautiful house in Weeton, just outside Harrogate.

Every time he cleaned those windows he used to tell his Granddad that one day he would live in that house. He really wanted it. Thornton built his business up and up. Growing steadily into National Window Cleaning Ltd, which now cleans the windows of businesses like Morrisons, etc. A few years ago that house came up for sale. Thornton bought it. It wasn’t luck that enabled him to buy that house, or talent for cleaning windows, it was a ferocious determination that one day that house would be his - it was having grit through all those years and wanting it so badly he was determined to stay loyal to that goal through thick and thin. He had to take out a big mortgage, but he was determined it would be his. Thornton’s story hasn’t all been up and up. As recently as 10 years ago he was back with nothing after a business went wrong, and it had happened before too. But he was determined to own that house, and once he did he was determined to keep it. Ferociously determined. He is a real person, in this locality, the father of a friend of my daughter’s, who has used his Grit to get him where he wants to be in the world. In a word he had grit.

If he can do it, you can too. You just need to decide to. One day or Day One: You Decide.

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