The Journey, Part II: Grit

Written by Jeff Thuringer

Next on the list of our core values to discuss is “grit.” When we talk about grit we aren’t talking about a southern breakfast dish or abrasive particles. We are talking about firmness of character and an abominable —strike that, wrong word— an indomitable spirit. It’s an approach to life. A focused, concentrated and determined approach that doesn’t have room for getting discouraged.

Have you ever had a setback? Have you ever failed at something? How did you respond? The approach to those questions starts to form our view of grit. Grit is the understanding that we learn and can recover from failure — that failures and setbacks are a temporary, NOT PERMANENT, state. A person with “grit” is determined to keep working, trying and adapting within their passion until they find success in their terms. Gritty folks redefine setback. Edison’s quote in reference to the light bulb fits perfectly, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Note: Edison’s redefinition of what failure is moves from something negative to something positive… That’s pretty enLIGHTening. Corny, I know.

Gritty people are determined and willing to learn and adapt. That determination is best exemplified in the effort they put into achieving their goals. Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit, created this formula:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

What do you notice about the formulas and how they are linked? How much does talent and effort account for in achieving? When we combine both we are left with:

Skill x Effort^2 = Achievement (achieving potential)

Effort has an exponential impact on what we achieve! It is not one-day of effort, a week or a month. It is sustained effort over a long period of time to improve skill and to achieve a goal. Math wonks will note that the rate of change and improvement is equal to effort. So not only does effort regulate how much we can achieve, but it also regulates how fast we improve.

Gritty people are willing to commit to this effort, but it is not any effort, or any type of practice, as Duckworth describes. It is deliberate practice. So what is deliberate practice? Duckworth suggests it is practice that “requires working where challenge exceeds skill.” Think about the earlier formula. Deliberate practice requires us to expend our maximum physical and mental effort to accomplish a defined goal for that day/practice. It requires us to push beyond our comfort levels. Deliberate practice is tiring. While it might not be a pure joy, gritty folks find it rewarding because of the achievement from learning a new or developing an existing skill. But, deliberate practice also requires quality drills and constant feedback to accelerate achievement. Bad or uninformed practice can form bad habits and can inhibit the development of skill and achievement. Starters exists to provide those quality drills and feedback so achievement is accelerated!

There is one other thing that we strive for at Starters; we encourage and work to develop grit. We believe in the possibility of growth through hard work and effort. Instead of allowing athletes to say "I didn’t" or "I failed", we ask "What did you learn" and "What could you do different"? Instead of allowing athletes to say “I can’t do this”, we teach athletes to say, “I just haven’t done it YET. What do I need to change or improve to do it?”

Grit is a goal-orientated, resilient, indomitable, tenacious approach to achieving one’s potential in a given area. Grit can be taught and encouraged. It shows through in grinding effort everyday. Not only in the “fun” activities, but in the discipline to do, what might be, the-not- so-fun drills and workouts.

I grind. I am a Starter.