Keeping the end in mind


True Grit

True Grit

Grit is a measure of long-term stick-to-it-iveness. A person with a high Grit score is more likely to make it through West Point or win the National Spelling Bee. Wikipedia says:

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. Commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include “perseverance,”“hardiness,”resilience,” “ambition,” “need for achievement” and conscientiousness.

While Grit is related to conscientiousness measures, it also differs from conscientiousness in important ways. For example, while both Grit and conscientiousness are often associated with short term accomplishments, Grit is also associated with longer term and multi-year goals. This long-term persistence and dependability are important aspects that make Grit distinct from conscientiousness. Another personality characteristic that is often linked to Grit is the need for achievement. One way in which Grit differs from the need for achievement is that individuals with high scores in Grit often set extremely long-term goals for themselves and pursue them deliberately even without positive feedback, while need for achievement lacks this long-term component.

grit3My scores on tests are usually extreme. Hence, I’m not just curious; I’m in the top 1% of curious people. The more extreme a score, the more likely I am to believe it.

I calculated my Grit score while reading Seligman’s Flourish. My score of 2.28 was extreme, but extreme in the wrong direction. I scored in the lower 2% to 3%. This pegs me as incapable of sticking with anything. Will I finish this blog post?

My low score made me less confident. I thought about all the projects I had not completed. I reflected on sales I had lost. “It’s ADD at work,” I rationalized.

The score took on more importance because it was negative. A negative criticism packs five times the power of a positive stroke. If your boss tells you your daily performance has been great, great, great, and lousy, all you remember is lousy. As much as I try banishing negative thoughts from my mind, I lamented my lack of drive. Little wonder I was not performing to my potential.

When I asked my friend Kim over lunch, she told me “The Grit scale alone, or any other timely model, scientifically validated or not, remains undervalued if not made accessible via well articulated practices and ‘labs’ in which to actually practice them.

I went back to Flourish and retook the test. I discovered a mistake I’d made in scoring the first time. My score wasn’t 2.25; it was 5.0. I am now in the top 10%. Determination, persistance, resilience, and perseverance are my hallmarks.

How many of us are held back by mistaken interpretations or invalid tests? As an undergrad, I receive a “C” in only one course, Social Psychology. In retrospect, I think what lowered my grade was a stunt I pulled behind the two-way mirror in the lab, not my academic prowess. None the less, for decades I thought I was handicapped in assessing group behavior.

In your career, how many “post tests” have you administered? How many might have send the wrong message?

uhaedYou animal!

John Taylor Gatto begins The Underground History of American Education with the story of Bianca, who blurts something out during her first assembly.

Six-year-old Bianca … came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in front of an assembly, “BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!” Like the wail of a banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.

But I get this precognition, this flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane, having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.

I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who didn’t go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering, “Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal,” while Bianca, only seconds earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.

In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling who now regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:

  • Gives Jane’s car a ticket before the meter runs out.
  • Throws away Jane’s passport application after Jane leaves the office.
  • Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates Bianca’s apartment from Jane’s while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for relief.
  • All the above.

…translated into a recommendation, that means that to avoid the revenge of Bianca, we must be prepared to insult systems for the convenience of humanity, not the other way around.

Imagine Bianca’s reaction to her grades!

Be aware of misrepresentative tests.

Remember the impact of negative news.

Illigitimi non carborundum.





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