This is part one of our Leadership for Lawyers series.
Talent. Education. Communication skills. They got nothing on grit.
Grit is perseverance and the ability to see something through in spite of obstacles.
It just so happens to be the number one predictor of success, ahead of talent, according to research out of the University of Pennsylvania.
In terms of personality traits, grit is the new black.
When you have nothing else, you still have grit. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the millennial generation, and their (at least stereotyped) inability to handle setbacks. Perhaps it’s because we as humans seem to be going through a global rough patch. But everywhere I turn I am coming across grit and its glorious merits.
Recently I gave a talk at MILOfest on motivation and leadership (MILOfest, for the uninitiated, is a sort of TED-talk for lawyers conference that is really supposed to focus on the Macintosh community). In my research for the talk I came across the work of Angela Duckworth and her work on success and grit.
I fell instantly in love. But before I go further, please enjoy the slide deck from my talk,”The Science of Motivating People – Leadership in the 21st Century.”
I’m a big believer in resilience. From my vantage point, aside from honesty and decency, bouncing back from a setback is the number one thing I try to instill in my kids. And letting kids fail is under attack. So when they have the opportunity, whether through a crushing sports loss or a bad grade, that, to me, is golden.
Little did I know that there’s a whole academic movement around grit. There’s even an online test, so you can see how much grit you have. I scored a 4.5. I was elated.
Men’s Health even did a story on grit recently that was passed around our little league team by the coach. It talks about Wes Welker and how much effort he puts into his training. Welker, apparently, has some serious grit. The article points out the following about Duckworth’s Grit Scale regarding cadets surviving West Point:
About one in 20 cadets drop out during that first grueling summer, known as “Beast Barracks.” Notably, the cadets who’d done well on Duckworth’s Grit Scale were disproportionately not among them. Cadets with higher-than-average scores were over 60 percent more likely to complete the summer than cadets who didn’t score as well.
According to Daniel Pink, author of the bestselling book on motivation Drive, grit is a huge determining factor of mastery, which is one of three primary human motivators.
One thing we all like to do is to hone our skills and get better at something. But mastery can be painful. It can take years of practice to really achieve something great, and as close as we get to perfection we never reach it.
If you watched the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you’ll know you can be the best in the world at something and still want to get better. We can have setbacks and bumps along the way, and it’s grit that gets us past the tough spots and helps us keep going.
One MILOfest attendee pointed out to me that Calvin Coolidge was a big grit fan nearly one hundred years ago. He put it best when he said this:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Leadership for Lawyers: The Biggest Indicator of Success
A Suggested Leadership Reading List
Leadership for Lawyers: How to Conduct a Strategic Planning Meeting
Leadership for Lawyers: The Fundamental Things You Need to Know