Issue 92 | July 5, 2016 | Do you have what it takes?

"The human individual lives usually far within his limits. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake."
~William James

"Grit is that 'extra something' that separates the most successful people from the rest. It's the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality."
~Travis Bradberry

During the high school years as students progress quickly, or not so much, toward graduation requirements, you might have wondered what matters most: talent, intelligence or determination. In Angela Duckworth's book Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance, the author has convinced me beyond a doubt that grit matters most. During this last graduation season, we celebrated with a student who graduated against all odds. Shear grit is the only explanation. In the book Grit, Ms. Duckworth presents a questionnaire she developed that many of you might find helpful.


The Grit Scale
How gritty are you? Read each sentence and on the right, check off the box that makes the most sense. Don't over think the questions. Instead, just ask yourself how you compare to "most people."  It might be best to have a specific task or occupation in mind that ranks high on your list, as you answer the questions. (your education, occupation, sport or hobby etc.)
Not at all
like me 
Not much
like me 
like me
like me
Very much
like me
1. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from
previous ones. 
5 4 3 2 1
2. Setbacks don't discourage me. I don't give up easily. 1 2 3 4 5
3. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.  5 4 3 2 1
4. I am a hard worker.
1 2 3 4 5
5. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take
more than a few months to complete.
5 4 3 2 1
6. I finish whatever I begin.
1 2 3 4 5
7. My interests change from year to year 5 4 3 2 1
8. I am diligent. I never give up.
1 3 3 4 5
9. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a
short time but later lost interest.
5 4 3 2 1
10. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important
1 2 3 4 5
To calculate your total grit score, add up all the points for the boxes you checked and divide by 10. The maximum score on this scale is 5 (extremely gritty). You can use the chart below to see how your scores compare to a large sample of American adults.
2.5 means you are "grittier" than 10% of the sample adults
3.0 means you are "grittier" than 20% of the sample adults
3.3 means you are "grittier" than 30% of the sample adults
3.5 means you are "grittier" than 40% of the sample adults
3.8 means you are "grittier" than 50% of the sample adults
3.9 means you are "grittier" than 60% of the sample adults
4.1 means you are "grittier" than 70% of the sample adults
4.3 means you are "grittier" than 80% of the sample adults
4.5 means you are "grittier" than 90% of the sample adults
4.7 means you are "grittier" than 95% of the sample adults
4.9 means you are "grittier" than 98% of the sample adults
Grit has two components, passion and perseverance. If you want to dig a little deeper, you can calculate separate scores for each component: For your passion score, add up your points for the odd-numbered items and divide by 5. For your perseverance score, add up your points for the even-numbered items and divide by 5. 
Parenting for Grit
Words that describe parents who foster grit in their offspring are: "warmly supportive", "authoritative" (not authoritarian), and "respectful."  Gritty students would say this about their parents:
  • I can count on my parents to help me out if I have a problem.
  • My parents spend time just talking to me.
  • My parents and I do things together that are fun.
  • My parents believe that I have a right to my own point of view.
  • My parents respect my privacy.
  • My parents give me a lot of freedom.
  • My parents really expect me to follow family rules.
  • My parents expect me to do my best even when it's hard.
Thoughts that quite often are internalized by students lacking what it takes to persevere are these:
  • Things will turn out OK whether I work or not.
  • Everything should be entertaining and / or enjoyable, and there should be no unpleasantness whatsoever.
  • Nothing I do at school will ever benefit me. 
                In the pursuit of rearing 'gritty kids," understand that role modeling is of supreme importance. How much passion and perseverance is shown for your own life's goals?  How likely is it that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you?  If the answer to both questions is positive, you're already parenting for grit.
                How does grit develop?  First comes interest. Passion begins with the enjoyment of what you do. Possessing talent in the endeavor can very much enhance the interest.  Next comes the capacity to practice.  One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. Third comes purpose.  Passion is ripened when you realize what you do is important.
                The strength of grit, or its lack, can impact the course of a life.  During the Washington Home school Organization  (WHO) yearly convention a week or so ago, a man came to talk with us at the NARHS booth.  He told us how his learning challenges involving an extreme inability to focus his attention, had caused academic dysfunction and eventually failure.  Around 4th grade, when his report card bore "f's", his father came up with a plan.  The 4th grader was told to go out to the backyard and dig a hole of specific dimensions so large and exact that it took the young man 4 days to complete the task.  When his dad was finally satisfied, the project was completed with these words directed to his son, "If you don't want to do this for a living, I suggest you find a way to improve those grades."   That student was motivated to find a way. He learned to power through the inattention impulses and he not only raised his grades but refined his study skills. Eventually he was admitted to college, earned a degree in electronical engineering and now owns a very successful business.  Interest was sparked, practice was applied and a purpose was found. 
"Over time, grit is what separates fruitful lives from aimlessness."       
~ John Ortberg
Much of this article was paraphrased or quoted from Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance  by Angela Duckworth. Copyright 2016   Scribner publishers  ISBN 978-1-5011-1110-5