“And whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”
True Grit is a 2010 film directed by the Coen bros Joel and Ethan and shot by one of my favourite cinematographers, just thought I would mention that last part. I should in fact make a point of watching the highly rated film just to see whether it has anything to do with the subject matter this post will tackle.
This post was subconsciously inspired by the theme of the CBA Loop commercial, the narrative was executed beautifully. As a full time freelancer working in the Kenyan television industry and part time director of a small production company, I significantly identify with the subject matter the ad tackles. What things do we have to put up with or do so that we can pursue and live our dream? For an average of about 40 hours a week I am contracted by other Production Houses to be able to pay rent, buy food, internet and take my girl out to expensive places which I never do (*kiss*). Ideally I should be using the remaining time to grow my Production Company, create content, make movies, write, but why do I find it so hard to do?
I truly admire individuals who possess the resolve to achieve anything they set their minds to. Those with the courage and determination to continue doing anything they make the choice to begin, and at the point the said undertaking becomes difficult or unpleasant to perform, they still stick to it with the same commitment. People with GRIT.
Listening to a Freakonomiks Radio Podcast called “How to get more Grit in your Life” that featured psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. I started to wonder, what was Grit? Did I have enough Grit? Could I get more? Do I even need Grit? Dr. Duckworth defined grit as passion and perseverance for especially long term goals in the Podcast. In the book she and her peers expound that “grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”
She goes on to further discuss four traits of people studied to have Grit; Interest, Deliberate Practice, Purpose and Hope, and developed the Grit Scale. I took the 12 Item Grit Scale and with a tally of 2.5 out of 5 I dub myself a man of AVERAGE stick-to-itiveness. My score doesn’t come as a surprise, but the reality the result represents couldn’t be less depressing for someone with so many dreams and ambitions.
I know a guy who has as one of his many goals to perfect the art of wooing women, otherwise known as gaming. This is so that when the time comes and he identifies the perfect mate, he will be in possession of the appropriate skill-set intended to close the deal and thus combine their “superior genes” for the conception the best off spring he can produce. “Simple genetics” he calls it. He’s been putting in the work for years failing more than succeeding and hopefully learning lessons from his flops. He’s evidently gotten better at gaming over time. He also applies the same sense of discipline to his work. Grit seems to be there for him in all aspects of his life. I respect his Grit.
So after taking the test, I Identified what I am now calling the Indicators of my blandness in both consistency of interests and perseverance of effort.
- New ideas distract me from old ones. This means that I start something and work on it for a while. Then I read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a movie and get a new ‘aha’ moment and I drop what I had been working on previously and start on this new thing and cycle repeats.
- I am obsessed with an idea for a short time then lose interest. Same thing as above.
- I set goals then pursue different ones. Hold up… SAME THING!
- Setbacks distract me. If I am not interested. But again… Same. Thing.
- I have difficulty in maintaining focus on a project for long periods of time. (In fact I can’t think of a time that I’ve stuck to my own project for a long period of time) Strangely though when working for others, I ALWAYS stick with it until the end.
I am not sure of the duration of time that has passed since I created this little slice of the world wide web dedicated to sharing my experiences in the art of getting-off-my-ass-to-do-shit but it has been 247 days since I copy pasted and ultimately posted “Things that are desired for happiness” by Max Ehrmann. But it seems like I haven’t been able to stick to it and I think it is time to change this.
Based on the podcast and Dr. Duckworth’s book anyone can get more Grit in their life, even me. It all starts with identifying something I want. Something that fulfills me even if to get it I must do things that I don’t really enjoy given that not every man jack enjoys what they do to make a living. I have made the choice to start this blog. It doesn’t have to give me anything back, I just need to have an interest and love for the work. I probably suck at it now but with enough grit and time, my writing will improve little by little; you wait and see.
Secondly, talent or no talent, this interest has to be painstakingly laboured over for me to really improve at its accomplishment. It is human nature to get bored. The trick (or skill) is to keep myself from searching from or jumping at the next thrill. I need to see things to end, look for ways to revamp and shake up ideas that seemed interesting that suddenly are not as engaging. It will ultimately make the final product better.
It is then suggested that one must connect their work to other people. I need to surround myself and share ideas with people who have the same goals and ambitions and who will help me meet my goals. People who will challenge me to think bigger, people who will motivate me and feed my Grit because isolation kills dreams.
Lastly, the overriding element of hope. Because everyone needs hope to help you get up when the “real world” pushes you down. And it will push me down. Which is harder when I am a pessimist. The kind of person who reinforces the negative messages that will crop up while I chase the dream (not the competition).
I also need to remember that I do have a few things working for me. I am hardworking and diligent and I finish what I start if it’s really important to me. So chali flani what is important to you?
Postscript: Decided to watch Grit before posting this. I’m glad I did! This movie was chock-full of Grit. Everyone had Grit. Even the lead character, a 14 year old girl determined (and full of Grit), to track down and bring to justice her father’s killer. The film is set in a period of American history when you had to have Grit just to survive, the country, disease, ignorance, outlaws, ‘ínjuns’ , everything was just gunning for you. And why did you need Grit? Because in the words of Mattie “You must pay for everything in this world. Nothing is free in this world, except for the grace of God.”
“Whereas individuals high in need for achievement pursue goals that are neither too easy nor too hard, individuals high in grit deliberately set for themselves extremely long-term objectives and do not swerve from them – even in the absence of positive feedback.” Mc-Clelland (1961)