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How to hack ourselves and become grittier

Based on Grit, by Angela Duckworth Lee, there are two ways of growing grit. The first one is inside out, which means that we “hack” ourselves to be a grittier person. The second one is outside in, which means that we “influence” others to cultivate grit. In this article I’m going to share about two ways to grow grit inside out: fostering interest and doing deliberate practice

In case you are not familiar with grit, I highly suggest you to read this article first to help you grasp the content of this article

Firstly, Fostering Interest

Fostering interest is inherently challenging due to some factors:

(1) our interests are changing from time to time

(2) we have many interests and find it difficult which one we want to go deep into

(3) the thing that we find interesting often time does not provide us financial benefit so it’s pretty hard to make it integral part of our life

While initially I thought that having many interests in shallow level is still acceptable, this book suggests that it is extremely challenging to be gritty unless we have strong interest in the area we are doing.

One key suggestion to foster passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.

Finding interest is not something that happens once but takes multiple processes of exploration. Development of interest should not be just some theoretical exercise that we do inside our head but we should go extra miles and try whether we are really interested in it. When we are developing that interest, either we stay in love with that subject or face the hard truth: it is actually not as interesting as we thought and move on. The good news is that: that is completely common (trust me, I faced that before).

As an illustration, let me share a bit of my personal story. Since I was in high school, I always felt that “people” is my area of interest, thanks to lesson about personalities that I got when I was in high school. I almost took psychology as my degree but decided to join engineering school instead. It was okay for me at that time but I finally found my major very interesting during my third and fourth year when I studied about system thinking.

Upon graduation I worked as a management consultant and I really enjoyed my work as a problem solver. As much as I like to live as a problem solver, my curious mind keeps wondering if I do some work related with people since it seems like it is my abandoned interest. My discovery lands me to the thing I’m working right now. So it can be concluded that from time to time my interests shifted from “people” to “system thinking” to “problem solving” and “people”. Let’s see how it looks in couple more years :)

Secondly, Doing Deliberate Practice

We don’t become grittier and be good at something just because we keep doing what we are doing. It takes series of deliberate practice. There are three ways to make the best out of it.

Firstly, know the science. Some of us are practicing but are we doing deliberate practice? There are some characteristics for a deliberate practice:

  • A clearly defined stretch goal

  • Full concentration and effort

  • Immediate and informative feedback

  • Repetition with reflection and refinement

Secondly, make it a habit. The book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey describes a day in the life of one hundred sixty one artists, scientist, and other creators. If you ask the question, “what do these creators have in common?” you’ll find the answer as: daily rituals. In their own way, they consistently put in hours and hours of solitary deliberate practice.

Thirdly, change the way you experience it. One way to look at deliberate practice is that it is a very daunting and miserable activity to do because it is difficult, tiring, and sometimes boring. The other way of looking at it is that it is the necessary activity to improve our performance both in short and long term.

One example of deliberate practice done by one of my colleague is that everytime she finishes a book she forces herself to remember three things about that book. After habituating herself with that practice, she pushes herself to remember three key insights, three things she agrees, and three things she disagrees. The next level of it is that she keeps remembering the key insights, things she agrees and things she disagrees while putting some practical steps inside the book into a real practice.

I would like to conclude this article by asking three questions:

1. Based on what you have discovered, what are the top 3 area of interests?

2. After exploring all of them, which area of interest do you want to build your mastery on and why?

3. What is your plan to incorporate deliberate practice in your area of interest?

There are two more ways to grow grit inside out. I'll share them in my next article :)


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth Lee

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