I would say one of the vastly underrated aspects of success in life is grit. That ability to keep working at something despite making no, or very limited, progress over a longer period of time. If you are able to focus on putting the pieces together over the long hall, despite obstacles and limited positive reinforcement that is grit. It’s something that many people simply lack and is what in many cases define successful people from those who aren’t. We aren’t all born with great ability or intelligence or good looks or great genes. Instead of bemoaning that fact, we can be gritty and be the absolute best we can be given the skill set we have.
When just starting out in something, we usually suck. Throughout my life, I’ve heard multiple people tell me that if they aren’t good at something right away they don’t want to do it. It’s much easier to win at video games or being a spectator of the television than it is to struggle with something. But those that persevere through this intro period are the ones that one day become experts in that same area. They say that becoming an expert in something takes about 10,000 hours. Now most of us will never become that level of expert in anything due to the inability to focus and dedicate so much time to any one endeavor, but a more balanced life can still be gritty. You can start and keep working on being a more healthy individual, despite not seeing apparent improvement after that first month or two (but you stick with it and eventually the day 120 or one year out picture looks night and day). You can work focus on your work, going that extra little bit each day, perhaps taking additional training on your own time to move up.
Adding new abilities and hobbies are maybe the hardest things. We like to stay in our comfort zone instead of having to work at something. Author Joe Konrath had an interesting post about Quitting, and though it’s in the context of being a writer and succeeding in that path, substitute any other subject and you have the same message: you need to find the drive from within and you need to stick with it to succeed.
We are also doing a huge disservice to our children with the helicopter parenting and coming to their rescue at the first sign of discomfort. It’s not easy to see our children struggle at something, but having them grind through something and have the satisfaction of doing it or figuring it out out on their own provides invaluable life lessons. American’s as a whole don’t have much grit. Studies I’ve read that pit Americans against a test that presents a tricky problem showed they give up after only a couple of minutes while most counterparts in other countries grind through for 20 minutes or more. The cultural work ethic of say, Chinese, simply lends itself to more grit, while American’s don’t have that work ethic and most take the easy way out.
LoudBoy (6) has started taking piano. He struggles, and get frustrated, but doesn’t quit. He grinds through until he’s happy with his ability to get through the song. Birdsnest (8) goes through similar iterations in her homework, especially math. You can see her learned lessons around in her head to be able to attack a problem that is relatively new to her. It takes her awhile sometimes, and sometimes need additional explanation on the concept, but she’d be much more upset not completing the homework as assigned than simply giving up. Even something as simple as cleaning up their rooms is a lesson in grittiness. Holly or I could jump in and clean up in about 4.5 minutes, but letting them take an hour to do it their way is an important lesson.
A final example on promoting patience in our children is saving allowance. My son is a Lego freak, but we’ve stopped buying him sets except for Christmas or his birthday. He is diligently saving his allowance over a period of months so he can purchase Lord Business’ Evil Lair. The controlled and patient approach versus just buying a smaller set or candy and trinkets is satisfying to see. Birdsnest on the other hand is saving for a car or college by putting a portion of her allowance in her savings account. Both are good lessons.
Finding that something to make you gritty is important as well. It may take some false starts or even a slap in the face by someone (coworker, wife, friend) that wakes you up to the fact that you need to buckle down and change. When you make that decision, be gritty and see it through. I know you can do it, and if you can’t find others in the real world to share your experience, you can likely find iFriends on forums that will motivate you and share their experiences as well. Rock on!