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Four Routes To Unlocking Your Grit


Talent and hard work will take you places. But grit? That’s what will take you great distances.

Just ask Professor Angela Duckworth who was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Award in 2013 for her groundbreaking work on the power of grit. In her recently released book, Grit: The Power Of Passion and Perseverance, Professor Duckworth unequivocally states that talent is not the only measure of an individual’s propensity for success.

What she found through over a decade of research is that high intelligence paired with the greatest degree of persistence will produce more phenomenal results than the highest degree of intelligence paired with somewhat less persistence.

Australian Olympic snowboarder and gold medalist, Torah Bright, would agree. In an interview with woman with drive last year, Torah described grit as the passion and perseverance of a long-term goal or vision.

“It is having the stamina and focus to stick with your future and commitments every single day, for years if need be,” she said. “It is living life like a marathon.”

Here are four important traits you need to build grit and run that marathon.


1: Pursue a deep interest

Thessy and Yiota Kouzoukas, the co-founders of Sabo Skirt, remember staying home every weekend to handwrite orders while their friends were out partying.

Dessert designer of Nectar & Stone, Caroline Khoo, would get by on three hours of sleep or sometimes even none at all because she could only bake when her young children were in bed.

And jewellery designer, Samantha Wills, spent hours bent over a desk hand-making jewellery until her hands bled.

All four entrepreneurs saw the wisdom of pursuing what deeply interested them and have huge business successes to show for it. Living your passion, according to Professor Duckworth, is the first step to developing grit. It is always easier to stick with something for the long haul and through the rough patches when you genuinely care about it.


2: Engage in deliberate practice

In the early years of her music career, Yinuo Mu thought practice meant repeating something over and over again until she got better or it became easier. But as she rose up the ranks to become Principal Harpist of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, she did not have time for endless repetitions and so, she began engaging in deliberate practice.

“I have learnt that you do not get good results just by pounding away at something,” Yinuo said. “If I struggle with a technique, I find a different approach that works for my hands. I break down difficult pieces into smaller chunks and mastering them one by one. All this helps me get better faster.” 


3: Find a purpose

“I fear not doing enough,” said Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who gave up her dream of being a Formula 1 driver so she could make a bigger contribution to society through her not-for-profit organisation, Youth Without Borders.

A true purpose will see you through the setbacks, guide you in surmounting challenges and help you own your failures without feeling like one. It is what turns a hardworking person into a gritty one, and a mere job into a calling or vocation.

Failures are part of the story,” Yassmin said. “Making mistakes are ok and there are times when things will work and times when it will not. Having a clear purpose at the forefront of what you are doing will help you see that.”


4: Embrace vulnerability

Kate Middleton was at the peak of her career when she suffered a massive stroke and was diagnosed with dystonia. She spent the next six grueling months learning to walk and talk again.

When she recovered, she not only went back to running her career coaching business but also took on a corporate role that made her the youngest and only female CEO in Australia’s engineering sector. Kate clearly has grit and she attributes it to her ability and willingness to be vulnerable.

“The only way to really walk through any difficulty, particularly if it is over a long period of time, is to be vulnerable and powerful enough to face it head on,” she said. “Walk your way through the pain and keep your eye on the end game. If you make grit a daily practice, it becomes a habit.”


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