Another Friday, another frog to boil. Just kidding, people.
If this is your first time visiting Boiling Frog Friday and you are appalled by the title, I urge you to check out Boiling Frog Friday #1 here. It will prove that I’m not boiling frogs on Friday but instead sharing with you what tips, tools, and methods you could use to better your life each day. Over the last year, I’ve gone on a mission to better myself, and have procured quite the list of books, concepts, and people that have helped shaped my growth. Each Friday I’ll be back to hit you with another gem from my experience.
Today’s edition of Boiling Frog Fridays is dedicated to…the incredible book Grit by Angela Duckworth.
I heard about this book through many different channels in 2016. First, I heard Angela on a podcast. She was speaking about grit, a concept that everyone is familiar with, in such a dialed-in, and specific way. She had it broken down into tangible pieces, and spoke passionately about the scientific evidence that supported those pieces. I was intrigued, to say the least, but I already had a stack of books on my “to-read” list, so I put off grabbing myself a copy.
A few weeks passed without me thinking much about the book or the concept of grit, but then it came up in conversation with my cousin. My cousin lives on the west coast, and at the time was in the trenches working closely with students at Oregon State University. I don’t get the chance to chat with him often, but our conversation was steered towards books that we were reading or ones that we’d recommend. The first book he mentioned was Grit. He said that it was a great book for both him and his students. The teacher in me knew that it wouldn’t be long until I, too, would be nose deep in Duckworth’s book.
As the Christmas season rolled around, I made sure to include Grit on my list. My lovely wife came through and made sure that it was wrapped neatly under our tree Christmas morning.
What I love about this book is that it takes a vague concept like grit and gives it some real teeth. Angela does an amazing job of pairing scientific research with storytelling. The theme of the book is that grit is the combination of passion and perseverance. The people that she profiles in her book that have grit are those that have both a passion for what they do, but also an undying persistent nature that causes them to see each and every project to it’s completion. Essentially, you can’t have one without the other. Without passion, it’s not likely that you’ll stick with something day after day. You need that interest and burning desire for an activity, career or hobby to keep coming back to it. Conversely, without perseverance, your passions won’t have a pointed direction. You can love something all you want, but if you have no aim for it, no drive to keep working at it, then it won’t blossom into anything.
The biggest takeaway I have from this book is Duckworth’s breakdown of passion. Passion is such an overused word in today’s culture, that it’s meaning has been watered down. I wonder how many Google results would follow the search “follow your passion”. It’s everywhere. Hell, I even wrote a piece on it about 6 months ago (How To Find Your Passion). It’s not terrible, but it’s nowhere near as informative as Duckworth’s in depth description.
She states in the book that passion is made up of four things: Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope.
You first need to find something that is interesting to you. That seems simple enough. It could be teaching, singing, playing cards, or fantasy football. The subject doesn’t matter, as long as it interests you. Yes, there’s going to be some trial and error in this stage of passion, but eventually, you should land on something you enjoy.
Then comes practice. This piece of passion made me think of my little brother, Jeff. My brother is a world class baton twirler. I’m not being hyperbolic here, he is literally world class. A few years ago, my family and I went to Europe to watch him compete in the World Championships for baton twirling. He was grateful that he made it that far, and then he ended up placing third. Third! In the world! That’s nuts. Anyway, growing up, there wasn’t a day that went by that Jeff wasn’t twirling a baton. Whether he was outside just throwing the thing around for hours, or inside marking up the ceiling with his errant tosses, you couldn’t get the thing out of his hand. The more he practiced, the more he wanted to learn. As he mastered one skill, he wanted to build on top of it. Years and years of this kind of practice led him to be third in the world at something he loves. I like to think of the practice piece of passion as “going down the rabbit hole”. If you practice intently with something that interests you, you keep reaching new levels of expertise. With each level of expertise, you discover that there is more out there to learn. You keep diving in, deeper and deeper, until you are suddenly a master of your craft. The deeper you go, the deeper your passion becomes.
What follows practice is a purpose. Once you have begun to master your craft, you search to find purpose for your skills. If you can find a way to bring value to other people by using your gift, your passion deepens. For my brother, that purpose is now teaching students in his baton classes how to hone their skill. For a writer, that might be to impact people through their writing. For a singer, it might be to bring joy to others through the gift of song. By attaching a purpose to your practiced skill, the embers of your passions fire burn brighter than ever.
Lastly, passion needs hope. It’s not hope in the sense that “you hope that this will work out”. It’s more tied to an optimistic faith that you can accomplish anything within the field of your passion. This hope that you can take your skill, interest, or talent and affect others in a positive way, creates a wave of inspiration that continues to propel you forward.
As stated above, Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance. Duckworth goes into beautiful detail about the other piece of this equation as well, but her breakdown of passion truly resonated with me.
This book skyrocketed into my “top 5” when I wasn’t even done with it. It’s written in such a conversational way, that all of the data and science meshed seamlessly with the message of Grit. This book is a must read for anyone. I don’t care if you’re a college student, working professional, new mom or dad, or a retiree; we could all use a little grit in our lives. This book shows you what it looks like, and how to grow your own grit if you need to.
Until next time,
Facebook: Nick Matiash