“God loves the late-bloomers,” my friend Daniel said one night at Community Group. We were probably talking about Moses, or maybe Abraham, or perhaps Zachariah and Elizabeth…heck, the Bible’s full of people who grew into their calling “late” in life. When he said it we laughed, but I could hear the collective sighs reverberating around the room. The sighs came from a bunch of 20 and 30-somethings, most of us still wondering what we were going to do with our lives and feeling like we had already missed the boat to “success.” But his point resonated; why do we feel inferior for not being prodigies? Where do we get the idea that we have to have everything figured out in our twenties?
As we thought of other examples for which Daniel’s point rang true, I remembered Julia Child. Julia Child only discovered her passion for eating good food in her thirties and her passion for cooking it in her forties. Previous to this, she dabbled in several pursuits, but none of these ever manifested in her the exuberance that cooking brought to her life. Even then, however, passion was only the first step. Through her studies at Le Cordon Bleu, her lessons with L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, the many years of writing without any promise of big reward, she continued to cook. Talk about 10,000 hours.
So what can we draw from stories like this? Consider this two-part video, The Long Game.
As history shows, there is a “stick-to-it-ness” that characterizes so many of these “legends” of art, science, and thought. In addition to “the Long Game” and the 10,000 hours concept, there is a term going around in conversations dealing with pathways to success. The term is grit. “Grit,” as defined by researcher Angela Duckworth, who won the MacArthur Genius grant for her work on the concept, “is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance. And I want to emphasize the stamina quality of grit. Grit is sticking with things over the long term and then working very hard at it. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Duckworth’s research shows that demonstrated grit, significantly more than IQ, good looks, or family income level, is a much more accurate predictor of future achievement. See Duckworth’s Ted Talk below.
How different this is from our present mindset! I recently heard a really fascinating and demonstrably accurate theory for why so many people, and particularly the Millennial generation, seem to have such a poor grip on the realities of success: we all grew up watching movies and TV where the protagonists solved all of their problems in a 30-second montage that shrunk all of the hard work down to short spurts of activity and a catchy soundtrack. Because of this, we all are walking around wondering why our lives seem so much harder and why we don’t have our own background tunes (If you’re interested, Josh just showed me that South Park (I know…) expertly satirizes this idea). For the most part, gritty people are not the role models we see. We see the movie screen where the 25-year-old stick figure chick gets the corner office. We keep hearing the stories where those Mark Zuckerberg types find “success” freakishly quickly, and we become convinced that this must be how it is done–quickly. What we fail to realize is how rarely this actually happens, and that the rest of the world and all of the prolific, talented, and thoughtful people in it actually run on grit.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we talk more about grit and what it means for creativity…
Again, here is Angela Duckworth’s Ted Talk