Give the gift of GRIT to your child this year on Independence Day.
For our generation it is an accepted socio-cultural norm to live one’s lives on other people’s terms and expectations of us, primarily our parents. Many of us continue to perpetuate this because it’s the only worldview we have been taught. However, we all quite understand that our children, most of them millennials, are growing up in a world that is encountering paradigms significantly different than ours. New career options, new technologies, new ways of communication. Its a whole new world order reflected in news media, sci-fi movies and popular television serials like Stranger Things, Orphan Black, Sense8 etc. A world with a perspective that we cannot possibly prepare our children for with our own set of knowledge and skills. What we can instead do is work on the third aspect of this holy trinity of survival kit – attitude.
This Independence Day, let us offer the gift of GRIT to our children. Falling, as you know by now, is not the issue. We fell. They will fall too. It is the attitude of rising from falls that needs passion and perseverance. A combination of these two attitudes make what we now understand as Grit.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “Genius Grant”, in her book, Grit: The power of passion and perseverance (and her immensely popular Ted Talk) explains why Grit is important and what is its correlation with success.
Grit, gives us the motivation to achieve our objectives through persistent effort. It is essential to accomplish anything of significance. It is also one big factor that makes your child independent of circumstances that s/he encounters throughout life. Grit is something that can be nurtured and grown within oneself. It’s that lifelong gift which becomes the source of power with consistent use.
We don’t always get to see anything beyond the end result. Both, of failure and success. For most struggles are endured alone or behind closed doors and not shared. Think of it, how often have our parents discussed their struggles with us? If they have discussed the difficulties or struggles, did they also share along the way which strategies were used? Which ones failed and which ones were useful and why? What kind of energy and effort was needed to come out of it? Where did they muster that Grit from? Which matters they persevered and which ones they gave up and why? What about you? How often do you share your challenges and your strategies to overcome them with your growing and even grown up children? Or with your spouse ? Most of the time, the struggles and the strategies are in one’s mind and heart. Are you ‘giving up’ or ‘holding up’ – using your attitude of Grit.
How does one harness Grit? What does it entail? How can you possibly “gift” Grit when it is so intrinsic whilst gift implies something completely extrinsic. That is where the significance of parenting comes in.
Parenting is a verb. It is a role performed. It can be for your biological child, for your adopted child, for your neighbour or relative’s child, for your student and so on. Any adult who interacts with a child performs some aspect of the parenting role. For those of us who do that on a daily basis, here are a few pointers to gifting our children with Grit.
Passion: the first half of Grit
How does one define it? How does one find it? One thing must be clear, passion is to be understood not in the granularity but in the big picture. It can’t just be temporary excitement. Nor does it have to be a thing that you love every component of. It’s a combination of deep interest and meaning.
How do you live it and share it with your child?
-If you are into sports, share with your child the passion of your sport and the fact that you may not like the fact of getting up 5 am in the morning to practice or prepare your body. But you do it for you like the big picture of what sports means for you.
-If you are a teacher, share with your child your passion and satisfaction you get of sharing knowledge and mentoring young minds. Also share the fact that you may not like doing some of the drudgery that comes along with it, like filling up lesson plans or administrative documentation, assessments or difficult parent teacher meetings. Yet the impact your teaching has on young minds, helping shape lives – is what you look forward to.
-If you are into music, share with your child the passion you have and what music means to you. Share the tedious practice you underwent or are still undergoing over several years. That oftentimes you were possibly at the brink of giving up but continued nevertheless as you had the eye on the big picture.
You can draw this out for any profession/entrepreneurship. Each of it has a big portion that can come under drudgery or routine or preparation, which comes attached for completing the big picture.
Amitabh Bachchan, the iconic actor comes to my mind as an epitome of the combination of passion and perseverance – Grit! His journey from voice narrator in Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome to supporting actor in Anand and angry young man in Zanjeer to the iconic Deewar. Sholay released on 15th August, 1975 and the rest is history. Or is it? We know the successful ones and we also know that most of his early films did very badly. Fatal injury and recovery during shooting of Coolie in Bangalore. The Bofors scandal followed by financial crisis, ABCL debacle to the point where his home nearly got auctioned. He went on to working on his comeback and how! From what became the household lexicon of “lock kar diya jaye?” in KBC TV series and many a Film awards and honorary doctorates, books, temples and memorials later to the current celluloid success of Paa, Piku and Pink.
Perseverance: the second half of Grit
When reality falls short of expectations. Many of us give up because we don’t fully realize what it takes. The mind set of perseverance is about seeing failure differently. How to use failure as a tool rather than a hindrance? How does one be honest with self and consider the pain of defeat before accepting that it’s worth enduring towards the goal one has set out to achieve.
How do you live it and share it with your child?
The story of the Three little Pigs is read out to all children at some point in time of growing up, in school or at home. Hard work pays off – is a well-known adage that is sermonised ever so often in parenting and teaching. For a good reason! It surely must have been difficult for the third pig to persevere even after his other brothers built their homes of straw and sticks with very little time and effort, isn’t it? The third pig however knew it was worth enduring all the hassle and drudgery for the matter of long term safety. All the brothers did have the knowledge that there was a big-bad wolf out there. They all had the skill to bring a strong house. Whereas only the third pig had the Attitude.
- Share your story of persevering for the long term safety, joy, success in the face of difficulty, hardship and failures with your child.
- Share how you have saved and invested even when you wanted to spend, it will teach them delayed gratification and how it works towards financial independence.
- Share with your child how you got up and went to work every day because you thought what you were doing is important and significant as contribution to family and work.
- Share with your child your trysts and tribulations during your years of education and skill acquisition and how you went through with the right attitude as you considered these were key requirements for success in any domain.
Grit is an attitude which can be acquired and honed. Continue to build yours along with your child and find success in your parenting goals. We all have our own ideas of success, and the word itself isn’t worth generalising. To me, it correlates with time invested.
Meaningful success takes a long time, and the longer it takes, the more opportunities arise for failure and disinterest. Grit plays the role of the discipline of a recurring deposit or systemic investment plan – if you will, for long term gains. Of course, time alone doesn’t drive progress. Feedback, along with deliberate and effective practice, are needed, too.
Benjamin Jones and Bruce Weinberg published a paper, Age dynamics in scientific creativity, in which they analyzed 525 Nobel prizes awarded between 1900 and 2008. The study was to see if there was a link between age and when important discoveries were made. They found that with a few exceptions, all winners produced their greatest work well past the age of 30.
It’s easy to say you need passion and perseverance to succeed, but it’s also important to know what these two entail. If your child is young, you have a high degree of control on your child. As the child grows, while your control decreases, your influence starts to show. If you want your child to show Grit in their attitude, start early by sharing your personal stories of Grit. Your efforts to come out of loss and grief. Of reinventing after job loss. Of getting out of your comfort zone and staying there until you were enjoying it. The pictures here give a glimpse into mine as I cycled through a high altitude terrain of Ladakh with a bunch of my teenage students. At the time I was 50year old with a fairly sedentary lifestyle.
So the next time you grit your teeth and continue with effective and involved parenting which by all means is tedious – know that you are showing Grit for the long term success of your child. All the best to us on living and gifting Grit. Do share your thoughts and stories of your Grit.
Happy Independence Day!