Effort matters– but how much does it matter? In this podcast from Hidden Brain, Angela Duckworth suggests that true mastery of any subject comes from grit.

But what is grit? It is not the breakfast made from cornmeal, if that is what you are thinking. Grit is defined as courage and resolve; strength of character.

When you or your children are trying to master a skill or subject, the idea behind grit is that talent is not the main key to success. The podcast brings to light something that, as parents or even professionals, we all have witnessed before– the stroke of genius that is actually not a stroke at all, but a toiling labor of love.

“There is a fluency and an ease in which true mastery expresses itself” says Duckwork. “But where does that fluency and mastery come from? It comes from hidden mistakes and failures.”

But, the host points out, presenting genius as being effortless is more pleasing to the audience than seeing someone struggle before creating a perfect product.

Excellence can be mundane when you really look at it. It is a child practicing the same tune on a violin every day for hours a day. It is a scientist watching a beaker do nothing for hours before something finally changes. The podcast points out that, although we have a craving for magic or mystery in talent, more often it is long hours of work. It is the quality and quantity of practice, deliberate practice, that helps people succeed.

Unfortunately, deliberate practice can be the least enjoyable part of the journey to success.

Aristotle said: “The roots of knowledge are bitter, only the fruit is sweet.” But, there are ways to make deliberate practice into a more enjoyable experience. When you or your child are doing something that you truly love and are passionate about, overcoming the friction gets much easier and becomes much more worthwhile. People who are the product of grit get a thrill from the completed product, and for many that is a great motivator to get through the less enjoyable aspects.

Duckworth advises that you cannot be gritty about something that you aren’t interested in. She gives the example of a swimmer who wakes up at 4 a.m. for swim practice. They love swimming, but they don’t love waking up at 4 a.m., walking in the dark, pushing themselves to physical pain– but they still love swimming so it is worth it.

The other important component of grit is a sense of purpose and hope. There has to be hope to keep going and the sense that what you are doing is going to positively effect another person. If you are missing those components, it becomes frustrating and hard to be a gritty person.

When you teach your children to have grit– to dedicate themselves to something they love and not give up– it can teach them important perserverance. On the flip-side, if you don’t allow your child to give up on something they really aren’t enjoying, it doesn’t give them grit as much as it gives them the idea to stick with something that may not be right for them. It may be a fine line to walk, but if your child is truly passionate about something, it is good to instill a sense of grit with them.

Grit can yeild truly amazing results when the ingredients are right. Passion, perserverance, hope, and purpose are keys to success whether you are the CEO of a company or a new mom.

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