It Takes More Than Grit to Develop Character: The E&C Pulse - January 2, 2020

December 31, 2019 Ben DiPietro
 

Jan. 2, 2020

It Takes More Than Grit to Develop Character

 

Grit is an important ingredient of character, but not the only one, says Angela Duckworth, a professor, psychologist, founder of The Character Lab, MacArthur Genius, and author of the book “Grit.”

 

Gratitude, forgiveness, wisdom, intellectual humility, creativity, curiosity, optimism, and self-control are among the traits that, along with grit--which Duckworth sees as the combination of passion and perseverance--define character. Paraphrasing Aristotle, she described character as “ways of acting, thinking and feeling that are good for other people, and good for ourselves.”

 

Speaking with LRN Founder and Chairman Dov Seidman at a recent HOWMatters conversation in New York, Duckworth said it’s important to remember not all people who possess grit should serve as exemplars of character--criminals, for example, often exhibit grit to achieve their goals.

 

But the combination of passion and perseverance over really long periods ended up being the common denominator among the super-achievers Duckworth researched when writing her book, a New York Times bestseller.

 

Much in the way as you sharpen steel with steel, Seidman said, adversity is what builds grit in people, but no one wants to prescribe adversity to develop grit. “So what do we do, just wait until life throws curve balls at us? How do you develop grit when we're not prepared to prescribe that?” he asked.

 

Duckworth wasn’t sure adversity is always the right word to use, because circumstances such as trauma, abject poverty, and chronic racism offer great levels of adversity, but do little to build character. That said, she agrees people who develop “in a frictionless-like path...they won’t have a lot of resilience. They won’t have the capacities that they have not yet needed to develop.”

 

People need to be challenged, they have to be asked to do things they can't yet do. They have to be struggling. “You don't learn when you're in a frictionless flow state. You learn when you're confused,” she said. “You develop character when you have a problem, and when you have struggle.”

 

Gritty people are animated by some purpose, said Seidman, who asked Duckworth to talk about the role purpose plays in relation to grit.

 

“It is almost impossible, if not entirely impossible, to sustain the kind of effort that I'm talking about unless you have a why, unless you see how that late night, that early morning, the stretch of really tedious, whatever it is you need to do, like, why the heck am I doing this?” said Duckworth. “It has to serve a higher-level goal.”

 

Purpose has to be associated with something worthy of others, said Seidman, who recalled the parable about two bricklayers performing the exact same job. Asked what they were doing, one said building a cathedral, the other said building the house of God, a response that displayed a greater sense of mission.

 

Duckworth said her data shows a very strong correlation between grit and having an orientation in life toward purpose and meaning, and wanting to be part of something bigger. “It's about the strongest correlation I found with grit in any of my research studies,” she said. 

 

“I think it is because it is part of human nature to want to do this. … The reason why this is so related to grit and sustained effort is that it's wired into all of us to crave that and want that. When you don't have that, it's very hard to sustain effort.”

 

Grit is not enough to develop character unless it is married to messages of integrity and honesty, she said. Duckworth likes to break down character as having three strengths--heart, mind, and will. 

 

Grit is a character of will, she said. People who are gritty get things done, but those things could involve taking over a country, which is why it’s important to develop strengths of heart, such as empathy and compassion, and strengths of mind, such as intellectual humility, curiosity, creativity.

 

“If you are bringing up your kids, or you are running a company, and in your values there's something about will, something about heart, and something about mind, I think you can't go too far wrong,” she said.

 

                                                                                                            BEN DIPIETRO
                                                                                                       @BENDIPIETRO1
                                                                                       BEN.DIPIETRO@LRN.COM

 

 

FROM THE LRN BLOG

Companies encouraging internal reporting spend less time and money on litigation than those that don't, and companies that are more profitable tend to have better internal reporting systems.

 

READ THE BLOG→

 

PRINCIPLED PODCAST

Catch up on the latest episodes from the first two seasons of Principled, the LRN podcast highlighting E&C leaders and their transformative stories. 

 

LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE→

 

MIND NUMBERS

57%/62%/47%

The Institute for Business Ethics annually asks British adults about how ethically they believe business is behaving. 57% of respondents in 2019 said business behaves ethically, down from a historic high of 62% in 2018, but ahead of the 47% recorded in the first survey in 2003.

 

THE ELEVEN

The Global Gender Gap Report from World Economic Forum found women won't achieve equal pay until 2277, at the current rate of change.

 

Harvard Business Review looks at why boards need to worry about what chief executives do outside of the office.

 

Simone Jones writes in Corporate Compliance Insights about how to future-proof the compliance professional.

 

Wall Street Journal's Dylan Tokar talks with a Justice Department official about how the agency gives companies incentives to invest in compliance.

 

Merc & Co. asks if 2019 will be the year of a paradigm shift in business about ESG and sustainability, or just another false dawn? Are CEOs ready to meet the challenges of corporate social responsibility?

 

Algorithms affect the lives of nearly everyone in New York City, but no one seems to really understand how they work, Vox reports. Vice has a story about the need for workers to unionize to protect themselves from algorithmic bosses.

 

Cities are taking the lead when it comes to passing laws to rein in law enforcement's use of surveillance technology, Fast Company reports.

 

Noa Gafni, writing on the World Economic Forum blog, calls for a redefining of the word trust to better fit with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

Are tech companies really adhering to new privacy rules--or just creating smokescreens to avoid painful changes, as some assert? Axios explores.

 

WSJ interviews State Street CEO Ronald O'Hanley about his efforts to bring change to corporate boardrooms, and his specific focus on all-male boards.

 

Inc. reports on research that shows spending time alone makes you a better boss.

 

THE QUOTE

"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.”

- J.B. Priestly, writer

 

THE NUDGE

Three former executives of a French telecommunications company were found guilty of creating a hostile work environment that led to 35 workers taking their own lives, a court found. The former chief executive of France Telecom was sentenced to four months in prison, as were two executives. The company, now called Orange, was fined the maximum amount--$83,000. The suicides occurred while the company was looking to cut more than 20,000 jobs, and the CEO reportedly said he would get the civil servants--who couldn't be fired--out "one way or the other, through the window or through the door." The executives are appealing their sentences.

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