Angela Duckworth is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant winner, and the author of the bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Her research predominantly deals with the study of success. While there are a number of professors and success experts writing about this very subject, many were referenced throughout her book and few wrote so cogently about it.
Duckworth’s research came to a head when she isolated the concept of grit, which she defines as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
In Grit, Duckworth mentions the work of Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. In it, Gladwell studies a number of highly successful people from past and present and comes to the conclusion that each of them participated in dedicated practice for at least 10,000 hours in order to become an expert, world-class performer, etc. Duckworth goes one step further and says that the underlying personality trait that allowed those successful people to put in that time was grit.
Another famous researcher Duckworth relies on in making her case is Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University. She is the author of the acclaimed and widely read Mindset, which is also one of my favorite books on success. Her work is some of the most cited sources in multiple fields, including psychology, sociology, business, and others.
The Fixed Mindset
The crux of her research is based around two primary mindsets that people ordinarily have. The first is called the Fixed Mindset. People with this mindset don’t believe that they are capable of change or improving a certain aspect of their lives. Of course, the easiest of these aspects to expound upon is intelligence. A person with this mindset does not believe that they can grow smarter over time. In her studies, she found that this often led to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the person who believed they could not change was ultimately right.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford
The Growth Mindset
The alternative to the Fixed Mindset is called the Growth Mindset. People with the Growth Mindset believe they are capable of internal change, such as becoming more intelligence through concentrated study. But, that’s not all. Dweck’s research found that the Growth Mindset led to better learning outcomes in students. Also, she found students could be taught to have a Growth Mindset.
How does this relate to grit? Duckworth found that grit and the Growth Mindset go hand-in-hand. Which makes intuitive sense in my opinion. People who believe what they do matters in their success try harder and longer in their pursuits of long-term goals.
A Solution For Struggling Authors
If you’re a writer or novelist who is struggling, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
- Do I believe I am capable of becoming a better writer given enough time and practice?
- How much effort am I willing to put in to achieve my goals?
- How long am I willing to put in consistent effort in order to achieve those goals?
If you can answer these questions satisfactorily and still want to be a writer, you’re probably on the write track (pun intended).
In all likelihood, it will take years to ‘make it’ with any creative pursuit. Most ‘overnight success stories’ are anything but. Most people do put in their 10,000 dedicated hours of practice before reaching success. Consider this: if you work full-time at a job, you probably put in about 2,080 hours per year. This means you could be an expert in that job within five years (if all of your time at work is dedicated, structured practice). However, most writers don’t write full-time. Ultimately, it can take a decade or more to get to the level of writing you need to be at to achieve the kind of success you’re looking for. In my case, that success includes selling enough books to justify writing as my full-time job.
Angela Duckworth’s book was a good read which reinforced what I already knew about the study of success. I would, however, say that reading Outliers and/or Mindset would be a better use of your time in the long run. Both are highly acclaimed, with snippets and buzz words becoming part of the vernacular.
What is your definition of success? What are you doing to get there?