Grit is the single, overwhelming instinct that drives our desire to challenge ourselves long after everyone else has quit. It helps us deal with boredom, difficulty, and failure that come with trying to master any one skill. Passion plays a huge role. But, as we know, but passions fizzle out without perseverance, the ability to stay aimed at a single distant goal that may be a decade away.
In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth argues that what helps people bind passion and perseverance into grit, is understanding their motivation, and how some of their short- and medium-term tasks connect to a larger whole.
Finding that motivation can be as simple as asking yourself an unrelenting string of whys until you hit a wall, or start going in circles, with answers edging closer and closer to “just because.”
Finding that true north helps people steer their lives towards goals and tasks that are more meaningful and fulfilling, which, naturally, gives them a much better chance of success. Because what’s the point of pursuing a career in management if all you want to do is to tell stories? Okay, management pays well, sure, but why not work in communications instead? That, at least, would help you progress towards your true goals.
I found this exercise a fantastic brain teaser and wanted to share it.
What follows is pretty candid, so no judgment, please.
Why do I Want to Write?
A corporate career was never enough.
I spent my life trying to understand how the world works, how people and societies function. I want to see through all the smoke and mirrors and understand why we are so messed up.
What better way to explore the human condition than by writing?
Why is that so important?
It can help me lead a meaningful life.
The life of intellectual accomplishment is the most fulfilling life I can imagine.
Because it means I would have done something with my life; used my talents.
Why is that important?
What another purpose of life could there be than to spend it in pursuit of your potential?
Why do you think that?
Of all the purposes I see, this is the one that makes sense. Hedonism is a nice alternative, but not for me, and not that fulfilling. I could opt for the ever-popular escapism and spend half my life watching TV or YouTube, but that’s no way to live.
To pursue my potential will help me lead a life of least regret.
To have lived my life without even taking a shot at an intellectual occupation would feel like having wasted it.
I grew up with books, and always admired the great intellectuals of old whose writing helped me understand how strange, rich, and complex the universe is. If I can, I want to be just like them. Tell stories that change people, have thoughts worth having, and a mind sharp enough to earn its place in the world.
This is where I’ve got. It’s one hundred percent candid and pretty personal too.
What took me by surprise is how selfish some of these motivations sound. But maybe all motivations are like that in the end. I would be the last person to judge.
Selfish or not, they allowed me to stay in pursuit of writing for seven years now. I wish I’ve done this exercise earlier. I would’ve dropped my fixation with becoming traditionally published—that took me five years—and instead pursue some lower-hanging fruit first. Maybe not. It’s easy to be wiser after the fact.
So. What about you and your motivations?