(10th Post on GRIT)
The two ingredients of GRIT are perseverance and passion. Absent passion, there can be no GRIT. So how can passion be fostered? Dr. Duckworth does offer suggestions on how parents can offer opportunities from which passion can result. To return to the writings of the founder of American Psychology, William James from the “Energies of Men.” “Compared with what we ought be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”James continued, “Of course there are limits. The trees don’t grow into the sky. But these boundaries of where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us: “The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only ver exceptional individuals push to their extreme of use.”
HM knows very few people with passion. His experience teaching in college was that although he had passion, he was quite unable to pass on his passion to students. Students were taking the class to fulfill requirements to enter a good job and a middle class lifestyle. Questions regarding the class rarely went beyond, “Are all the tests multiple choice? Will a paper or a project be required? Occasionally students with a genuine intellectual interest would come along and these students were enjoyed and highly prized. A friend of mine during graduate school, and this was before PCs, could not stand visiting his relatives because they did not have a dictionary. He used one several times every day and was incredulous that people could live without one,
But this lack of passion goes considerably beyond the frustrations of HM’s students. Serious problems of substance abuse among middle class youth stem from a lack of not just passion, but also of even the slightest interest in a panoply of interesting subjects and projects to pursue. So their default mode is to follow their peers into substance abuse, which is not only a problem for the individual, but for the population at large.
It is important to distinguish between people who are intelligent and people with intellectual interests. HM knows many people who, although they are highly intelligent, have virtually no intellectual interests. Intellectual interests involve ideas. Many intelligent people only use their brains for subjects of immediate interest to them. Sports are usually included here because we enjoy vicarious pleasure when our teams win. Moreover, sports are frequently they only topic for conversation as religion and politics are usually not safe. Unless people have the same beliefs, people talk past each other and this talk often becomes violent. But these talks rarely go beyond beliefs. Rarely are data discussed, or the way that different countries deal with the same issue.
A colleague of mine, who is a college graduate, was entranced with a TV program that showed how different products were produced. However, when I tried to speak with him about medical issues confronting the country, he drew a complaint blank. He did not know that medical costs were the highest in the United States among all countries, with relatively poor results. As a citizen he should have had some knowledge about this topic.
But topics are most frequently based on beliefs, beliefs that were learned growing up and reinforced by interacting with people of the same beliefs. So none of these people need to think. Unfortunately, democracies need people who think, rather than believe. Ideologies and principles can be the bane of democracies. Topics need to be discussed using data and logic, with the exclusion of the statement, “I believe.”
Unfortunately, thinking is painful, and not only intellectuals, but also citizens need to think. To use Kahneman’s terms, thinking involves System 2 processes and requires mental effort. However, cruising along with only System 1 processes and one’s beliefs is much easier.
As you should know, HM is big on growth mindsets. We need to grow our minds, which will be beneficial to our brains. Grit can assist in this. Look around for your passion. When you think you’ve found one, try to stick with it and persevere. Don’t abandon your effort once you encounter difficulty. Try to work your way through it. However, should your passion wane, look for another. Even if you become a chronic passion pursuer, keep trying. From HM’s perspective, the goal is to train our minds to benefit our brains. It is better to have a little knowledge about many topics than to know virtually nothing about any topic
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