Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Regaining My Power: Gritty as Pudding

I finished reading Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit. In it, there’s a quiz to see how gritty you are. I come up as approximately pudding level. Not that she would ever describe it that way.

The caveat attached to the test noting that this is how you feel about yourself at this very moment in time was very interesting. Your score may well have changed from the past and she goes on to outline how you can change it for the future. While I am pudding at the moment, I didn’t used to be that way. Anyone who knew me really through my mid-twenties could confirm that I had one of the things that made up grit. Passion. An interest in something that was bordering on obsessive. To the point that one job interviewer asked that I tell her about a time when . . . and this timeĀ not use horses as an example. Hey, if you want me to tell you about overcoming obstacles and going above and beyond? Work examples are not going to be my defining moments. I’d get up at 4 am to braid for a horse show even if I wasn’t riding. I have never, ever been willing to get up at 4 am for a job.

This passion, this purpose to my life then gave rise to the other half of grit. Perseverance. The willingness to do whatever it takes to move forward and grow in pursuit of my passion. She quotes a Japanese saying, “Fall seven, rise eight.” I’ve been thrown from horses, stepped on, bitten, kicked, knocked into the mud, and placed last in shows more than seven times, but for years I always got up one more time than I was knocked flat.

That’s not how pudding behaves, so what happened? It wasn’t sudden. I can’t point to the second Tuesday in March of a specific year as my pudding date. There were little things. I had to sell my mare. It was coming down to paying my rent or hers and while I think she would have been ok with me moving in with her, my employer at the time would not have been. I got thrown from a couple of horses and literally couldn’t get up, I’d gotten injured. I started working for a company that had a very specific image of itself and since I’d decided to play it safe and go the corporate route, I went about trying to reshape myself into that image. I tried my hand at a couple of other physical pursuits, but I broke my knee in martial arts and never quite made it back. Ballroom dancing suffered from the same problem as horses, it’s terribly expensive and at a certain level it really, really sucks to not have a partner. Of course that one was interesting, since I had to switch from being the brains of the pair with my horse background to being the beauty of the pair. That transition taught me a lot about myself.

Somewhere along the way I realized that the dream I’d always had of having a farm was just that, a dream. It was never actually going to manifest. I lost horses, too, in a more general sense. I can’t afford lessons, and even if I could I know how hard life is for the “heavy rider” lesson horses and I can’t do that to them. Not when I know in my heart of hearts that I’ll never get beyond that level again. The corporate route failed for me; it really doesn’t have much interest in subject matter experts that don’t care to climb the corporate ladder. Then having a job in general failed for me, when being employed full time far more often than not really didn’t cover the bills. I would love to take up dancing again, but being a single female ballroom dancer, particularly in a strange town, sucks. None of these support a bigger picture anymore. There’s no longer a bigger picture to support.

So here I am, a bowl of pudding, wondering where I once got the energy to work full time, help out at a barn, do martial arts, and dance all at the same time.

According to Grit, effort counts twice in the equation. Talent is a great start, if you have it, but it’s talent times effort that makes skill. Skills are great, once you have them, but it’s skill times effort that causes achievement. This is why it’s so possible for wildly talented people to fail and untalented people to wildly succeed. I, personally, probably land somewhat in what she calls the “fragile perfect” group of people. These are the people that are talented enough to skate through most of life doing relatively well without much effort. That was certainly the case in most of school. It sounds like a great thing, until the fragile perfect hits some sort of major bump/detour/challenge. If you haven’t been thrown against increasingly more challenging tasks, ones that demand a stretching of who you are, those serious challenges come as a shock. Getting bucked off a horse wasn’t that big of a deal. I knew how to fall and I was always able to get back on right away. When a buck ended in a broken collarbone which grounded me for weeks, all of a sudden I was faced with whether or not I really wanted to get back on at all. This was no longer within the boundaries of what I knew I could handle. I hadn’t been learning how to push those boundaries outward, so they started moving inward.

Now that we know why I’m pudding, and why that’s a bad thing, the next step will be to talk about how to change it. How do I move up the scale toward Rocky Road? Yeah, it involves being a little nuts.