Forget Talent. It’s All About Grit

Architecture is a very skills based field, and like any professional field, it requires a lot of diligence and ‘talent’ , or otherwise being very good at what you do, whether it be “design”, drafting, or even managing.  This semester’s studio has been difficult for me, as I slowly recognize the way my brain is wired is starting to change, and the most pressing issue is that it might not be a positive change.  Unlike many of my peers, who joined architecture with seemingly pre existing talents in the arts, I am coming in with a blank slate.  More and more, I feel like I want to trade this career for one in medicine.  I think I can do medicine, I tell myself.  I’m compassionate, I’m sympathetic.  And I once thought about pursuing medicine in high school.  What changed?  So I told myself maybe I’ll take some pre-med classes next semester.  And you know, just prepare myself for med school, as a plan B.  I have no talent for architecture, maybe I have a knack for medicine? Then I remember, it takes 10,000 hours of hard work to be good at anything, roughly 10 years of deliberate practice.  10,000 hours of voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses; 10,000 hours of sustained interest in and effort toward very long term goals.  (However, as Cal Newport points out, 10,000 hours of regular practice is not enough, it needs to be deliberate practice.)  In other words, being good at something is not about talent, it is about deliberate practice and grit.
The following is summarized in the above linked research paper by Angela Duckworth (UPenn) and Christopher Peterson (UMichigan):

The achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but also the sustained and focused application of talent over time.

Gritter individuals made fewer career changes than less gritty peers of the same age.

Accomplished individuals worked day after day, for at least 10 or 15 years, to reach the top of their fields… Liberal arts universities that encourage undergraduates to sample broadly should recognize the ineluctable trade-off between breadth and depth.

The goal of an education is not just to learn a little about a lot but also a lot about a little.

In addition, the researchers concluded by quoting several researchers, “Bloom (1985) observed that in every studied field, the general qualities possessed by high achievers included a strong interest in the particular field,  ‘willingness to put in great amounts of time and effort‘…Winner (1996) concluded, ‘Creators must be able to persist in the face of difficulty and overcome the many obstacles  in the way of creative discovery…'”

Do you have grit?  Duckworth published a self-test to help you determine your grit score.  Not surprisingly, I got a score of 2.  I’m not very gritty.  I think a few years ago, I would have scored higher; I was very determined and gritty in high school.  I’m not sure what changed, whether it was just my mindset or my environment.

Reading Shelf

I have not yet read any of these books, but their summaries sound related to grit, habits, and self control, and therefore will be compiled on a list I call the “reading shelf”:

This reading list was compiled with recommendations from Edutopia:

1. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

2. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcom Gladwell

4.  Performance Values Position Paper by Character Education Partnership

5. KIPP’s Character Report Card

6. “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century” by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology

Following this study I am now more determined to completely get both my feet wet at this career I chose.  Although at times various aspects of architecture gets me nervous (in particular when it is related to job security, and all the points mentioned on this forum post on Archinect), I hope I can calm some of my qualms by fully immersing myself in the field with dedication, grit, and deliberate practice.  I will keep updates of this progress.

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4 thoughts on “Forget Talent. It’s All About Grit

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