Grit: The power of deliberate practice. Over the long haul.

By Grace Ueng, CEO Savvy Growth

Through my work with Elon University, last week I met Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Two years earlier, I’d written about how her research had inspired me. I learned that hard work is more important than talent and how we can increase grit, and therefore IQ, even as we get older: Can we increase our IQ at age 50?

Upon meeting her, additional aspects of her research jumped out at me: the importance of not quitting and that simply putting in thousands of hours of practice is not enough; the key is deliberate practice.

What is deliberate practice? When you establish a stretch goal, focus on this goal 100%, get immediate and informative feedback, reflect on that feedback, refine your practice routine, and return to try again. Olympic athletes typically do deliberate practice three to five hours a day, with an almost superhuman stretch goal in mind. Low-performing students, who are taught the science of deliberate practice, increase report card grades over the next marking period without any other intervention.

For myself, running is an example. I have run for decades with little advancement, though I usually enjoy running and being “in the flow.” Inspired by the concept of deliberate practice and the goal to get faster, I reviewed my notes from coaches over the years, went to my nearest school track, did interval training, and recorded my times. Two days later, I started hill workouts. I am going to focus on specific improvement goals in my coming races.

Deliberate practice is often cited as “not that fun,” so it’s easy to burn out. As I add speed and hill work to my routine, I motivate myself by thinking “interval training will eventually make my work-out shorter!” Duckworth cited an example of the father of an 11 year swimmer who wanted to quit. He said that he would let him quit, but not until his son turned 12, when he would be at the top of his age group and therefore, one of the fastest again. In the meantime, the father said he would keep driving his son to practice every morning. Human nature makes us want to quit when we feel like the top is out of reach.

Last month, I started working with a client who took a detour to an industry very far outside his core passion. A year later, he resigned. He asked himself, “Am I a fighter?” YES. Do I love the industry I just left? NO! He had put in very hard work and effort, but lacked passion. He is now thinking through his options back in the industry for which he has long-held passion, including starting his own company. Time away confirmed where he wants to be. The first assignment I suggested which he took on with fervor was thinking through his “Why” after reading my blog post: What is your WHY? The result? A well written vision piece. In his element, he will be gritty and put in whatever it takes. And over the long haul, he will achieve great things.

Who do you have in your life who can keep you from quitting when you are not yet at the top, to cheer you on? Who, in turn, can you cheer on?

Angela is as authentic in real life as she was when coming through my headphones during my hours of “in the flow” running. She has inspired me to remember that great achievement takes not only hard work, but deliberate practice over the long haul. I look forward to reminding my clients of the same.

About the Author

Grace Ueng is Founder & CEO of Savvy Growth, whose mission is to help companies and their leaders achieve their fullest potential. Founded in 2003 as Savvy Marketing Group, her firm now also offers management consulting and executive coaching. Grace is a globally recognized expert in marketing strategy and personal branding and consults for clients from emerging growth to Fortune 1000.

Click here for info on leadership coaching.

Click here for info on motivational speaking/workshops.

Click here for info on marketing consulting.

Speaking Highlights:

Commencement: Climbing Mountains of Life: Business and Beyond

Keynote: Happiness Post-Harvard: Project PeakAudience Reaction

TED Talk: Climbing Mountain Entrepreneurship – 10 Steps to Top

Women in Technology: Channeling Fear, Embracing Failure