How do we measure success for ourselves? It really isn’t all that important if others see us as successful or not. If we are content with our current situation, is that success?
I’m reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. I was going along, reading contentedly until, wham! I got to Chapter 11: The Playing Field of Grit. And then I was so struck by the irony, I’m having trouble getting it past it.
I believe I possess the quality of perseverance. Unless of course, I have the less stellar quality of stubbornness. Either good or bad, I tend to stick with things. Here are some cases in point:
I graduated from my nursing school with an associate’s degree and a 13 week old baby who was born slightly premature. This was in spite of a postpartum infection and babysitting problems. I did not get my usual A that quarter, but I did manage to graduate despite everything.
I’ve been married to my starter husband for almost 44 years now. This is in spite of the fact that I was just 20 when we married and young brides aren’t supposed to know what they hell they are doing. That part was completely correct. But we are still married and relatively happy. At least I am.
I am in my seventh year of writing history essays for Little Bits of History with only one of those years actually paying anything (and even then it was a pittance). I have enjoyed learning about so many little items from the vast history of the world and I like to write. So this endeavor isn’t difficult, but the daily grind can become not quite over, but whelming. I took one year off and then came back to my hobby.
And then there is CrossFit. There is no reason under the sun I should be doing this. I sucked so bad on my first stab at it, I should clearly have just walked away. I didn’t. The first time I wanted to quit, I stayed. The hundredth time I wanted to quit, I stayed.
I believe I’m pretty gritty. The rule for the kids when they were in my charge was if you signed up for a team, you finished the season. This is one of the rules of grit and for me it was instinctual.
Now, the part of the book that set me so far on edge that I’m actually writing this.
In chapter 11, Dr. Duckworth claims having grit in high school will help predict later success in life. This sounds reasonable to me, as well. Then she wanted to do a longitudinal study and needed funding. She went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and received a grant. Filling in her Grit Grid allowed high school students to list their extracurricular activities and how long they participated.
So, in high school, I was in the band (played clarinet for eight years total, flute for three, and carried a tuba for one although I don’t even know how to read base clef) so that got me a point for being there three years in high school. I was in one school play which got me no points. I had a job from the time I was 16 until shortly after I turned 18, when I quit the job in order to take evening college classes while still in high school. That did get me one point.
You got points if you were a stellar achiever in your extracurricular activities. There was no stellar anything for band. I didn’t become CEO of the store where I worked as a cashier. No extra points there. So I got two points which is a pretty crappy score. I’m okay with that part.
Then she went on to study the people who were gritty in high school to see if they were successful after graduation. Success was measured in large part by them graduating from college. I do not have a college degree. I have two associate degrees, which lets me check off the “some college” line on questionnaires. This would seem to indicate that I’m not successful, at least by the good doctor’s metric.
To be fair, in other parts of the book, a college degree isn’t a requirement of success, but in this particular chapter it is.
I’ve always been opposed to this belief. My two-year degree didn’t keep me from working critical care. I worked alongside four-year grads who were less adept at patient care. I passed the same state board licensing exam. All without a college degree.
But here is the part that really griped my ass. Dr. Duckworth begged for money from the college dropout who was at one point the richest man in the world and who has built a global company in order for her to prove that he was not successful. She doesn’t seem to have noticed the irony.