“grit” as an indicator of success

Here’s a link from khatsumoto’s twitter feed: The truth about grit.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in this article, but i think it mainly reinforces the fact that your brain needs time to make solid connections. You need to keep working and working at something in order to get good at it, and therefore you need to break through any setbacks you may run into that can sap your motivation. Your mindset should be focused on jumping those hurdles and continuing towards the goal. To do this, i think it helps to have examples of people who followed similar methods and succeeded just by doing it lots and lots.

I’m trying to find any such examples that i can, because it helps me continue if i know that it’s going to work eventually. Being a very logical person, i find it easy to work with textbooks and definitions, but language doesn’t play well with textbooks and definitions. It’s more of an absorption process, and that causes me some problems. I need to retrain my thought processes to trust in the long-term, to have more grit.

One thing that i’ve been working on today is to give up some short-term satisfaction, or at least what appears to be satisfying at first. For example, i was watching german star trek today, and it was a really interesting episode and i wasn’t quite getting all of the plot details that i wanted to. Instead of flipping to english subtitles, i just kept hitting rewind and listening to the same few german sentences over and over again. Instead of looking up the words in a german-english dictionary, i tried to figure out what the possible meanings might be in the context.

The plot is not the focus of my training, the language is. There’s no reason for me to need to know the plot, except when it helps my language learning. Really, i should be thinking of the plot as a puzzle to be solved, not something a prerequisite for understanding the episode. Learning the plot through english beforehand is just an illusion that would kill my curiousity and hence my reason to learn more from the episode. it is the result of me focusing on an end, rather than on the process.

Figuring out the plot in german and resisting the english subs took more effort, but i think it was more fun, and i eventually figured out several words that way. The easy way out was to fall back to translation, but taking the hard route paid off (in the short term too, surprisingly). It would be much more gritty of me if i could continue to do this for months. As Keith would appreciate, this intensive german-only investigation of the phrases and words gives me more context, more experiences to tie them to. The investigation itself is an experience, as is the video.

Grit seems to be composed of self-confidence, and the ability to convince yourself of the inevitability of long-term success given some short-term process. Since we can’t directly visualize what the changes in our brain will be after hundreds of repetitions, we have to create a sort of self-faith that such changes will occur. Or perhaps the buddhists would describe it as letting go of the endpoint completely and just become one with the task right now…be present. Khatsumoto might say “just keep starting”. There is no act called “finishing” that one can choose to do, one can only choose to start. Grit is when you convince yourself to keep making that choice.

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