What makes someone successful in their field of choice?
In the business world we often hear things like, “she’s naturally really good with people”. In sports, we hear it all the time, “She’s got great genes, she’s a freak.” In academia, its often “She’s really smart.” While there is probably a nugget of truth in each of these, research done by psychologist Angela Duckworth has shown that IQ, genetics, and social intelligence are not in fact the greatest determinants of success. What is then?
Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's passion for a particular long-term goal or end-state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.
Grit also shares a lot of similarity with the Finnish word Sisu, which is the training philosophy of the former Crossfit Games Champion Mikko Salo. Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity. An almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times.
A persons ability to put their head down and do the dirty work, is what leads to success. Not genetics, not intelligence, not inborn social skills. While many “stars” of their field do posses talents in their respective field, what you can guarantee each of them do is work hard.
It is easy to look up to someone, and think that they’ve always been able to do it. Especially in the sport of crossfit, the best athletes make things look easy. It is hard to look past their muscular bodies and flawless movement. What doesn’t show on tv, is the all the hard work they’ve put in in the past years to get to where they are. A recent Crossfit Games show spoke about the amount of time regional athletes are putting in. They are spending at least 3 hours/day doing strength work and wods, and an additional 90 minutes of mobility. This means they are putting in at least 22 hours each week in the gym.
I’ll provide an example of a crossfit athlete from my old gym SaskPro Crossfit. His name is Josh and he started with us back in around 2011. He weighed maybe 60kg soaking wet, with change in his pocket. He was definitely athletic, but so were a lot of our young members. What separated Josh was that he worked his ass off everyday he was in the gym. Two years later, he started competing, and in the 2013 open he finished 222nd in the Canada West region. After that he became training partners with a female regional athlete from our gym named Whitney Darchuk- Parenteau. Josh and Whitney worked out 6 days a week, and usually half of those were double days. In 2014, he finished 102nd in the Canada West Region. Another year of 20+ hours in the gym a week, pushing himself to the limit each time, took him to a 30th place finish in the Canada West region in 2015. It was common to hear members from our gym saying how those two were freaks, or not normal, because they were standout athletes. But, with the exception of a few other athletes, no one else was putting in a fraction of the time or effort that they were each week, or for as many years. They are both great athletes, but what separated them from the pack wasn’t their genetics, it was their consistent, focused effort, day in and day out, for weeks, and years.
Now to wrap things up, how can Grit help you. First off, consider your goals, and then evaluate whether or not your are putting in the time, and the effort to reach them. In other words, are you being Gritty enough. I truly believe that most of us are only scratching at our full potential, and with all of the videos on facebook and instagram today only showing people at their bests its easy to place people on a pedestal, and think they are unreachable. We only see Kristin Holte setting the world record in an event at Regionals, but we don’t see the hours and hours of work she put in to get there. So, don’t compare yourself to someone, and think they are untouchable, unless you are working as hard, or harder than they are, and have been doing so for as long as they have.
Here is the link to a TedTalk by Angela Duckworth on the topic of Grit! Enjoy.
Crossfit 46 Coaching Staff.