Shine On You Crazy Diamond—How To Get a Diamond To Shine

Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 87 to 118 miles in the Earth’s mantle.

Diamonds are made to shine using grit. All gems are cut and polished by progressive abrasion using finer and finer grits of harder substances. Diamond, the hardest naturally occurring substance, has a Mohs hardness of 10 and is used as an abrasive to cut and polish a wide variety of materials, including diamond itself.

Grit is defined in two ways:  1: small, loose particles of stone or sand and 2: courage, resolve; strength of character.

Grit…perseverance… adaptability… resiliency…the strong B+ student; grit can be developed through a crucible event or the Unforgettable Fire.  All develop stellar leadership and shiny diamonds.  Angela Duckworth has done some amazing work examining the power of grit.  The issue with grit—we can’t subjectively examine it as we can with grades, SAT/ACT scores and IQ.

I’ve spent a great deal of time looking at ways the military can produce the most incredible leaders to protect and defend this amazing country.  I’ve been fortunate to spend time in ROTC, Officer Training School, and the USAF’s Air Command and Staff College (ACSC).  We spent a great deal of effort in ROTC working with RAND to determine the qualities we desire in our leaders.  In OTS we created a crucible event to bind our Officer Trainees together and launched a Total Force Course (beta).  We spent time examining changes at ACSC in grading, rigor, and—yes—grit.  So at Xavier’s School for Incredibly Gifted Youngsters (couldn’t pass up the X-Men reference), there is a great deal of angst as we navigate these “gritty” waters of change.

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina.” -Angela Duckworth

Experts know very little about how to develop or increase grit. Talent doesn’t make people gritty. In fact, some of the most gifted individuals lack commitment and drive.  So when we only examine or seek the most talented individuals there is no guarantee they will show the perseverance, resiliency, adaptability and passion we so desperately need in our leaders.

Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck has identified a path forward in grit research. She conceived the idea of a “growth mind-set” —the notion that learning ability is fluid, not fixed, and can improve with effort.  Her research demonstrates that children are more likely to push through their individual failures if they learn about the brain and how it grows with each challenge.  They persevere because they understand that failure is temporary.  The challenge is illuminating this fact to mid-career military officers—this short term struggle will assist in developing long-term heroic leaders.

We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them.  We need to measure whether we’ve been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.” -Angela Duckworth

Two traits that predict success in life are grit and self-control.  Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.  Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions.  On average, individuals who are gritty are more self-controlled, but the correlation between these two traits is not perfect.  Some individuals are paragons of grit but not self-control, and some exceptionally well-regulated individuals and are not especially gritty.

Duckworth’s research has established the predictive power of grit and self-control over and beyond measures of talent, for objectively measured success outcomes.  For instance, in prospective longitudinal studies, grit predicts surviving the arduous first summer of training at West Point and reaching the final rounds of the National Spelling Bee (Duckworth et al., 2007), retention in the U.S. Special Forces (Eskreis-Winkler et al., in press), retention and performance among novice teachers (Duckworth, Quinn, & Seligman, 2009, Robertson-Kraft & Duckworth, 2014) and sales agents (Eskreis-Winkler et al., in press), and graduation from Chicago public high schools (Eskreis-Winkler et al., in press), over and beyond domain-relevant talent measures such as IQ, SAT or standardized achievement test scores, and physical fitness. In cross-sectional studies, grit correlates with lifetime educational attainment and, inversely, lifetime career changes and divorce (Duckworth et al., 2007; Eskreis-Winkler et al., in press).

Angela Duckworth’s work is fascinating and worth a look:  Her TED can be found here.

Her Lab:  Duckworth Lab

And…even a site to find your Grit Score

Simple concepts to consider and study when looking for long-term success, stellar leaders and shiny diamonds.

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