“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find.”

gritI just finished reading  Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It was recommended to me by a dear friend, and the subject matter is right up my alley. I’ve often wondered what makes some people able to weather adversity while others wilt and give up under it. And I’ve wondered if this mental toughness — or grit — is something you’re simply born with. Duckworth is convincing me that grit can be encouraged and developed, and that is some very good news if it’s true.

We all know that talent matters, but that’s only one ingredient of success. Even more important (we all know talented people who just can’t seem to get it going) is effort. And gritty folks make the effort — over and over again. Gritty people have passion and perseverance, and Duckworth argues that these traits aren’t fixed. We can learn them.

Which is very good news for younger folks, if they’ll just pay attention. And it’s very good news for older people who may be discouraged about their own progress or frustrated by what they see in millennials.

The instant success story is exceedingly rare, and I’ll bet that when we hear of one, we’re only hearing a tiny piece of that story. Yes, some people — very few people — seem to “luck” into something great. But that’s the exception and not the rule. The more likely scenario is putting in time, effort, figuring out how to bounce back after failure, and eventually creating a rewarding career or calling or hobby out of all of that.

Actually becoming good at something doesn’t often look like much at the beginning, and sometimes we don’t even know we’re beginning something. But if we stick with it, over time, we see nuances and get interested enough to pursue more. Here’s Duckworth’s colleague Barry Schwartz:

“There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it, or what have you. Well, that requires that you stick with it.”

Duckworth contends that “passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” Just think how much time all of that takes! I think we all have a romantic aha! moment picture of passion, and we impatient humans don’t make the time to develop interests and cultivate passion. We think that just because we have an interest in something, we’ll naturally be good at it  and love every part  and will see instant success. That reminds me of a quote from this “literary perfectionist” (I love that description!):

“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.”

Drudgery. Time. Effort. Perseverance. Work. Development. Learning. Failure. Pursuit. Patience. 

Dirty words. But true, time-tested ingredients of getting good at something.

Unlike Duckworth, I’m no expert here. I came to my current career only in the past few years (although it is a return to my field of study in college) through a series of events that turned my world upside down. And I feel like there’s just not enough time to learn all I want to learn about it. But I do know that the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I feel a sense of urgency. But there is no substitute for time and picking up new things every day, trying to figure out how the parts fit into the whole, asking questions, messing up and determining not to make that same mistake again, and, yes, drudgery.

More from Duckworth:

“What do you tell people,” I recently asked Amy [Wrzesniewski, a management professor], “when they ask you for advice?”

“A lot of people assume that what they need to do is find their calling,” she said. “I think a lot of anxiety comes from the assumption that your calling is like a magical entity that exists in the world, waiting to be discovered.”

That’s also how people mistakenly think about interests, I pointed out. They don’t realize they need to play an active role in developing and deepening their interests.

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find,” she tells advice seekers. “It’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do–whether you’re a janitor or the CEO–you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find.” Amen.

And as a side note, I think these ideas apply to hobbies as well as vocations. My first knitting project is embarrassing to look at, but now over two years in, I’m able to make pieces worthy of wearing and giving as gifts. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I want to learn and make. Time, practice, watching You Tube knitting tutorials over and over again, asking questions, getting stuck, messing up, ripping out, and starting over. This is the stuff of knitting. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it.

I usually fly through a book like this one, but I’ve taken my time and thought a lot about it. And I’ll keep thinking about it after I return it to my local library. Have you read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

monday miscellany

Rainy days and Mondays…make for a short list:

~ I’m glad to see someone talking about this: All sins are equal, and further reflections on the belief that “all sins are equal.”

~ Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Dip copycat recipe. I really want to make this but I’m afraid it would set off a binge the likes of which I’ve never seen. That stuff is good, y’all.

~ 25 books to read when you feel like the world is falling apart. I actually don’t feel like the world is falling apart, but it’s an interesting list nonetheless. I’d put at the top Island of the World, my favorite novel. I’m going to read it again in 2017.

~ And last, a little something to think about on this Monday from Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink:

Think about yourself. Does what energizes you—what gets you up in the morning and propels you through the day—come from the inside or from the outside? What about your spouse, your partner, or your children? How about the men and women around you at work? If you’re like most people I’ve talked to, you instantly have a sense into which category someone belongs.

Happy Monday, y’all!

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“do what you’re good at.”

Earlier this week I linked to a thought-provoking post — You’re not meant to do what you love. You’re meant to do what you’re good at. A friend shared it on Facebook, and there was a bit of pushback in the comments. That got me thinking deeper about the subject — which is exactly why blog posts and Facebook are useful. The disagreement in the comments was of the “you shouldn’t crush anyone’s dream” variety. But I think the original blog post was a pushback against just that mentality. Our culture is functionally narcissistic — what makes me happy? what do *I* want to do? And hell hath no fury like a person who has been told he’s not good at something.

The more I think about the original post, the more I agree. We should be pointing our children in the direction of serving with their gifts and abilities (and helping them to find out what those are) instead of encouraging them to follow their hearts. See the difference there? One of those directions is others-focused and the other is self-focused. Yes, occasionally these two worlds collide, but not always.

I was raised to work hard and to aim for excellence at whatever job I held. And I’ve learned that I’m the kind of person who can make herself like just about any job. I’ve never held a mind-numbingly boring job, but some of the jobs I’ve had may well be mind-numbing to others. Sure, there are jobs I really don’t think I’d want, but if I had to to it, I think I could jedi-mindtrick myself into seeing the worth of it and digging in. I’m very grateful that the job I’m in now is challenging and interesting and never boring. But I never grew up thinking that my passion was balancing numbers or solving daily mysteries or replying to emails. As it turns out, however, that’s where God used my gifts and abilities and circumstances to put me to serve right now. It wasn’t my dream, but I’m glad about how it’s turned out. It’s satisfying to know that I’m where I’m supposed to be, even if that’s a different place than I thought I’d be.

I often counseled my children to find what they loved and to figure out how to get paid for it. There’s truth in that to be sure. But if I had it to do over again, I’d add the part about finding what you’re actually good at.

Just thinking a little this Friday morning…

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what’s going on

The blog has been quiet for several reasons these days:

~ I was away all week for work, adding Indiana to the states-I’ve-visited list. Here’s a sunrise in Muncie:

munsunrise

~ I’ve been doing the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” thing. I’ve been discouraged by politics and Auburn football and current events and have tried to avoid ranting about ungrateful, cowardly, spoiled college students.

~ Much of my downtime has been spent knitting or surfing Ravelry. I’ve got four works-in-progress at the moment. Here’s one of them:

stripedscarf

~ Even though I compose blog posts in my head on my commute or in the shower or as I toss and turn at 2 a.m., I haven’t felt like sitting down to my laptop and actually typing them up. Just call me lazy.

~ I indulged in some Netflix binging on Call the Midwife recently. Now I’m all caught up. Any recommendations for another series I can watch while knitting?

I hope to get back in the blogging groove, but I’m not making any promises. Thanks for sticking around.

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saturday

Yeah, it’s been a while — yet again. I just can’t seem to get back into my blogging habit. I certainly have intended it, but those best laid plans…   I’m often (especially in the shower or while driving) composing blog posts in my head, but I never seem to settle down in front of my laptop and actually type. Maybe it’s because I spend all day in front of a computer, and I just don’t feel like it when I’m home. Or maybe it’s because I’ve had a long spell of insomnia that has leaves me crashing around 9 pm every night.

I really miss it. It was a creative outlet for me, along with photography, and I miss both. I’m going to try, try again, dear blog reader (I hope you’re still there!).

I’m enjoying a rare lazy Saturday morning with coffee and my laptop, so here’s a bit of what’s been going on:

~ We moved just across the border (Georgia/Florida) in April, and I’m feeling a bit more settled in these days.  Just this past week I began working in an office here in Florida, which I’ll do a couple of days a week. I’m grateful for that flexibility. I love working in Thomasville, and the drive is a nice commute that gives me time to think and listen to podcasts (more on that later). It makes for long days away from home, however, so yesterday it was so nice to have an extra hour at home before work. I read the paper and did a load of laundry. And I was home just after 5:00.

~ At the end of May, I flew out to California for the second time this year! This time it was for work. I spent a week at Pepperdine University (overlooking the Pacific Ocean!) for trust school. It’s truly a luxury to be a full-time student, so I was thankful for that week away from distractions — a week packed full of classes and study. I took the test Saturday just before catching the shuttle to the airport. And, wonder of wonders!, all of my flights to and from went smoothly and were on time!

~ I’m on day 20 of whole30. It’s been easier than I thought, and I feel pretty good. I miss eating out (it’s hard to find compliant food in most restaurants) and Greek yogurt, but other than that I’m satisfied.  It’s been helpful to have a few friends in the office eating this way, too. I’m hoping that this will help me discover which foods don’t agree with me (please, please don’t be dairy!). You’re not supposed to weigh for the 30 days, but I couldn’t resist hopping on the scales about a week ago, and at that point I’d lost 6 pounds. Not too bad, especially considering weight loss isn’t the goal.  It’s not a diet! 

Some observations:  Soy is in almost everything!! Boiled eggs are a life saver. Having food prepped for the week is key. Living in a town with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods is very helpful. Summer is an excellent time to do this — fresh peaches, okra, tomatoes, oh my! Cooking every meal leaves a never-ending stack of dishes to be washed, dried, and put away.

~ Just like I’ve been too pooped to blog, I’ve been too pooped to read at night. I did burn through Gone Girl in about three days (what a disappointment: not one likable character), but other than that, I’m just binging on Netflix because it requires so much less mental effort. I’ve got Why We Get Fat on my nightstand, but can only read about three pages before my eyelids start drooping.

~ I had an eye exam a couple of weeks ago, and just as I suspected, my eyes are worse. It’s the most frustrating thing about aging. I’ve always had excellent vision, and now I’m crippled without glasses.

~ As I mentioned, I often use my commute to listen to podcasts. I subscribe to Dennis Prager‘s and, more recently, my son’s — The 365 with Will Malone. Last week’s episode was a conversation with his sister about art and insecurity. It was fun to drive along listening to a conversation between my son and daughter, this time with no bickering! 😉

~ A beloved high school English teacher passed away this month. She really left her mark on so many of us, and she instilled in me a love of diagramming sentences. She was fairly active on Facebook almost up until the end, and I appreciated that she still cared about her students and their lives. I saw her at a football game a year or so ago, and she was so kind and friendly.

~ Paul and I are planning a little getaway for our first anniversary. Time really does fly, and it’s hard to believe that our first year married is coming to a close in less than three months. God has richly blessed us. A second marriage is very different from a first because we’re aware (almost hyper-aware) of pitfalls. That is a grace that keeps us working to move towards each other when conflict arises. It’s not easy, but it’s good.

~ My poor camera sits neglected in a cabinet. I keep thinking I’ll pull it out, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Well, I’ve lingered in bed long enough this morning. We’ve got several errands to run today, and we’re meeting up with family to celebrate Father’s Day tonight. I truly intend to return to more regular blogging.

If you’re still here, thanks for sticking around!

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monday miscellany

~ I’ve had the dictionary.com app on my phone for ages, but for some reason I recently started receiving word-of-the-day emails from them. I think I should attempt to use the new word in a sentence at least once every day. Sometimes the word is a challenge to drop into conversation:

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~ 3 Facts for your fret

~ Trisha’s word for 2015.

~ Mike Rowe on following your passion. This is good stuff.

~ “You can sum up God’s agenda for your life in one word…

~ Our colder than usual weather has me wanting to knit this up STAT.

Happy Monday to you!

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