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5. You Can Measure Your Grit. But Why?


In this post we leave the discussion of effort versus talent, largely on the assumption that Dr Duckworth, in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, has made her case for the importance of effort, which then brings up the relevance of grit.


Grit is, of course, Dr Duckworth’s primary focus. And In this post we’ll look at her Grit Scale. This is the tool she uses to measure not only an individual’s level of Grit, but also their levels of Passion and Perseverance, which according to Duckworth are the main components of Grit.


We will examine each of the 10 factors that Duckworth uses to generate her Grit Scores. If you want to get your Grit tested, go to Duckworth’s website to take the test there. It’s an automated questionnaire that should take no more than a couple of minutes to complete.

The relevant page of her website is:



Here, then, are the 10 factors that are assessed on the Grit Scale. Each of these factors requires a response on a scale from 1 to 5.


And just a quick note. Sometimes 1 means you fully agree that this is how you are and 5 means you’re not like that at all. But for some factors the reverse weighting applies. Later we’ll see why this is the case.


So to each of the grit factors:


Factor 1: New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

Factor 2: Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily.

Factor 3: I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

Factor 4: I am a hard worker.

Factor 5: I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

Factor 6: I finish whatever I begin.

Factor 7: My interests change from year to year.

Factor 8: I am diligent. I never give up.

Factor 9: I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

Factor 10: I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.


The 5-point scale you need to use when responding to each of these factors is this: that, the factor in question is:

Not at all like me

Not much like me

Somewhat like me

Mostly like me, or

Very much like me


Next, to get your overall grit score, you need to add up your score across all 10 factors and then divide that total number by 10. The questionnaire on Dr Duckworth’s website will do this automatically.


You will then see how you compare with the broader population of American adults using a chart on Dr Duckworth’s website.


To get your passion and perseverance scores, you need to do the following calculations.

For your passion score, add up your responses to all the odd-numbered factors and divide by 5. Then to get your perseverance score you do the same calculations with the even-numbered factors.


This is why the weightings for each factor alternate. Odd and even factors are testing different things. First Passion, then Perseverance, then Passion again and so on.


Now let’s back up and note that Duckworth concedes how it is easy to game her checklist and boost your score. She nevertheless has evidence to demonstrate her scoring system’s usefulness in her own research and in the research of other scientists. This is because it has apparent predictive power.


Dr Duckworth’s concluding comments on the value of knowing your Grit Score are:

“However you scored on the Grit Scale, I hope it prompted self-reflection. It’s progress just clarifying your goals, and the extent to which they are - or aren’t - aligned toward a single passion of supreme importance. It’s also progress to better understand how well you’re currently able to persevere in the face of life’s rejection slips.”


Dr Duckworth’s reference here to clarifying your goals is discussed further in the other two Grit-Series books contained in this Seminar Book.


Team Analysis


There is without doubt huge value in how Dr Duckworth has been able to create a simple grit checklist with real predictive power. That is no easy feat, especially as it provides other scientists with a reliable tool to use in their research projects. It also enables organisations to screen for grit and all that that can mean for achieving their goals.


But as an individual, is it necessary to measure your own level of grit? Is it important? Is it helpful?


In our opinion it is not necessary to know how gritty you are on Duckworth’s scale. Neither is it critical in any direct developmental sense. Plenty of people are gritty without knowing their score, and the author acknowledges this by recounting all the gritty people whose experiences she describes without any reference to their Grit Scores.


So is knowing your Grit Score important or helpful? These are things we can debate. Duckworth hopes knowing your score will prompt your self-reflection. Perhaps that is worthwhile. This might well draw us deeper into the narrative that she is presenting and perhaps even allow us to identify better with her conclusions.


Given that it takes only a few minutes to do, it seems to us that on a simple cost-benefit basis it could be worthwhile.


However, you should also be aware that your Grit Score can change over time, as Duckworth goes on to note. So there is a risk we will become grittier but still think we’re our less gritty former selves.


Such a risk is increased by the way that some of the grit factors are worded. Take, for example, Factor 4 which states, “I am a hard worker.” This can lead to Grit being construed as part of your identity, a stable trait, rather than an amendable behaviour as Duckworth hopes it will be. It would therefore be advisable to read those statements not in terms of the ‘is’ of identity, as the general semanticists would put it, but rather in temporal terms, for instance, “So far, this is somewhat like me.”


There is also the risk that we will start to justify our behaviour based on our assessed level of grit.


Perhaps you decide to give up pursuing a particular project or goal, and put it down to your natural lack of grit. Or you doggedly pursue something else when the signs are clear that you should stop. But you don’t stop because you are a person with a high grit score and they don’t give up so easily.


These are hypothetical situations obviously. Plus we are assuming you’ll complete the assessment without any attempt to try to game it, which Duckworth admits is easy to do. But why would you want to do that as part of a self-reflection exercise?


Overall, Duckworth is to be applauded for coming up with a research tool that could help both scientists and organisations. But we are not convinced it is necessary, important or even helpful for us to assess our own level of grit as individuals.


As to whether you should submit to having your level of grit measured in an employment or career advancement situation, that is another issue. It may depend on whether or not you view it as a form of psychometric test or a similar employment assessment tool. It seems to us that gaming the assessment is likely to be a much bigger risk in this context, even if only subconsciously as some of us seek to put our best foot forward and “round up” our responses accordingly.


Practitioner Perspective


I can’t question the power of Dr Duckworth’s Grit Score in terms of its scientific credibility or usefulness. I think she has demonstrated both. But for me personally and professionally, the biggest issue is that I find the process difficult if not impossible to undertake.


The factors themselves are at the very least challenging to respond to with any precision. Yet the difference between choosing a 3 or a 5-point response is not inconsequential to the final score. For me personally, this makes the task more a source of frustration than anything else.

Take Factor 1, which is the first “Passion” grit factor:

Factor 1: New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.


While some legal matters, such as lengthy litigation, can last for years, many tasks that a lawyer has to undertake concern different clients, different legal issues and completely different factual situations, and these can change often. One of the best things about being a competition lawyer is the variety of industries, issues and other “ideas and projects” we get to work on from month to month and even week to week, if not day to day.


Are we distracted by these new ideas and projects, or are we just doing our job which requires us to continually move on to the next client’s challenge?


I understand that the area of law in which we work is a constant, although with changes in legislation, guidelines and case law, this is arguable. At least for me the fundamental economic concepts or building blocks for analysing market power and co-ordinated action, remain relatively constant over time within the competition law rubric.


But change and the need to refocus and “forget” past cases could amount to a form of distraction. Arguably, Duckworth is implying something more. But that “something more” is not specified or explained. As a result, I am genuinely unable to determine if my response to Factor 1 should be a 2 or 3, or possibly a 5.


Then Factor 4 asks whether I am “a hard worker.” Is that in absolute or relative terms? There are plenty of people who work harder than me, both in the legal profession and in the rice paddies of Thailand. How can I self-assess this issue? Perhaps the fact that I have reached my current level of achievement is evidence that I am a hard worker. But did I work as hard or harder than my peers?


Lastly, Factor 10 requires me to rate my response to the statement “I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.” What does overcome mean? What qualifies as a set back? What is an important challenge? I suppose these are all what I say they are; my conscience is my guide - even if poorly informed and subject to how I parse Dr Duckworth’s phrases.


Frankly, I am surprised that this checklist has as much predictive power as Duckworth says it has.


Ironically, it is by grappling with this list of grit factors that I believe I get more value than knowing what my final Grit Score might be. As imprecise and as frustrating as each of these 10 factors is, they do focus my mind on issues that I can deduce are important to determining my grittiness. And that is perhaps a useful function.


Dr Duckworth’s grit factors do have the advantage of tying together much of the theory and many of the examples that she lays out in her book. In this sense, they are an itemised checklist of behaviours and thinking patterns that I can now see are important for maintaining my focus and persisting with my longer-term goals.


But beyond that, I am not sure what to make of this Grit Scale from the perspective of a working professional. And this is before I start to try to break things down even further into an assessment of my passion and my perseverance.


Ultimately, this is not, in my view, a practical tool for me as a competition lawyer, other than to help me recall some of the key ingredients that go to making up a gritty attitude towards my work.


SELF-REFLECTION


Factual Question

1. What is the main thing that Dr Duckworth hopes that knowing your Grit Score will do for you?

A. Prompt your self-reflection.

B. Help you get your ideal job.

C. Learn the importance of grit.

D. Be able to more objectively compare yourself with your peers.

Short Answers

2. How useful would it be to you, to know the Grit Scores of your colleagues?

3. What level of confidence do you have that you could accurately and reliably respond to each of the 10 Grit Score criteria?

A. Very high

B. High

C. Moderate

D. Low

E. Very low

4. For your professional practice, firm or organisation, would you want it to measure the Grit Score of new recruits, whether they are fresh graduates or experienced practitioners?

A. Never

B. Possibly

C. Very likely

D Definitely


Going Deeper

If someone were playing Devil's Advocate against Dr Duckworth's Grit Scale, there are three objections they might raise. Describe to what extent you agree or disagree with these objections.

OBJECTION 1. Say someone completes the Grit assessment and gets a low score. It could be argued that in this case doing the test ends up demoralizing them, as they conclude that they “Just aren't trying hard enough” and blame themselves for that. This starts a vicious cycle of expending less effort, while continuing to blame themselves for lacking grit. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

OBJECTION 2. Research has consistently suggested that most people tend to overrate their positive qualities. This means there’s a risk that Dr Duckworth's test ends up with people scoring higher than they deserve and then getting complacent. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

OBJECTION 3. Dr Duckworth's Grit Scale makes no mention of the role of workplace culture nor does it refer to an individual’s people skills. Yet how much constructive feedback and support we receive in our jobs can play a big part in our levels of grit. Likewise, how competently and constructively we engage with our colleagues influences our levels of motivation and commitment to tasks. Dr Duckworth's scale is therefore missing at least two big components in the development of grit. Do you agree or disagree, and why?


TAKE THE NEXT STEP



To get on the list for our next small-group Grit Seminar in Melbourne or another city, email me at pjm@pmaca.com.au.


And, of course, feel free to pick up a copy of our omnibus Grit-Series Seminar Book, though you will get one for free when you attend one of our seminars.


Our next post will be, Present Yourself as a Reformed Hare.


Until then, feel free to email me your queries and comments.


Stay Gritty!



About the Author


Dr Peter Macmillan began his legal career in 1992 and ultimately became Head of Competition Law at an international law firm in Hong Kong. Today, Peter is the CEO of Meisterline Analytics, an international pioneer in the science of professional expertise and a leading provider of professional expertise metrics for law firms and their clients. He is also the author of 8 books, including the seminal reference book, Unlocking the Secrets of Legal Genius: Measuring Specialist Legal Expertise Through Think-Aloud Verbal Protocol Analysis, The KUJI Handbook and The 21 Secrets Of Gritty Professionals. Peter has a Master’s Degree in Competition Law and a PhD in Cognitive Science.


In 2022, Peter founded his own unique law firm in Melbourne, which specializes in signature witnessing, document certification and the formal authentication of documents for every legal and official use within Australia and internationally. For more information about the unimaginatively named Peter Macmillan & Associates, please visit pmaca.com.au/about.


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