I was listening to an EconTalk episode with a lady named Angela Duckworth. She wrote a book on grit and work ethic. The conversation was okay, but I found it problematic in its applicability and general use as knowledge.
I don’t find worth ethic and grit to be core personality traits. They are emergent traits based off of several factors.
- A culture/economic atmosphere that rewards success in the given realm.
- An individual perception that you are capable of attaining the goal at hand.
- The integrated belief that the work is worth the reward.
- A contentment in finding a certain kind of identity at the task at hand.
Without any 4 of these factors, a person won’t feel inspired, and without inspiration, grit and work ethic won’t emerge.
This is an important distinction. Maybe 10% of people won’t feel competent or inspired by almost anything and will never seem to have grit/work ethic. Maybe 1% of people will seem to feel competent and inspired by almost every task and seem to always have grit/work ethic. However, the rest of us will only have the “personality traits” emerge when the conditions warrant it.
Growing up I half-assed a lot of work and cut a lot of corners. At times, when I was a kid, I thought I just didn’t have a great work ethic and others would tell me that I didn’t. Of course, what in the work that I was given would inspire me? Parental approval? Avoiding punishment? Altruism? Grades? No way.
As an adult, I love working. I will never retire and I want to buy other businesses with time. People would say I have a good work ethic, but I don’t have to really conjure anything to work. I just want to do it.
Sure. Some people will never really feel inspired. They will feel incompetent or surrounded with poisonous incentives. I am sure most people in communist/socialist societies had little-no grit/work ethic. For the rest of us, the issue isn’t conjuring work ethic/grit, it is finding the right incentives and atmospheres that will inspire us.
Most studies on grit/work ethic are studying almost a tautology that seems ridiculous when stated another way. “People who are inspired and care about the work they are doing, do it better.” Man, that’s deep.