In 2010, the St. Louis Park, Minnesota-born Coen brothers released a movie called “True Grit.” The female protagonist, Mattie Ross, will do anything to find her father’s murderer. Despite almost dying multiple times, having to stick up for herself against dangerous and evil men, and facing the harshness of the elements in the wilderness, she does not give up. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but her journey is a wonderful example of the importance of grit on the path to achieving your goals.
WHAT DETERMINES SUCCESS?
- Is it your IQ?
- Is it your personality?
- Or is it your raw talent?
While these attributes do contribute to achieving your goals, psychologists have found that “grit” (defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals) is potentially the most important predictor of success in achieving your long-term goals (Duckworth, Matthews, Peterson, and Kelly, 2007). A psychologist named Angela Duckworth, PhD and her colleagues measure grit using a 12 question test that has statements like “I finish whatever I begin,” and then you respond from a continuum of answers from “Very much like me” to “Not like me at all.” To test the importance of grit, she gave this questionnaire to 1,200 freshmen cadets at West Point as they entered their extremely intense summer training course called Beast Barracks. That sounds challenging to say the least. While West Point administers its own tests (based on physical fitness, grades, and leadership potential) which are supposed to predict the success of incoming cadets, Duckworth and her colleagues’ grit questionnaire was the most accurate predictor of success (Tough, 2011).
Duckworth and her colleagues have conducted many more studies on the importance of grit in determining success, like this one here (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf), but the point is clear: grit helps you succeed.
A GRITTY VOICE (TALENT)
In a similar way to Mattie Ross and the West Point cadets, you will eventually face extremely difficult obstacles and hardships that will block you on your road to success. You can have all the talent and intelligence in the world, but if you don’t have the self-control and perseverance to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, you will get nowhere. In the voice over world, it is no different.
There may be weeks where you don’t land a gig, or a time when your equipment decides to die (like mine did this week), or a time when you just feel like you’re lost in the shuffle of 1,000’s of other talented voice over artists. It is how you react to these difficulties and hardships that matters or as Duckworth calls it: your grit. Don’t stop. Find ways around these obstacles.
In the voice over world:
- Try communicating with clients in different ways to become top of mind (snail mail, e-mail, phone, postcards, etc.)
- Practice different reads and techniques with the same script
- Ask a fellow voice over talent you trust for advice and encouragement when you’re stuck
- Remember your successes and build upon what worked in those situations
- Or if you are really confident with your technique and business practices, keep at it and don’t lose sight of your goals!
TEST YOUR GRIT
If you want to see how you stack up on the grittiness scale, take the simple 12 question test here (GritScale), and please answer honestly. As I’ve learned in studying psychology, this is NOT the way you conduct a survey (after the participant knows the survey’s purpose), but it is a fun and easy way to gauge how gritty you really are. The answer key is on the last page, but don’t peek before you finish the test! If you score low and are not very gritty, don’t worry! You may want to evaluate how you can become more confident and yes, gritty, in overcoming obstacles and hardships that come your way. If you score high, keep at it!
If you’ve faced some harsh obstacles recently, I encourage you to share the obstacles and how you overcame them with your own grittiness. Also, if you want to chime in about the new psychological twist to my blog or have any other comments or questions, post them below! Thanks for reading.
GOOD LUCK and BE GRITTY!
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Duckworth, Angela L., Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, and Dennis R. Kelly. “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92.6 (2007): 1087-101. Http://www.sas.upenn.edu/. University of Pennsylvania. Web. <http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf>.
Tough, Paul. “What If the Secret to Success Is Failure?” The New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?pagewanted=all>.
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