A formula for creativity – no.3 : Grit

At the end of the previous formula for creativity post we left the formula as; creativity = a function of synthesis and originality


But this equation is not really complete, it needs a few more components to make it complete, in my mind anyway… and one of those components is ‘grit’.

This is a modern take on the infamous marshmallow experiment that took place in the 60s…where children were told they could have one marshmallow right away or two if they waited 15 minutes. What I find fascinating about that research is what happened years later because they followed all of these kids all the way through school and they found that overwhelmingly the kids who waited the full 15 minutes were better behaved, less prone to addiction and they scored higher on standardised tests.

Joclyn Glei writes about all of this in an article called “grit is more important than talent”

What those kids showed was simply something called self-control right, it was there ability in this instance to postpone immediate gratification for a greater reward.

If we look at a foundation for long term success – let’s assume for a second that we have a tiered pyramid with self-control in the middle. So there’s a level above it and a level above it. The bottom section of the pyramid would have to be productivity, it’s impossible to have long term success without doing anything. But productivity is simply a state of doing. In and of itself it is not sufficient, there has to be something more than that and that something more is self-control. Self-control is being able to choose what it is we do. But even then, self-control as important as it was for those children to gain long term success, as important as it is for us – it’s still not enough, there’s something else above that needs to be considered and that something else is grit.

So what exactly is grit? Well there’s a lot of ways we could define grit but I’m going to use another equation…

Creativity is a burden of hard work – we all know that, we live it and breathe it every day. But sometimes we get caught up desperately hoping to be redeemed from that hard work…that we’ll have a flash of inspiration, a moment of insight. I’ve long been a believer in flashes of inspiration, you can tell by the apps I have, the notebook collection by my bed and my office notice board covered in post it notes. Sometimes we assume there has been a moment of extraordinary inspiration because we have not witnessed all the small incremental steps that led there.

Fredrick Nieche  who was a 19th C philosopher & composer believed that inspiration is superseded by good judgement. This is what he said…

artists have a vested interest in believing in the flash of revelation, the so called inspiration this was written 200 years ago…shining down from heavens as a ray of grace. In reality the imagination of the good artist or thinker continually produces good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgement trained and sharpened to a fine point rejects, selects and connects.

There is no escaping the burden of hard work and it’s through good judgement and persistence and passion that the ideas and inspiration come to us.

I think it’s worth pointing out at this juncture that;

If you’re doing it right it’s going to feel like work.

So going back to our equation, we can see that it’s missing the element of grit (g).


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