What does GRIT look like in the music studio?


Believe it or not, talent has little to do with success. The extensive research by professor Angela Duckworth has found that those with grit will have more success. Watch the video (found on the Facebook page of Illumeably.com ) to hear more.


After watching Duckworth's video, it got me wondering what grit would look like in the music studio and made me want to dig deeper into the topic.

"Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance."

According to Duckworth, "grit has a more significant correlation to high school graduation rates than things like family income and social status do."

The quote above along with the multitude listed below came from a short book summarizing Duckworth's well-known book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

This 99-cent Kindle edition summary is worth every penny. It provides the meat of Duckworth's book in a nutshell. The e-book or hard copy book are both products of In a Nutshell Publishing where authors publish summaries of the best non-fiction books that can be easily read in under an hour. Although I'd like to read Duckworth's entire book some day, this summary worked in a pinch.

Back to grit...since it's apparent that grit is directly related to success, it's good to determine the definition of what Duckworth deems as "success."

What is SUCCESS?

Duckworth claims the components of success include

  • Completion of a long-term task

  • Setting and meeting a specific goal

  • Not giving up after a failure

  • The ability to improvise, adapt and overcome (motto of Green Berets)

  • Not dropping out when things get tough

  • A "never give up" attitude.

Those who stay in school despite dire circumstances and those who stick with things even when the going gets tough--these people will find more success in whatever they choose to do.

How are GRIT and SUCCESS related to studying a musical instrument?

Do I really need to ask that question? If you play an instrument, teach how to play one or are learning to play one, you know that the going gets tough--it's not for sissies!

What you'll find below are numerous quotes mined from the Nutshell Publishing summary. The quotes have been organized according to what I believe speaks directly to teachers, students, parents and those who practice and guide practice.

We want success as players and for our students and for our children. There's a lot at stake and there's a risk of failure. It takes grit to play a musical instrument.

It is my hope that Angela's Duckworth research will serve as inspiration as you kick off your teaching, practicing and/or parenting for the next week, the next month and the years to come. I know it has for me!

Quotes about GRIT for students

"Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another."

"Talent alone cannot accurately predict success in any field."

"We must make daily practice a habit to develop grit."

"Enjoy the challenge without concerning yourself with the judgment of others."

"Remember, failing isn't a bad thing; it's just an opportunity to get better."

"There are no shortcuts to excellence."

"Enthusiasm is common, perseverance is rare."

"Use passion as a compass."

"Do not be afraid to guess if you are not sure. Trial and error is part of the process."

"Hard work will eventually beat natural talent."

"Failing isn't a bad thing; it is just an opportunity to get better."

"Viewing yourself as a gritty person can make you grittier."

Do you have GRIT?

Check it out by taking the Grit Scale test (click on the words Grit Scale to access the test.)


Quotes about GRIT for teachers

"Remember, failing isn't a bad thing; it's just an opportunity to get better."

"By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows."

"People have an unconscious bias toward talent."

"Talent x Effort = Skill"

"Skill x Effort = Achievement"

"Too many goals will stagnate progress."

"Before hard work comes play."

"Purpose + Interest = Passion"

"Grit is built on the hope that our actions can effect change for tomorrow."

"Simply telling someone they "can do it" does not change their mindset. Instead, a person must have mastery experiences in the face of adversity in order to be able to survive with grit."

"High achievers can also be unlikely sufferers of a fixed mindset (intelligence is unchanging), as they have not faced enough adversity."

"Those with an optimistic growth mindset (one can change one's outcome and intelligence), have more grit."

"Teachers who communicated high expectations influenced students to perform better."

"Not every gritty person has wise parents, but every gritty person has had someone psychologically wise in their lives."

"Both kindness and sternness are important to developing grit in a child."

Quotes about GRIT for parents

"Grit is both hereditary and developed."

"Four assets to help form grit within us [or our children]:

  • We must like what we do.

  • We must practice daily.

  • We must see purpose in it for ourselves and for others.

  • We must have hope for it."

"You can have an interest in something but no desire to learn about it and that is fine."

Example: Will Shortz (the puzzle master) loved listening to music on the radio and his mother bought him a guitar. He also had a predisposition to crosswords and puzzles and so she bought him puzzle books. After 9 months, he did not touch the guitar but couldn't stop doing puzzles.

"Interests are triggered again and again; so do not give up."

"Interests are sparked by repeated interaction with an activity or object/idea."

"Experts start as non-serious beginners."

"Developing interests requires supporters."

"Talent alone cannot accurately predict success in any field."

"Children don't always listen to their elders; but they do always imitate them."

"If parents don't react badly to mistakes and focus more on encouraging effort, they can help their children develop a growth mindset."

"Parents will be one of four combinations:

  • Supportive & Undemanding = Permissive Parenting

  • Undemanding & Unsupportive = Neglectful Parenting

  • Unsupportive & Demanding = Authoritarian Parenting

  • Supportive & Demanding = Wise Parenting."

"Studies found that children who stick with an extracurricular activity for at least one year significantly increase the likelihood of graduating from college."

"Follow through in extracurricular activities led to greater success pretty much in all areas later in life."

"Try incorporating the Hard Thing Rule into your life:

  • Everyone in the family has to do a hard thing that requires deliberate practice.

  • You can't quit until the season is over.

  • You get to pick your hand thing, nobody else."

Quotes about GRIT when practicing

"Deliberate practice involves:

  • Repetitive performance of a skill

  • Rigorous skill assessment

  • Specific information feedback

  • Better skills performance.

"Grit and determination leads to flow."

"Do not be afraid to erase and give up on answers that are not working."

"Do not be afraid to guess if you are not sure."

The science of deliberate practice can be broken into these steps:

  • A clearly defined goal that stretches your current limitations

  • Full effort and concentration

  • Immediate, quality feedback.

"Failing isn't a bad thing; it is just an opportunity to get better."

"Practice optimistic self-talk."

Grit is living life like it's a marathon and not a sprint.

-Angela Lee Duckworth

What quote stuck out that you will pass along to your students? To your students' parents?

What quote struck a chord with you as a teacher?

How will you be grittier this year in your studio? At your instrument?

How will you pass these ideas along to your students as they practice between lessons?


Click on the image below to get this image. Use it as a studio poster or just get the note word cloud to make your own poster.