Grit is overrated; the hardest worker never wins

The people with the most grit are really poor or really neglected and they overcome those circumstances. But why aspire to that? We glorify it like life is one big Horatio Alger story.

Working smart is the opposite of grit
We also glorify the idea of persisting through hardship. There’s the Seth Godin book of grit that everyone loves: It’s The Dip. He says everything worth doing has a really tough moment where other people stop but you keep going. However his idea is really about recognizing patterns, and it’s best in the business world where there are rules for success and everyone is basically a sheep trying to get the same thing: higher sales, new markets, more funding, etc.

In Godin’s scenario people are not engaging in grit so much as getting a leg up. A great example: My friend who imported a violin teacher from Bulgaria so her daughter doesn’t have to fight to get the best teachers in Boston.

Crazy passion is not grit, it’s craziness
The other type of grit is the person doing something totally new. There is no dip because there is no established upswing. And it’s the upswing that makes the downswing a dip rather than an endless path to hell. In the cases where people are not sheep– where someone is really truly doing something new – there is only a terrifying abyss.

A good example: Herman Melville writing Moby Dick. His family starved and he kept writing even though there was no established market or precedent for what he was writing.

But a more disturbing example is Charles Goodyear in the mid 1800’s:

After learning about rubber he convinced himself he could make his fortune by turning it into useful objects like waterproof shoes. All attempts ended in disaster and his life became a catalog of misery. His shoes melted in the summer, six of his children died, and his family lived in poverty. But Goodyear was determined. When debts landed him in jail, he asked his wife to bring him a rolling pin and some rubber and he carried on inventing in his cell. He made his breakthrough when he accidentally dropped a piece of rubber on a hot stove. It cooked and shriveled into a hard black mass that Goodyear immediately spotted as the thing he’d wanted all along. This is how he developed the tough black rubber we use in tires today by a cooking process now known as vulcanization.

America’s economic edge comes from entrepreneurship, invention, creative thinking. (Political side note: it’s what you get from being the great melting pot where new ideas smash up against each other all the time.) But it’s also crazy people who somehow figure out something great, in spite of themselves.

Grit is working hard because hard work is an end in itself
But that doesn’t come from grit. Grit is the Protestant work ethic and it’s fundamentally conservative and stifling. The Protestant ethic is about enforcing society’s values on the potentially wayward so that people kept building houses, having children, and populating towns (to fight Native Americans and take their land). The Protestant ethic espouses hard work as an end in of itself.

But we know that doesn’t get people anywhere. It’s why the kids at Stuyvesant who test at the very top end up underperforming as adults. It’s why the huge successes in Silicon Valley are not actually about people failing and trying again. They are outliers who are a little bit crazy and build something no one can even understand until after it’s built.

The value of an end result is not about how much work it took but how good it is. And this is why Alfie Kohn has a ten-point tirade about why grit is not a productive means to a creative, innovative society.

Grit presupposes a male outlook on life
The Protestants who celebrated work so heartily did not celebrate women’s work.

Who is most likely to come up with an idea without spending years working on it? Women. Because they don’t have time to fail and fail and fail again. Women can work full speed ahead until  30, then they have to start having kids. So women can’t risk having five businesses before one takes off. There is no time.

And women who can’t be sheep in the workplace because the paths the sheep take to food and water are for men. For men, time is linear. They head toward a goal and how they function each day defines them: what do you do? is the ubiquitous workplace question. And flow is the ultimate goal: how much do you love your work? How engaged are you?

I have thought for a long time that all the time management gurus are men because men have huge chunks of time uninterrupted by children. And the workplace is organized for time productivity, whereas the home is organized in a non-linear way that segments time into lots of small chunks interrupted by emergencies/breakdowns/crying etc. The workplace is about using time to get money. The home is about using time to get a nap.
Flow vs. confetti
Brigid Schulte talks about  women’s time as being like confetti; little chunks float by in an unorganized way and you take them as you can. There’s no grit here; it’s just trying to stay ahead of the next problem. There is no flow because dinner would burn. There is no engagement because cumulative sleep deprivation of raising kids shifts focus to just keeping them alive.

Grit is bad for women like school is bad for women. Both are fixed games women can’t win. You go to school “to get a good job” and even though we know most educated women want to be home with children, we never tell those girls that growing up to take care of kids is valuable. And we tell kids that grit is what makes adult life good, but we don’t tell those kids that hard work measured by number of consecutive hours and intensity of engagement is not something that can happen in a house full of children.

The patterns women work in today — moving in and out of the workforce depending on their stage of life – is antithetical to grit. Women are working smart and planning ahead and accomplishing their goals with fragmented hours and alternative careers.

We are far past celebrating grit. Let’s celebrate shrewd and crafty workarounds. Let’s measure results instead of process. That’s how we’ll crate equality in the workforce.

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  1. Michael Aumock
    Michael Aumock says:

    Best one in awhile, Penelope. I know things have been a bit challenging for you lately… hang in there, get shrewd and crafty :-)

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      Sounds like her to me: hard (and politically incorrect) truths about women’s lives seldom acknowledged, if even noticed, by anyone else. Great column!

      • Becky
        Becky says:

        I second that Jennifer. “For men, time is linear”. So true! As for grit, I agree it is overrated. To me the thing much more important than grit is resilience, the ability to bounce back.

        Good to have you back Penelope!

  2. Ismini
    Ismini says:

    That thing is on my mind the last few weeks… Time is non linear for women – couldn’t agree more! Thank you for putting my thoughts in words!

  3. Kitty Kilian
    Kitty Kilian says:

    A great read. I need to look up that book by Godin, because I have not read it, but you may well be right.

    But can you prove this in any measurable way?

    ‘Who is most likely to come up with an idea without spending years working on it? Women. Because they don’t have time to fail and fail and fail again. Women can work full speed ahead until 30, then they have to start having kids. So women can’t risk having five businesses before one takes off. There is no time.’

  4. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Among the poor and working class, grit is more celebrated because without it you don’t survive. So your thesis still holds: grit doesn’t lead to winning. But without it, it can lead to dying.

    Fascinating perspective on how women experience time (like confetti). Makes sense.

  5. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Hi P, I’m reading a book now that I think you would like. It’s called, “The Ego is the Enemy”, by Ryan Holiday. I’m bringing up this book because it adds a different dimension of grit to your discussion.

    In general, I agree that working smart is always better than working hard.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I did not like that book at all. I didn’t think it added much to the literature out there about Ego/Self. Ryan explains how his time management shifted as he got older, and as his early success was caught up by his peers as they aged.

  6. Lauren Teller
    Lauren Teller says:

    “The home is about using time to get a nap.” and to love.
    Grit describes Angela Duckworth’s approach and process. Of course. Shrewd and crafty work arounds–that’s YOU.
    “You gotta have a dream, or how you gonna have a dream come true”–that’s me.
    Angela has made her career on one word. I need more.

  7. Tara Dillard
    Tara Dillard says:

    Have/had to learn grit is best for me when attached to zero fear, “What would I do tomorrow if I weren’t afraid?”

    True Grit, favorite movie. Had never seen a woman, much less a girl talk truth to a grown man, and get away with it. Growing up in the 60’s with a rocket scientist dad and neighborhood stuffed with others just like him, trained me well to have grit, and find a way around the lions.

    Best life learning about Grit? In addition to mixing it with zero fear, I know when my grit is attached to fun-in-the-process winning is on its way.

    Oddly, this aligns with something discovered recently, decades after the epiphanies, above. Where I am at with true grit is the 5th stage of ‘tribal leadership’. A nice validation.

    Adore your take.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    • Virginia Bellis Brandabur
      Virginia Bellis Brandabur says:

      No one even started talking about “grit” until after the 2nd version of the True Grit movie (Coen Brothers’ version). Then “grit” suddenly became the big thing, the big catch-phrase, in both education and the workplace. But “true grit” as portrayed in the movie, and in the original novel by Charles Portis, bears little to no resemblance to what people seem to think “grit” is today, which is, as you say so well, P, just slogging away because working long, hard hours is “good.” In the story, however, grit is about sticking to your values, no matter how difficult. Anyhow, I’m glad to see you take “grit” down, P. Today when people say “grit” I stop listening; the word has become meaningless.

      • Tim Nichols
        Tim Nichols says:

        Don’t know what defines the set of “no one,” but it plainly excludes my parents (now in their early 70s) and a great number of my older relatives. “Grit” was and is a highly valued quality, and one that was regularly pointed out with admiration when I was growing up.
        Grew up around flyover kinda folks, though, so maybe that explains it. Different values.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Generationally the needed job skills end up shifting.

          I don’t think this is as much about Grit, as it is about the change in qualities that are more apparently valuable in the marketplace or how they are used (Grit on a farm in the 1950s, Grit behind a desk working on A.I. in the 2000s).

          Grit defined: courage and resolve; strength of character.

          Maybe over time Grit has been misattributed or over-attributed as an antidote to explain career success skills mechanisms.

          Simply, Grit means that one is able to stand by one’s decisions in tough times and act accordingly. Generally, you’ll get better results in any faucet of life (home/work) by improving this character trait. Results are the sum of the efforts (a healthy happy family, a bonus at work, a tipping point after the dip, picking yourself up and trying again smarter and wiser). In work literature it has been presented in the work context (such as Seth Godin), but we use it throughout our lives in myriad of situations.

  8. KK
    KK says:

    Penelope I would love to hear your thoughts on adjuncting. I am not the breadwinner and I want a part-time job that I can keep when I have kids. I feel like adjuncting is a job (not using the word “career”) where grit is encouraged but why exhibit grit when coasting and expending minimal effort yields the same results?

  9. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    Excellent! Comprehensive, thought provoking and contemporary.
    I agree we need to ditch the puritan work ethic that was designed to keep individuals productive and striving towards unattainable goals. As such it is not valued by employers because it is an expectation not an outstanding quality.

  10. me
    me says:

    I’m in the process of a reinvention after leaving a long career. I’m currently in the “So, now what?” phase, and not making much progress at the moment. So, this was a timely post for me.

    P.S. So jazzed to see so many posts lately.

    P.P.S. Please keep writing (the more often, the better): I’ve missed your words …

    • DGW
      DGW says:

      Thank you! Like another reader above, I am also in the middle of reinvention after spending way too long working in a field I despise, stuck in a career cul-de-sac with no exit. I’ve found my grit-centric upbringing is a huge barrier. It’s the voice of doubt in my ear at this point, “Well of course work is supposed to be hard and miserable. You just need to work harder and longer if you want more money.”

      Meanwhile my young adult son (who I homeschooled in middle/high school – yay!) is taking my lessons on innovation and creativity to heart, hacking his career dreams, being a little crazy, and is poised to do quite well from the get-go by simply skipping that monotonous, soul-killing working class mandate to first “pay your dues” (aka working in retail, fast food, etc.). He doesn’t act like an entitled ass, but he also doesn’t believe in doing stupid shit just “because.”

      I will be thrilled if my kids don’t get caught up in the cycle of poverty “grit” contest (who was the poorest, who worked the toughest job, who worked the longest, who was most underappreciated) that has plagued my family for two generations.

  11. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Wow! When I read this, I kept thinking, “she’s back!”. I’ll probably read this article a few more times and I haven’t read all the links but I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to leave a comment.

    A few thoughts… this gets me thinking about how in America, we often assume that hard work = reward. That’s true in some cases, but certainly not all cases. I think you are right, that recognizing patterns, doing something revolutionary, or taking short cuts can really get you far ahead. Look at Trump, he began his political career just a few years ago and he beat Hillary Clinton who is a life-long politician.

    This also has me thinking about my own life. My parents are protestants and definitely have the protestant work ethic. They have worked their entire lives and are still working part time today (they are about 67 and 71) despite being millionaires. Also, they are very careful not to show their money to anyone. They drive reasonable cars and have a modest house. Right now, my husband is starting a side business and it is starting to make a lot of money, but they act extremely supportive whenever I mention scaling back my career to take care of my kids, even though we can afford it. They think it is important to work for the sake of working, although I think being a parents is also work.

  12. Pat Sommer
    Pat Sommer says:

    …imagining your writing this while watching the clock on music practice and peering out the window for the delivery guy… would explain typos :-)

    Love the gal who imported a violin teacher! I would do that; why play anyone else’s game?

  13. Pam O
    Pam O says:

    Grit does not mean “hard work”. It means “indomitable spirit” or “pluck”. I think women DO have grit.

    • Giovanni
      Giovanni says:

      Pam agree 100%. Was about to post along that line but you nailed it. Women’s grit is what keeps the kids alive. Women’s grit is to keep trying different things because failure only happens when you quit and that’s literally fatal when it comes to children and families.

      Speaking of families, did anyone else feel that it’s over with the Farmer in a Big Chill better than sex kind of way?

    • Mariana
      Mariana says:

      I agree! Grit doesn’t mean working hard and not being realistic. For me, ’emotional’ grit is the hardest.

  14. Lester
    Lester says:

    I agree with this a thousand times. As someone who has been working in the “shrewd and crafty workaround” phase of my career for several years, it’s the only way I can continue to have a career and have my family. I deliver great results, always on time, at a faster pace than I worked when I was in my 20s and had nothing to do but work. But I feel eternally on the precipice of it falling apart, there is no plodding future goal besides making the present possible (and my career is completely stunted into Groundhog Day of repetitive work). I went to one of the best universities in our country and had huge ambition. Yet I am happy, mostly, though my 18 year old self would probably be horrified at my 43 year old self. I am the parent I want to be to my children and I still participate in the working world. But I constantly am vacillating between deep gratitude for my current unique working situation and vertigo from looking over the cliff to my side. Your writing about motherhood, work, and the lies we tell ourselves as individuals and a society have affected me greatly and I thank you so much for it.

  15. Jane
    Jane says:

    THANK YOU!!! I am an ENT(J/P?) mom who has read enough about child development to want to be home for the first 3 years (for each of my 3 kids). I’m also extremely bored when I am at home, so I start a small business to bide my time. Each move has been strategically planned and executed during nap times and after bed (with more snuck into parenting hours than I’d like to admit).

    I was reflecting on my frustration with all of this on the school drop-off this morning. I’ve been trying to focus on 2 goals at a time for the past decade and as much as I love my children, I am so jealous of my male friends and relatives who can focus on building interesting and profitable businesses without splitting their time, energy, and brains in two. They do it guilt free because society rewards this. My sanity is hinging on my ability to forge a path ahead guilt free as well. My youngest is now 2, but I’m not sure I have another year in me for this.

  16. YesMyKidsAreSocialied
    YesMyKidsAreSocialied says:

    I have always been skeptical of the notion that one has to have grit to accomplish anything. I prefer curiosity as a better gauge.
    I recently watched a hilarious sketch on the show Portlandia that demonstrated how ridiculous it is to try to instill grit in kids.

  17. celeste
    celeste says:

    Time management experts are NOT always men. One of the very first such experts was Frank Gilbreth in the early 20th century. After his death, his wife Lillian took over his work and become a well-know expert in her own right, doing a great deal of interesting and novel experimentation. Their family was the basis of the book “Cheaper by the Dozen”.

    I find the disparagement of continuous work petty and condescending. Farming, for example, is rather routine; feeding cattle, plowing, weeding, harvesting etc. is pretty the much the same thing every year and yet it is what feeds us all every day. Delivering the mail, preparing a school lunch, driving a city bus, mowing the lawn, building a highway…all very necessary to modern life but not innovative or particularly exciting. We cannot all play cello or design computer innovations.

  18. mbt
    mbt says:

    I want to hear more about the friend who imported the violin teacher from Bulgaria. Thatvwas the most interesting thing in the post. I can’t stop thinking about how that might work. How do they get someone good enough to trump the other teachers? Does someone that good really want to leave? Will they be sble to break into the tight Boston performance market? What kind of compensation would that take? Do they get to teach other students? Do they live in your house? I f so, do they also do the daily practice with your kid? If your child is good enough to warrant this, would they really have a problem getting one of the prime teachers already in Boston? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      I’m guessing that what happened was the friend brought in someone on an Au Pair visa who was also a violin instructor. The circumstances under which you can bring someone in are limited. You can’t state that you’re bringing someone in to be a teacher for your kid and expect to get a visa. Only an accredited institution could actually sponsor someone on a teacher visa.

      As far as the difficulty of getting a violin teacher in Boston, it’s not difficult. Boston is home to the oldest independent conservatory in the country, which has a strong prep division, and you can be certain the smuggled Bulgarian isn’t any better than the teacher a talented child can find at the conservatory. In addition, there are dozens of lesser music schools in the area.

      Of course, to get a great teacher you have to audition, because great teachers get their pick of students. The phrasing PT uses is “so her daughter doesn’t have to fight to get the best teachers in Boston.” Perhaps the daughter doesn’t audition well…

      Financially, it could make good sense if the teacher is on an Au Pair visa, because you pay Au Pairs a lot less than you pay violin teachers, who can cost over 100 bucks an hour in Boston. So the ‘teacher’ could give lessons, supervise practice, and otherwise have an easy life, and both parties would come out ahead.

  19. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    This post is redefining a whole lot of terms to fit it into one of your pet theories about how the working world does not suit women who have kids. It’s glib and superficial, but designed to appeal to people who like meaningless phrases like “work smarter”. Grit or mental toughness is about learning and pushing to get better at your chosen craft or skill, keeping going when the overwhelm of everything you don’t know or all the practice you have to do becomes too much for most people. Grit is what gets people to excel. You cannot “work smarter” your way around the work that is needed to become an expert.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      I’ve always been struck by the silliness of explanations of why everybody has to do things the same way the writer does.

      Men be like this, women be like that. Sounds like terrible stand-up comedy.

      I like the article in NyMag, but it’s also only a small slice of reality. One of my friends, coming over tomorrow with her daughter, is Asian, a Stuyvesant grad, and a very successful oncologist. Grit doesn’t seem to have harmed her.

      • John
        John says:

        Becoming a doctor is one of the few fields that perfect is for grinding your way to success. Medical training is:
        Go to school and get good grades. Do very well on a standardized test. Go to the next school. Repeat until you reach residency. Grind through it and become a doc.

        Docs are the top of the heap in Hospitals & Clinic systems. Hospitals rank doctors based upon revenue generation. A grinding Oncologist is going to generate huge amount of revenue, and will be at top of the docs.

  20. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Does it have to be either, or? Can’t it be this and? I have had to exercise a lot of grit over the years. Sometimes it was self-imposed and misplaced, I’ll grant you that. But, it also saved my ass when the time came. I look at it as having developed the endurance when the big push was needed.

    I had an addiction that was well on it’s way to killing me. I swear I could feel my body dying. I lost everything in the last recession, becoming briefly homeless with my two boys. I finally got sober and started two businesses traditionally done by women. I kind of love the irony of it. I make more money now than I ever made working in traditional corporate environments; about 4x, in what would be considered low-level women’s work.

    Instead of screaming about inequality and demanding change (from men), why don’t more women just go out and be the change they want, start the kind of businesses that work for them and employe other women who need that type of environment? Why does it feel like women are asking (demanding?) men to hand them something that they could create themselves?

    I don’t want investors. I don’t want to make a pitch to someone else who gets to give me the nod of approval or not. I just want to go out and do the work, grow organically and be in control of every part of my life, including how much I work, how much I make and live the life I’ve created.

    If it wasn’t for my grit, I wouldn’t be alive today. I also wouldn’t have stuck it out and built a business that allowed me to ski in Vail two days ago and I will go to Keystone on Sunday, Breckenridge on Tuesday, while the business churns on…..No, I’m not on vacation. This is my life.

    Grit is the reason I now have the life I have. Now I can work smarter, I built the foundation. I was willing to endure a lot that many people would be unwilling to, to get to this place. Wasted effort? I don’t think so. Grit builds character. Totally worth it.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I am a fan of yours! In your experience grit and persistence totally paid off in big ways. I think what P might be implying in her post is fake grit. Fabricating circumstances in order to “experience” grit does nothing. Being persistent in challenging times typically pays off, but there are so many underlying factors at play outside of grit and persistence including: what family one is born into, geography, opportunity, and socio-economic status.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        This has definitely got me thinking, as well. Pop-psych for the upper middle/middle class.

        For example, combining intellect, persistence, goals, grit, values, and self-awareness is going to lead smart people places. It’s not like Grit is a quality that sits by itself waiting to be tapped into as the answer for everything. It is the answer for some things and circumstances, just like other qualities one has.
        Persistence and stupidity isn’t going to get someone far (as the case of lotto card buyers). Persisting at the right things, in the right context- maybe so- just how Cindy demonstrates in her own life and circumstances.

        Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t get how Seth Godin’s grit approach is the opposite of importing a violin teacher. What would the woman do if she was engaging her Grit ability in that regard? I think if that’s what she can afford, an Au Pair (which is not that expensive if you have the housing for one) is common sense.
        We are in London right now, and I’ve hired a native speaking Mandarin teacher 2x a week for my kids (200 per month USD, to my surprise). The economics here make private tutoring/lessons dirt cheap, compared to the East Coast of USA. As someone from Bulgaria- the rates are going to make much more economic sense than a top flight violin teacher from/in Boston. That seems to be more about financial planning than about Grit. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  21. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This post is an interesting take on the character trait of grit. I agree with some of it, disagree with other parts of it, and haven’t thought about it in terms of flow and confetti as an example. The National Geographic article states at the beginning – “Angela Duckworth and her team devise strategies to help students learn how to work hard and adapt in the face of temptation, distraction, and defeat.” and later on – “At the moment, Angela and her team are working on clever interventions to help students learn how to work hard and adapt in the face of temptation, distraction, and defeat.” What I discern from the above is the emphasis on the ability to adapt while using grit in some measure along the way. While grit has its importance as a character trait, I don’t think it can be used as a reliable, high accuracy predictive standalone measure for an individual’s success, happiness, etc. Grit should be measured and taken in context with the individual’s other character traits. It’s a very individualized process that should be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis to measure progress. Also the students have to be aware, fully involved with, and be in control (to at least some extent) with the tools that include grit in order to adapt with their desired direction. The question is – is grit overrated and to what extent in relation to other character traits? I think that question is best answered once an assessment of the student is performed. If the student already has “tons” of grit, then it’s probably best to work on another character trait such as working smarting or what I’ll call innovation. Also I don’t agree with – “Let’s measure results instead of process.” I think it’s important to measure both. Measure process to get the measured optimal results.

  22. Charlene Johnson
    Charlene Johnson says:

    I’m still hung up the lengths Penelope and Co. will go to, to enable their kids to pursue classical music careers. It strikes me as very dangerous to choose a path that is so all-consuming, at such a young age. It’s so competitive. The excellent ones will not make it, the amazing ones (apparently) become sought after teachers and only the exponentially superior ones will actually make a living as a classical performer. Best case it seems these kids will likely become teachers and continue to propagate the system…and what have the kids given up in exchange? What other talents and vocations do they have that could well have lead to a happier and more balanced life overall?

    And all this done in the environment of competitive mothering? What is really going on here, the competition to be the “best” mom as measured by who’s kid makes it the furthest as a classical musician?

    Or maybe I was just a bad mom…(that’s the voice of competitive mothering), but really maybe I was? My kid is 24, has a 2 year degree, loves his day job in special education and also is a talented musician involved in performance locally. Did I do him a disservice by not pushing him harder?

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Sandpaper has grit. Literally.

    BUT . . . there is a whole spectrum. From very coarse to very fine. Proper sanding of wood, in fine woodworking, creates a wonderful piece of furniture. After the finish is applied, it will b even in appearance, smooth and silky to the touch.

    In all sorts of human endeavours and living, grit is useful or actually required. But maybe it would be good to define what kind of grit is appropriate for what circumstance. Different life events require a different “grade.”

    Bob Vila explains the grades of sandpaper like this:

    This grade of sand­paper is used between coats of paint or varnish. Grits of 240, 320 and 400 are termed very fine, while extra- or superfine sheets with grits of up to 600 are avail­able for polishing jobs.

    Fine abrasive papers have a grit in the range of 120 to 220. For most home work­shops, fine will suffice for final sanding before the work is finished.

    Some final shaping can be done with medium, which has a grit range of 60 to 100. General sanding work is often best done with medium-grade sandpaper.

    Rough shaping is the strong suit of coarse paper, as is the removal of previous fin­ishes. The grits are typically in the 40 to 50 range.

    Extra coarse.
    This stuff is really rough, usable for removing paint and varnish that you think might never come off. The sanding of old floors too, sometimes requires the abrasiveness of extra-coarse sandpaper. Don’t even think about using it on any but the toughest jobs.

  24. Paul Lindemeyer
    Paul Lindemeyer says:

    Your ideas are good for women, but for men there will be a cost to leave grit behind. Especially in a post-truth world where even performance is now “performative.” Grit is face time is manliness.

  25. Robert michael
    Robert michael says:

    Great post! As a hiring manager I’ve seen many really weak resumes that actually had a very great substance. It’s indeed about learning how to phrase it well, how to express strengths and convey the progress. Being willing and able to learn is one of the first criteria I look at these days.

  26. Whiteiris
    Whiteiris says:

    Yes, confetti. And then we cry. And our laundry also gets stolen. ;) Or left in the washer for two days to smell of mildew. ;( Meanwhile we’re figuring out hella cool (useful) stuff too. All goddess like and shit. ;) Flow happens often enough to see what we accomplish. The splendor in those moments keep us going, setting the threshold of believing in ourselves.

  27. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I know this goes against the grain for this crowd, given Penelope’s home schooling focus, but a fundamental assumption here is that women should/want to/are primarily taking care of the kids (seemingly without child care?) and that’s why we have these differences in “women’s time” vs “men’s time.”

    But that’s just not a fundamental reality.
    A) husbands can do their share
    B) having people in addition to the two parents be involved in childcare is NOT harmful to children (I would argue for many children it’s very positive)

  28. Primal Prosperity
    Primal Prosperity says:

    Great article!

    This kind of reminds me of Einstein, who was a proponent of daydreaming, which is shunned in our modern work culture.

    Picturing him riding his bicycle or mosey-ing along paying attentions, just doesn’t drum up ‘grit’. And look what he accomplished!

  29. Mew
    Mew says:

    Actually, school is great for girls. It is where they observe how men play the game of life and how men perceive progression as linear. Understanding and participating competitive sports make a big difference in girls’ lives, and you need groups of people to do it, so school covers that.

  30. Fred
    Fred says:

    My twin 12-year-old sons recently participated in a science fair that their home school co-op put on. They put a lot of thought and hours into their experiments and presentations, and were proud of what they put together. So were we.

    One of their close friends also participated in the fair. But instead of doing an experiment for the fair over several months, he recycled the results of one he had conducted in 4th grade. He put everything together for the fair the night before the fair was conducted.

    That friend won first place. Other students got second and third. My twins got honorable mentions.

    As might be expected, my twins were noticeably upset with the results and felt that their friend had cheated. They like to win and thought their effort would merit that.

    It opened the door for a great conversation about the difference between working hard and working smart, and the difference between unethical cheating and ethical optimizing. Did their friend cheat? Maybe. It depends on what the rules were. Sometimes we assume something’s a rule when actually it isn’t. And the most successful entrepreneurs are those who see opportunity where everyone else sees rules.

    My twins’ friend certainly optimized for the competition in the science fair. Did he learn anything new about a scientific field? Probably not. But he did learn that he can win a science fair by recycling an old project and working really hard the night before. And that’s valuable to know, since most businesses grow by taking a good idea and replicating it again and again.

  31. Ken Hill
    Ken Hill says:

    Years ago, I remember reading your articles on Yahoo Finance and found your contrary to conventional wisdom viewpoints quite refreshing. Now all I ever see online is the same copy and paste nonsense that leaves me with no idea why I wasted time reading.

    I finally found your blog!

  32. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Going to skip the analysis and get to the point–I love you. Thanks for your fresh, honest and punchy writing, again and again.

  33. Lee
    Lee says:

    Different tactics for different minds I think. I’m guilty of linear thinking, I always want to compete a task before moving on. It has upsides and downsides!

  34. Nissar Ahamed
    Nissar Ahamed says:

    The more I read the article, the more the points made sense.
    I am still not convinced that grit/hardwork is over-rated – but I agree that hardwork for the sake of hardwork is not healthy.
    However, when one starts out in any career or venture – hardwork is necessary.

  35. Adam
    Adam says:

    It’s a classic case of the effort heuristic. We’re trained from an early age to believe that how hard we work is somehow related to the value we create. If value is what matters, then value is what we should all focus upon!

  36. Estetica
    Estetica says:

    Hi penelope! I just discovered your blog… read some articles and i’m impressed! Your point of view is awesome! You have a new follower! ;)

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