Do Kids Need Grit or Patience in the Future of Work?

Do Kids Need Grit or Patience in the Future of Work?

I suspect I may have been wrong. Wrong about the importance of grit in the Future of Work. 

Passion, purpose, practice, and pursuit. That’s grit, as defined by Angela Duckworth. And, it’s one of the Savvy Six Skills that I thought today’s kids would need in the Future of Work.

Grit is a worthy quality. It’s the skill that fuels persistence. Keeps people showing up each day to put in more time, to achieve more success. 

I thought grit would help kids navigate a rapidly evolving world of work. I thought grit would be key to not giving up when learning new skills, looking for a job, or starting a business. 

But, over the past few months, I began to notice that a number of teachers who I follow on Twitter think their students have plenty of grit. Some teachers have students whose day-to-day lives are such that just showing up at school takes grit. Which, got me thinking. Maybe it’s not a lack of grit that causes people to give up too quickly. Maybe it’s a lack of patience.

From there, I started to see, in a new light, the incredible amount of pressure businesses face to be faster. Ship faster. Grow faster. Launch faster. With all this focus on faster, it would be easy to lose perspective. Perhaps, making patience a skill more savvy than grit.

Finally, through my own experiences, I was reminded how quickly patience can be lost. 

We’re not at risk of losing any other skill as quickly as we lose patience. It would take years for me to lose my ability to research or write. But, my patience. Well, that can be gone in an instant.

We’ve all looked for a job at some point in our career. We can likely remember how it felt when we lost patience. Why haven’t I had an interview? Is there something wrong with my resume? Is there something wrong with me?

When we don’t achieve results in the timeframe we think is reasonable, suddenly we find ourselves doubting everything we’ve ever done. With one exception. We never seem to question whether we even gave ourselves enough time.

The reality is, in today’s world, despite its fast pace, identities take time to build. Ideas take time to spread. Careers and businesses grow by giving them enough time. And, it’s the giving of the time. The waiting, that requires the patience. 

There’s no master timeline against which we all get judged. Each idea, each identity will take its own unique time, along its own unique route.

For today’s kids, this may be hard to understand. All through school, with enough hard work, their results could improve. There was a master timeline, sectioned into semesters or quarters. And, success was numerically or alphabetically apparent.

So, patience becomes key. The key to transitioning from a world of school to a world of work. A world where the time to achieve results is not broken into nine-week increments. Success is not measured by a grading scale.

Thirty years ago, it wasn’t necessary to teach kids patience. Or, to explain how the world of work was different from the world of school. They were virtually identical. Careers were linear, progressing on the proverbial ladder. Just like we progressed from being Kindergarteners to being Seniors. And, success was measured by salary. Just like grades, salaries were scaled too.

But, that world of work no longer exists. Career paths now zig and zag. Freelancers make up nearly 1/3 of the workforce. And, starting a business takes nothing more than a laptop and phone. 

Running full speed into this new world, without any patience, is not a good idea. Having a good deal of grit, without any patience, is also not a good idea.

In today’s world of work, there is no amount of hard work that can remove the need for time. You can work 80 hour weeks to try to grow your business faster — which might appear very gritty — but lasting growth takes time. You can spend a lot of money on social media ads to move your idea around faster — but an idea needs time to stick before it can spread.

So, it seems that patience is more important than grit. At least in today and tomorrow’s world of work. A world where we prioritize speed, but need time. Time to build. Time to grow. Time to see what can be achieved with a bit perseverance and a good deal of patience.

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