One of my favorite sayings is: "No grit, no pearl".
If you've been following Sea+Stone from the beginning, it is probably a quote that you've seen sprinkled throughout my social media. There are several things I like about this particular quote.
- As a jewelry designer & June baby, I love pearls.
- The word "grit" refers to unwavering determination, unparalleled focus...and also makes me think of my favorite Southern breakfast food.
- The saying speaks to me as a gemology nerd since it is truly a perfect metaphor relating life to the formation of pearls.
The lustrous beauty of a pearl would not exist if the oyster did not need to work to overcome an irritant. A gritty grain of sand or some other irritant gets caught in between the shell and the soft, inner tissue of the oyster. This forces it to secrete nacre as relief - which builds up, encases the gritty irritant, and eventually forms a pearl. So literally... No grit, No Pearl.
Success, balance, and happiness are the sparkling "pearls of life" and much like literal pearls, those things all come to exist because of grit.
This post is a little bit of a book review! I'm a total sucker for the self-help / self-improvement category of literature. I just love life-hacks, positive psychology, and advice I can apply to my business or to myself personally. I just finished reading the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I first became familiar with the author from her TED Talk on the same subject. If you have 6 minutes to spare, check out her talk here.
According to Angela, our society places too much value on natural born talent & intelligence and not enough value on the power of perseverance & determination. Merriam-Webster defines grit as: "firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship." Angela Duckworth says that grit is something that can be taught and built over time. Expertise and success are built by practice & persistence instead of innate qualities or tendencies.
To point out the obvious, it is easier to practice and persist at something that you enjoy than something that you loathe. This is where passion comes in.
I absolutely love what I do. I feel like my passion and excitement for jewelry give me a decent base-level of grittiness in my professional life, because its easy to persist at something that brings me joy. But that's an overarching statement.. it isn't always easy to maintain that grit and drive. The road to small business success isn't without bumps along the way. There have been times I found myself in a rut and even times I wondered what in the world I was thinking when I left my reliable desk job to start a jewelry brand. Usually these instances followed an obstacle that seemed hard to overcome: like the first time a vendor or service tried to take financial advantage of me, or finding that my work had been plagiarized, or having a slow sales month, or the general drama that comes along with the fashion & accessories industry.
Fortunately I've had people to remind me that I've worked too hard to give up, and in the end overcoming those obstacles have been some of my greatest lessons.
In both Angela Duckworth's book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and in Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell, these phsychologist assert that it takes about 10 years and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before you can really be an expert in something. The great thing about finding what you're passionate about, is that you'll want to be a forever-student and will barely notice when you've become an expert because you're still curious. I find jewelry and gemology so endlessly fascinating and feel like there is always so much more to learn. But as I listened to the 10-year-fact repeated in these books, I was surprised to realize that at the age of 27, I actually qualify for this definition of the "expert" label. I've been making jewelry for well over the ten year mark- I started when I was 13 years old! It began as a hobby, then as a side hustle when I was in high school ("Kool Beadz"... yes, very early 2000's), and later, when I chose colleges, I selected the only one in the Southeast with a four year program in metals & jewelry. I hated not spending my college Summers in the studio, so I found ways to learn more. I took private enameling classes in Tallahassee. I flew to California to learn to stone setting and fine jewelry repair.
As a teenager, I obsessively made bucket lists and revised them often. On them were wishes like "see my jewelry in a magazine", "Sell a piece of fine jewelry over $1,000", "Work for a famous designer", "Go to the Gemological Institute of America", "Have my own jewelry line". It's so neat now to look back and see the items that I've worked hard to cross off and to be reminded of the unchecked items that are still waiting for me.
Bucket List 2009
If you ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you that I STILL neurotically make lists. Somedays I feel like I need a list to keep my lists organized. But even though I technically have reached "expertise" in my craft by psychologist's standards, I still feel like there is SO much more to learn and do before I really feel like an expert. I'd like to be better at wax carving, and buy an enameling kiln, move my studio out of the house, and have people across the Southeast know what Sea+Stone is all about!
Current Goals & Dreams
Being an artist and being self-employed sometimes seems like a self-indulgent route to take in life. But it's also not an easy route to take. When I look at those bucket lists and think of all the hours I've invested and how much I've enjoyed the hours, I'm reminded that even if the road is bumpy, its the only road I want to be on.
I'm really grateful to have found my passion early, and to have had family, friends, and mentors who convinced me to stick with it, even when I doubted the dream myself. I truly love my craft. It occupies so much of my time and thoughts, not out of job-like obligation, but because I enjoy it so much that I can't "turn it off".
After reading the book, I got to thinking... if grit is such an important ingredient in the recipe for success, how can we make sure to stay gritty and learn to get grittier?
Here are my nine thoughts on how to foster grit:
1. Start with the end in mind. Think of your goals and write them down. I do this somewhat neurotically for every day, week, year...and of course those bucket lists. I like to check in with them. There's another quote that "A sailor without a destination cannot hope for a favorable wind". You can't be gritty without a destination in mind.
2. Find a mentor, coach, or generally supportive person to join you on your journey. Sometimes it is hard to see things from the inside-out. An honest outsider opinion can sometimes help you see the things you cannot see yourself. Plus this person may be your cheerleader when times are difficult and your grit-gauge is running empty.
3. Start with the worst first. Even people who adore their jobs will admit to HATING certain tasks or parts associated with it. Becoming an expert means putting in the time even when it's not enjoyable. I like to start with the worst, most dreaded task first! That way, I feel relief as soon as it's done and know that I can move on to more enjoyable aspects of my work.
4. If you lack self-control, "outsource" it. Grit and perseverance rely heavily on self control. If you find yourself lacking in the self control / self discipline area, find ways to hack it. I get lazy sometimes and won't cook healthy dinner because it would be faster and easier to order food or to microwave something. So I order a healthy meal service because the groceries come straight to me and I would feel too guilty about the money I spent to NOT cook it. Likewise, if you are distracted by social media, download apps like Offtime or Moment that will limit time spent on social media/gaming apps or will block the use of certain apps at specific times in your day. Find an accountability partner- someone who will go to the gym with you or will harass you to make sure you submitted your report on time. Another great way to find accountability is to join a gritty group..maybe a meet up of people in the same industry or working towards a similar goal.
5. Find what you're passionate about or interested in. As I mentioned, its going to be a lot easier to stick to something you like than something you hate. If possible, try to find a career that you love or an aspect of your job that you really enjoy. If you still haven't found something you're truly passionate in, a good way to start is to think about the things you liked in your childhood and teenage years. What sorts of things interested you and how did you enjoy spending your time?
6. Dont shy away from practice. And don't forget to consciously observe the progression of your practice. In Angela Duckworth's book, she mentions a story about a person, who despite running every day, wasn't becoming faster and certainly wasn't the next Usain Bolt. Though they were persistent in their practice of running, she realized that they were not keeping logs of their times or distances. They were not varying their routine. Mindless and repetitive practice is not enough. This is why the book refers to it as deliberate practice. Be an observer when you practice and always keep building it.
7. Learn from failure and weakness. Instead of letting shortcomings stop you from pursuing your dream, let them help strengthen you and guide you there. Take ownership of your mistakes and do your best not to repeat them.
8. Create a mission statement. Think about your values, your life priorities, and your career and how they all intersect. Use this study to create a mission statement or to help find your "purpose". Grittier people are known to view their work as a "calling" not just as a job.
9. Be an optimist. This one is tough if you're naturally prone to anxiety or worry. But if you change your self talk to a more optimistic tone, you will be able to be grittier. People who see the best in life and make the best of bad situations are often the same ones who can use hope and their good attitude to find a way out of the hardships they face. Pessimistic people have a harder time sticking to things because they find themselves more at risk of giving up completely when they are faced with hard circumstances. To be more optimistic, breathing exercises can help. Practicing mindfulness and coming up with positive mantras can help too.
If you want to check out either of the books I mentioned, but are a busy lady like myself, download them on Audible! I love listening to new books while I work or while I drive:)