Your Grit (perseverance and passion): 4 Levels

In this podcast, Freakonomics UChicago economist Steven Levitt explores “grit” with Grit UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth. Characterizing grit as perseverance and passion, they explore different ways people think of their own grit. Listening to this podcast, having reading Duckworth’s book, I realized that you could think of grit from an ecosynomic perspective from four different levels.

Noun level, where I focus on agreements based in what is already finished. At the noun level, grit (nGrit) is about my own node, the immediate space around my own self. I have an executable goal that I can achieve with my existing capacities. I have enough grit to read a book today, or climb that mountain this week.

Verb-noun level, where I pay attention to agreements based on what I am developing in relationships and capacities (verbs), as well as the outcomes (nouns). At the verb-noun level, grit (vnGrit) is about my own node and its links to other nodes. I have an intermediate-level, developmental goal, that I achieve as I grow. I have enough grit to strengthen my capacity to read more and more deeply, or climb that mountain, coming out stronger than I started.

Light-verb-noun level, where I focus on agreements based in my beingness, my potential, what I am becoming as I develop relationships and capacities, and the outcomes of that tangibilizing process. At the light-verb-noun level, grit (lvnGrit) is about my node, links to other nodes, and the centers of the circles of linked nodes. I have what Duckworth refers to as a top-level goal, often a deeper shared purpose to which I have the grit to contribute, that is in my potential to grow into being able to achieve. I can see that I will be able to read ever-more challenging books, and even begin to write books. I can see that I could climb ever-more challenging mountains, and maybe in different ways.

Ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, where I focus on agreements based in the deeper purpose I feel called to serve. At the ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, grit (eshGrit) is about the liminal space generated by the double pull of transcendence away from herenow and immanence completely in herenow. In my grit, I have an existential-master goal, which defines and guides every aspect of who I am and what I do. I am in service to reading or climbing, continuously in the process of cotangibilizing my service to that purpose, evolving what I understand is in my potential to realize along the way.

Grit. Perseverance and passion. What that means to me depends on what I see as my reality. Nouns only. Nouns and verbs. Nouns, verbs, and light. Ecosystems of sacred hospitality. Each level of reality engages orders of magnitude more grit, all which is inside of me to choose.

Purpose Is Now Mainstream-Obvious

Our colleagues on the mainstream’s leading edge have now taken up “purpose” in a serious way. Purpose is no longer a nice-to-have, leading-fringe thing. It is not just for the systems thinkers and esoterically-oriented leaders out there. Connecting to the motivating reason that organizes everyone’s efforts in an efficient, effective way generates much greater value. People who do not know why they do what they do are now proven to be far less efficient and effective. Not good.

Finding your deeper shared purpose is straightforward to do. Mostly it takes you asking. Why do we actually do what we do? What gets us up in the morning, really? What gets our creative juices flowing?

The data-driven folks, with access to a large percentage of the organizations in the world, are now proving that purpose has come mainstream.  The benefits far outstrip the costs.  Leading thinkers at McKinsey have shown that if you do not help your employees find purpose, they will leave. The global survey folks at Gallup show that you need to start with purpose to get your people’s best performance.  The global consultancy Deloitte suggests that purpose-driven companies are built to flourish.  Even the medical establishment is getting on board, showing that people who do not connect to their purpose die earlier.

Everything Stems from Your Purpose

Everything is energy, and every thing requires energy. Einstein showed that matter–a thing–equals energy. A lot of it. E=mc2. Or m=E/c2.

When we value something, we want to connect to it. The word we use, value, comes from the Latin valere for be strong, be worth. Connecting to this value gives us purpose. Purpose comes from the Latin pro– “forth” and the Old French poser “to put, place”, meaning to connect to energy, to plug into the source of our energy. Our purpose, what we value.

Not plugging in is saying no to the energy, yes to disengagement, no to human creativity, and no to love. If the energy is there, and if what we value is there, and if connecting to the energy of what we value is there, there for us to engage and transform, then why would we not do that? That seems like a massive waste.

Purpose-driven leadership focuses leaders on understanding the power and the dynamics of purpose, engaging it, and transforming the energy of it into something that others value. When people connect to a deeper shared purpose, they are able to achieve far more together than not. According to XPRIZE founder, Peter Diamandis, a purpose-driven mindset deeply energizes you, focusing your thinking and awareness, always looking for new insights and relationships that can enhance your ability to achieve your purpose. McKinsey research shows that aligning the company’s purpose with the purpose of its people leads to much better results: higher engagement, higher loyalty, and a net-positive impact for their stakeholders.

So, if we are energy, and if we need energy to replenish our energy, then we need to connect to energy. That energy is everywhere, and the way we connect to it is through purpose. While this might seem obvious, many people still do not do it. This means that you know what your purpose is, and you connect to it continuously. This engages the energy and guides what is done with it. The evidence is there, and you know this from your own experience. Connecting to it, to your purpose, your Yes!, is a choice. Your choice.

Gratitude to Awesome Cohosts — My EGADE MBA Strategy Class F2020

I was very fortunate to be able to invite some amazing leaders to visit with my “Strategy in Organizations” class in the EGADE Business School del Tecnológico de Monterrey program this past Fall 2020.

Purpose — Grateful to Jay Harris for speaking about his experience in leading with the power of purpose.

Leadership Ethics — Really enjoyed having Matt Lee of the Harvard Human Flourishing Program share his work on Ethics and Values.

Strategic ContextCarolyn McCarthy shared her experience in co-hosting the strategic systems-change process. How to determine the boundaries and content of your STRATEGIC CONTEXT, with systemic strategy. Carolyn shared her experience with Open Opportunity Massachusetts (https://lnkd.in/dXT2J2d), using strategic systems mapping and collaborative processes to identify the dynamics and stakeholders defining the “strategic context” of K-12 education for all children in the state of Massachusetts (USA).

Strategic Resources — Grateful to Luz Maria Puente for sharing her work in bringing systemic strategic clarity [https://lnkd.in/d4kRBcM] to an organization’s understanding and implementation. What are my company’s MOST STRATEGIC resources? How do we scale them and leverage their impact, while regenerating the resources we need to sustain this?

Strategic Leverage — I thank Annabel Membrillo for sharing her experience in getting a large group of stakeholders to identify strategic systemic leverage interventions and then implement them. LEVERAGE, the ability to get far more from the system than we put into it–much greater effectiveness and efficiency with the same inputs. Strategic systemic leverage is critical to move the dial on seemingly intractable, complex issues like education, health, housing, and energy [https://lnkd.in/ddmwEGe].

My Own Leadership. I thank Hernando Aguilera for sharing his experience in guiding leaders through this inquiry of “Designing Your Life”. Who is DESIGNING MY LIFE? I would like to think I am. When we look at the underlying agreements that determine what I do, who I interact with, and how I interact, we discover a high percentage of agreements I have unconsciously accepted [https://lnkd.in/daQpyTp]. This means that someone or something else is designing my life, at home and at work. I can change this, designing my own life, at home and work.

Shifting Organizational Agreements — With deep gratitude to Ana Cláudia Gonçalves for sharing her experience, in leading large organizations through shifts in their outcomes and experiences by experimentally evolving their deeper agreements about who they are, what they do, and how they do it [https://lnkd.in/dgpKX28]. We want different OUTCOMES and different EXPERIENCES. We are not living up to what we know we are capable of being and doing. How do we change this?The class was also deeply inspired by her example of a young person successfully taking up leadership of a large organization and proving far greater results with innovative, more equitable practices

Implementing Strategy — I am grateful to Fred Krawchuk for sharing well-tested practices for rigor-testing strategy implementation. Robust agreements–agreements that work when the situation is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), our new everyday reality.

Strategic Information — Lots of gratitude to Michael Puleo for sharing what he observes as the state of the art in strategic information systems. Did it work? We had a STRATEGY–we saw a future state, we saw a way to it, we tried it. Did we get the FEEDBACK about whether it worked? What information do we need, to know if what we saw worked? How do we adjust what we see and what we do based on what we learned? What strategic measures help me see the effects of my strategy on my impact and on my resilience?

Leading in Wicked Problems — Deep thanks to Edward Brooks for sharing his insights on the fundamental shifts required in how leaders take up 21st-century “wicked problems” through human-focused organization. What is required to LEAD today?  What they taught my parents about leadership in business school was similar to what they taught me, a generation later–direct, divide, manage, and conquer through well-structured controls. Many schools still teach these same leadership principles, another generation later. The “wicked problems” leadership faces today are completely different than the “tame problems” faced by earlier generations. How does one lead when it is not even clear what the problem is, and it is not clear when the problem has been solved? These characteristics require human-focused, deeply collaborative leadership.

Values in Leadership — Grateful to Prof. Elliott Kruse for sharing the latest in research on the impact of values in leadership

Collaborative Leadership — Deep gratitude to Jared Duval for sharing his experience in leading the Energy Action Network in Vermont. Leading a set of very diverse groups of people, from different industries and different social-political-economic perspectives, coming together to address wickedly complex problems sounds impossible, or at least really hard, doesn’t it? It is, until it is not. It depends on (1) what you understand your leadership role to be and (2) how you choose to organize. with my “Strategy in Organizations” class in the EGADE Business School del Tecnológico de Monterrey MBA program.

Is It A Mission or A Mess-ion?

When most groups start up, they begin by defining what they intend to do in the world.  They use this defining exercise to bring others into their doing, whether these are people doing the work, people funding the work, or people impacted by the doing.  Many of these groups call this their mission.

Is it a mission or a “mess-ion”?  Saying that one is trying to achieve some impact for someone by doing something in a particular way is a form of a mission statement.  The statement might seem to be clear.  The who, what, and how.  The more fundamental question is whether this statement brings coherence to a group of people, in service to the impact.  This coherence, over time, requires a deeper set of agreements about what is being achieved, one’s connection to that purpose, one’s unique contribution to that purpose, the relationship one experiences in expressing one’s creative forces with others towards that purpose, and the efficient effectiveness of the group’s processes, structures, strategic focus, and invitation to include those being impacted by the work.  It requires a strong agreements field.  A field of agreements that clearly invites and connects people to a deeper shared purpose, to which they uniquely contribute in a trusting environment.  That is a mission.

That is not what most groups have.  Most groups have a mess-ion statement.  A mess is a set of interrelated problems that are treated as separate, unrelated issues, according to systems theorist Russel Ackoff.  A mess-ion provides misguided clarity for the direction of a weak agreements field—low engagement, transformation, and release of energy.  It might seem to be clear, but its just a jumble of wires going in every direction.  No coherence.  With a mess-ion there is no deeper shared purpose, no harmonic from combining unique contributions, no engagement and trust in the experience, no use of the engaged energy.  Little energy comes in and less goes out.

You can have a mess-ion, which will not do much, or you can have a mission.  The difference is huge, in what can be invited, engaged, and transformed for a far greater impact.  The difference is a choice.  You choose.

Clarity on Your Deeper Shared Purpose: A Matter of Life and Death — Really!

To paraphrase  the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter what direction you go.  It seems obvious.  Knowing what you want to achieve with your efforts, where you want to go on the journey.  If you don’t know this, you probably won’t get there.  And, though it seems obvious–getting clarity on your deeper shared purpose, on what you want to achieve in life and with others–many people cannot answer the question.  My colleagues and I in the field of large-systems change find that very few groups have actually done the work of gaining clarity on what the group is actually all about, far beyond its mission, to its deeper shared purpose, the force that connects them all and drives the will to change.  Within that same observation, we find that this lack of clarity at the group level stems from a lack of clarity within each of the individuals as well, clarity on their primary agreements, what they are in service to with their lives.

Not only does this influence the ability of a group to achieve its intended outcomes, it seems to also affect your physical health.  A recent study published in JAMA Current Open found that, “People who didn’t have a strong life purpose — which was defined as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals” — were more likely to die than those who did, and specifically more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases.

Is Somebody Else Using Your Will?

“A survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of employees had been bullied at work and another 15 percent witnessed workplace bullying, which was defined by repeated mistreatment and included behaviors such as threats, humiliation, and sabotaging employees’ work.  One of the most disconcerting findings about bullies of all ages is that they are not naive…(B)ullies have a better-than-average capability to mind-read and use their social fluency to manipulate others to achieve selfish ends…(When researchers) investigated the assumption that bullies have poor moral reasoning, which is to say that they have trouble differentiating right versus wrong…(t)hey found that bullies’ moral reasoning capabilities were just as sound as defenders’ and that both groups has moral reasoning scores that were higher than victims’.  However, bullies showed significantly lower levels of compassion and they were more likely to rationalize away their immoral behavior by seeing their selfish gains as taking precedence over the emotional costs incurred by victims” (p99), as described by psychologist Ty Tashiro in his book Awkward.  It is not wise to assume (1) that people do not use other people’s will inappropriately, or (2) that those who do are ignorant.  They are not ignorant.  That does not mean, however, that their actions are good for the group or for the impact the group wants to have.

What is the cost to any group of people interacting with one another in this kind of behavior?  What is the cost of shutting down the creative flow of others?  When someone’s will is used to someone else’s purpose, that FREEE energy is simultaneously highly inefficient and the risk of losing that person or at least their creative contribution to the group is very high.  Why would you invite people to engage in interactions with you, like the work context, to have their contribution collapsed to very low levels of energy, towards someone else’s purpose?  Not very clever.  And, that is from the perspective of the person who has invited people to engage in a group effort.

From the perspective of the person whose will is inappropriately being used by someone else, this is very disengaging, de-energizing, exhausting.  The documented physical and mental effects of this disengagement of the human being is clear, in the form of stress, fatigue, and poor physical and mental health.  Like every other use of your creative, purposeful energy, this is a choice.  Your choice.

FREEE Energy: Use It or Lose It

All the energy you need, for whatever you are doing, is Forever Right-there in Everyone Everywhere Everyday (FREEE).  [It is free, with an extra “e” thrown in, at no extra cost.]  It is all there.  If you engage it, you use it towards the purpose you invited it to serve.  If you don’t engage it, you lose it, usually at great cost to yourself.  Engaged energy is FREEE, lost energy is not.  Lost energy comes with a cost.

This is the exact opposite of what we are usually taught.  We are told that it costs something to use energy, and that not using it costs nothing.  Let’s see.  You already have the people in the room.  You have invited these people to work with you–to co-ordinate, co-operate or co-llaborate–towards a deeper purpose that you want them to share.  The ones who are there with you showed up.  Each person generates massive, seemingly infinite, energy, on any scale we can see.  They generate this energy by their existence, whether you engage it or not.  Now you need to engage that energy.  How you engage it and how much of it you engage depend on the agreements field you have generated.  Weak agreements fields engage very little of the energy available.  Strong agreements fields engage much of the energy available.  The point is that you are completely responsible for the use or loss of this energy, as well as the benefits or costs that come with it.

There is a massive cost to not engaging that energy.  The law of the conservation of energy, aka the first law of thermodynamics, applies here as well.  You have to account for all of the energy generated.  It has to go somewhere.  Purposeful energy, that which humans generate continuously, goes to one of three purposes: (1) the invited purpose; (2) another purpose; or (3) self-preservation.  Analogously, the energy will go into the invited activity, diffused towards other activities, or dissipated as heat.  The energy generated by the people in the room that is not engaged towards the invited purpose has high costs.

If the energy is diffused towards other activities with other purposes, it disengages the people present, which recent, global studies have shown to be very expensive.  They are not actively engaged in the activity, the purpose, for which you invited them.  Just because they are in the room physically, does not mean that their energy is serving your purpose.  They are thinking about something else.  And, that is for the diffused energy towards another purpose.  The energy that is dissipated as heat comes from those in the room who are trying to serve your invited purpose, or their own, and yet the agreements field you generated does not allow either form, yours or theirs, to engage in a healthy way.  This ends up in dissipated heat, which serves as self-preservation, which can be very destructive.  You know this form of energy loss as burnout, fatigue, distress, active disengagement.  It comes with huge costs, such as the costs of turnover and presenteeism.

So, there are no extra costs to engage the energy available in the room, and there are huge costs to not engaging it.  The difference between engaging it and not engaging it is a function of the agreements field you have generated.  There are 8 guiding principles for the strength of an agreements field.  While each principle, on its own, is relatively straightforward, strong agreements fields require all 8.

  1. Is the deeper shared purpose clear and inviting?
  2. Are the people invited into the room clear about and continuously connected to the deeper purpose? Is it consciously shared on a continuous basis?
  3. Is it clear to each individual why they and everyone else is in the room?  Why their individual contribution is unique and important in the service of the deeper purpose?
  4. Is each person clear on their experience of this relationship to their own self, to the other, to the group, to the creative process, and to the creative source?
  5. Do the group’s collective agreements consciously invite, acknowledge, and engage the potential, development, and outcomes available to the group?
  6. Does the system they work in leverage the efficiency of their direct actions, the effectiveness of the feedback dynamics they interact with, and the coordination of those different dynamics towards the deeper purpose?
  7. Are the agreements, that are embedded in the impact they generate for other stakeholders, agreements that the stakeholders want to and capable of engaging with?
  8. Does the system have the capacity to engage the amount of energy it needs to generate its desired impact, towards its deeper purpose?

All the energy you need is already available, right there in the people who are already there with you.  As Einstein showed over 100 years ago, the amount of energy in a very small amount of matter is far more than we typically understand.  The energy is there, in potential.  You just have to learn to work with it.  And, if you bring it in the room, it is there, and you have to account for it.  Use it or lose it, to your own benefit or detriment.  The only thing that is not cost-free is not using it once it is there.  Said another way, it costs you greatly to not use it.  How to use it is well understood and easy to do, as millions of people demonstrate every day, everywhere around the planet.

Moving Through Time or Space, Where Does Your Energy Go?

Do you use your energy mostly for moving through space or for moving through time?  Does it matter?  Is there a purpose to the question?  Yes and yes.  It matters how the energy is used, the purpose to which you put it.

A little physics helps us see why.  Einstein’s theory of special relativity showed that as more energy goes to moving through space and less to moving through time, time seems to slow down–as velocity (distance in space over a period of time) increases, perceived time slows down.  At the extreme velocity, the speed of light, a photon does not experience time.  Conversely, the more energy goes to moving through time and less through space, it takes more time to cover a specific distance, or less space is covered in a period of time–as velocity decreases, perceived time speeds up.

Here is the part that seems to be confusing.  As time seems to slow down for the observer, more time is passing for the other, the non-observer.  Time seems to be going very slow for me, and passes more quickly for others.  We will get back to what this means in a minute.

Translating this insight from physics, we see that energy is always purposeful, meaning that energy has an attractive force, a gravity, as shown by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a force that makes it cohere.  This energy goes into movement through time and space.  According to the founders of quantum physics, the normal understanding and use of time is obsolete.  They suggest it is more useful to understand that what we call time is actually a series of instances, in which choices are made.  Choices where something reflected the purpose, the state of the environment, the state of the organism, and a choice was made, something happened.  Lots of these instances occur in what we normally consider to be a second of time.  Energy, by definition, changes.  A choice about its changes occurs every instance.  Somehow, something makes this choice every instance.  The series of choices we experience is what we call time.  We also experience this energy as a form with extension–it extends over multiple dimensions, such as the three dimensions of length, width, and depth.  This is what we tend to think of as space, extension.  In summary, we experience energy over time (a series of choices for each instance) and space (in extension).

When we experience our energy, our purposeful energy, going into time, it goes into our processes of witnessing what is being reflected of our purpose and our own organism, and we choose, consciously or unconsciously, what to do.  When we experience our purposeful energy going into space, it goes into form-in-extension.  Our purposeful energy goes into time and space, a mix of reflector-witness-choosing and of form-in-extension.

If time seems to be slowing down, more of your purposeful energy is going into space, more into the form-in-extension, and less into reflector-witness-choosing.  When time seems to be speeding up, more of your purposeful energy is going into time, more into reflector-witness-choosing, and less into the form-in-extension.

In plain English, this means that when time seems to slow down, you might be focusing your (purposeful) energy more on the outcomes in your immediate environment.  When time seems to slow to a creep, when it takes forever for a second to pass, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the immediate outcomes in your surroundings.  You could take this as an opportunity to be severely bored or disengaged, like in that endless meeting, or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not giving enough attention to your purposeful energy, your awareness, to being aware of the alignment between your purpose and your choices.

When time seems to go by very quickly, when whole spans of time seem to have passed without you being aware, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the alignment between your purpose and your own organism’s choices.  You can take this as an opportunity to be lost in reflection–witnessing the reflection of your purpose and your organism’s choices–or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not being aware of what is manifesting in your immediate environment.

Maybe the reason both extremes, time goes too slow or too quick, seem to be wasteful, is that you are wasting the opportunity to choose how much of your purposeful energy goes towards being aware of your purpose, your environment, and your choices.  Balancing these uses of your purposeful energy allows you to tangibilize, to see what you want (purpose), what is happening outside (environment) and inside (organism), and to choose your response (form-in-extension).  When you are not balancing these, you give yourself signals, time goes by too fast or too slow.

You can transform your purposeful energy into an alignment of purpose, reflecting, witnessing, choosing, and extension-in-form, learning from what happens from what you saw, and adjusting what you witness.  You can move your energy through time and space, as you choose.  It matters, and it has a purpose.

The Power of Continuity

Does it make a difference if you care about what you do?  If you are really passionate and committed to what you give energy, or if it is just something that you do, because there is nothing better to do?  I observe that it makes a huge difference.  When I am connected to the power of that passion and commitment, I experience far greater energy.

Does it matter how much you are connected to that passion and commitment?  From not connected at all, to only connected briefly at times, to connected frequently, to connected much of the time.  I experience that how much I carry the commitment and passion with me influences how much energy I give to that commitment.  When it is high, I am a continuous ambassador for the passion.  Like with my family.

In our fieldwork right now at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, we are developing measures of this continuity power–the power of being connected to the deeper shared purpose, the love of the future for which I give my will.  In understanding the geometries of agreements fields, we are exploring how to assess continuity power as one of the key geometries.  “Continuity power” relates to (1) the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, (2) the utility one has for closing the gap, and (3) the time that one is connected to that deeper shared purpose, of closing the gap.

Using the analogy of power, which is the amount of work done in a unit of time, and where work is the force applied over a distance, we see that the distance is the gap, the force applied is the utility to close the gap, and the time is the time dedicated to closing the gap.  Power = Work / time = (Force * distance) / time, or Continuity Power = Utility * gap / time.  Graphing out this function in the three dimensions shows an interesting geometry, where not all ranges of each of the three variables is possible.  We will be mapping this geometry and sharing the mapping of what we find in the world of human agreements fields over the next months.

This formulation also leads to some interesting initial insights, which we are now in the process of checking in the field.  Let’s work through the three elements: utility; gap; and time.  If the utility to close the gap is weak, maybe because of other priorities, then the work to close the gap will seem to be too great, which will lead to the need to reduce the gap.  The easiest way to reduce the gap is to lower the desired state towards the actual state.  This is a classic systems archetype, known as drifting goals.  If you do not see or connect to the deeper shared purpose, then the time connected decreases significantly, requiring much more continuity power to get the work done.  If the work to be done seems to be too much, this is probably a symptom of a low amount of time connected to the deeper shared purpose.  If it seems to be just too much work to be done to shift the system towards the desired state, then the easiest solution is to reduce either the force or the distance, the utility to change the system by closing the gap or changing the gap.

Conversely, as the time increases that you are connected to closing the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, the continuity power required to get the work done decreases.  This suggests that it takes far more energy to move the system (to close the gap between the desired and actual states) when not connected to the deeper shared purpose.  It is much more efficient to move the system when connected more continuously to the deeper shared purpose.  It does seem to make a difference if you care about what you do, and how much of the time you are connected to that passion and commitment.  We will be field-testing these insights into the geometry of continuity power in the agreements fields over the next months, sharing here what we are finding.