Get Gritty With It

As institutions begin to reevaluate their admissions through judging one’s acceptance over another, they are beginning to bypass the common practice and are moving towards what might be considered to some an unorthodox method. However, is it unruly to do so? The main plan has always been to judge a person by their scores on standardized tests or IQs; however, what will that do the institution if the individual is lazy and has no energy to apply themselves?

Artwork by Montague Dawson

Is this process now outdated? How can you measure whether that student or individual will stay with the institution for which they were originally accepted? Retention. Performance. Demeanor. Affinity. These are the items institutions are now working to see within the students for whom they let walk through their doors and enter their classrooms. The answer to this conundrum may be found within Dr. Angela Duckworth’s study on the concept of grit.

When asked to explain the meaning of grit on a Freakonomics podcast back in May, Duckworth described it as, “[a] passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.” She also enhanced her aforementioned definition of grit in her April 2013 TED talk as she stated that, “grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” So why wouldn’t you want to have students who have a high grit-level? Why wouldn’t you want to have a high grit-level as well?–Are you able to raise your grit score?

So what is ‘your’ grit score? Whether good or bad, there is no worry. According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s study titled, Mindset, and Duckworth your grit-level can be improved. One thing is for certain, talent doesn’t make you gritty. Many times teachers and coworkers say, “Good job, I knew you would ace that!” This phrase, though simplistic, touches upon the negativity within Dweck’s mindset debate. Those with a fixed mindset do not have the ease to expand on their qualities and just think they are innate, thus showing that they didn’t or rather wouldn’t have to work hard to accomplish the tasks at hand. However, if your teacher or coworker stated, “Good job, you truly worked hard for that!,” it recognizes your ability to reach a goal of your own and that the effort put forth paid off.

This simplistic phraseology may, in fact, make quite a large distinctiveness in how the receiving party interprets it. I would think that one is more likely to repeat an action or stick to accomplish similar tasks when the individual believes they had worked hard to accomplish the previous task, thus also giving them confidence to accomplish more.

The flaw within this argument is what do you say when someone does the inevitable–FAILS. When asked what their largest fear is in life, fifty percent of the employees at Sparq Designs claimed failure as their biggest fear. Atychiphobia (eh-tee-kah-fo-be-ah), defined as the fear of failure. The fear of failure is doubt; you know you can do it, you’re just doubting each action might be the wrong one. It is always a scary thought, to lose everything you have and start from the beginning.

For example, when you are working feverishly to finish a project and then the worst happens: your Adobe product freezes, your computer crashes, and your work was never saved. Losing everything you had, all the work you put forth. You may say a few unorthodox words, slam the container full of pencils down on your desk because it was an inch from being where you wanted it, and your water bottle lands on the other side of the room. But, then you think, well, this sucks. Then, you go and collect the writing utensils from the floor, rub the mark off the wall your water bottle made, restart your computer and get back to work.

In the long run, failure is not a permanent condition, you start over and keep going. Noting to yourself that you’re going to save your work every fifteen minutes and write an angry email to Adobe, you prepare for these things never to happen again.

Two weeks later, the same thing happens. Failure. Realization. *Purchases new computer.* Continues through life once again.

You’re bound to fail – what’s important is how you handle the failure. So, this small failure may speak to a louder audience. Your perseverance is pressing on and you want to accomplish the task at hand. Sometimes the first time will not be the best, sometimes you will fail time and time again. But, these failures determine your grit and mindset–your ability to fall on the muddy ground, wipe the dirt from your legs, and keep on running.

You score your job on the tenth interview.

You accomplish your first marathon after twelve years of training.

You don’t find your true love until you’re forty-four.

Your ability to rearrange these negative thoughts to motivate you determines your ability to have the wherewithal to further your sticktoitiveness and growth mindset.

Goals are not easy or they’d all be done by now. Failure is important to success. Limits, like fears are all manmade. This may sound like a motivational speech, but shoot, why not?! Grit is just that, finding your ability to stick with the tasks you have outlined. Go out and learn a new talent, ace that project, stick with it and apply these items to your future goals. Now go out and get gritty with it!


Andrew Henley

Andrew Henley

Andrew Henley is an intern at Sparq Designs. At Sparq Designs we thrive on our ability to create and foster relationships; relationships between brands and consumers, and the relationships between our clients and ourselves.

Internships are one of the most valuable experiences a student can gain during their undergraduate studies. While classroom work is important, real experience can help get your foot in the door when you enter the workforce. Learn about internship opportunities at Sparq Designs here.


The Problem with Success

When you think of success, what do you imagine? Maybe success, to you, is a person – maybe it looks like your friend who has the perfect job, perfect apartment, and a perfect personality that you just can’t seem to “outshine.” Or maybe success is an irrational standard you’ve set for yourself based on someone else’s creativity. Our propensity towards comparison can skew our perception of success and inhibit our ability to find success in our jobs, our friendships, and our family lives.  Specifically, there are three problems that can skew our perceptions:

  1. Success is subjective.
“You do not determine your success by comparing yourself to others. Rather, you determine your success by comparing your accomplishments to your capabilities.” – Zig Ziglar

All to often, we as human beings compare our apples to someone else’s oranges. Often unconsciously, we look for people in similar situations as us and compare an aspect of our lives, or our whole lives, to theirs, resulting in a sense of unworthiness diminished in their bright shining spot light. But we forget too quickly that what success looks like to us is not what success may actually be for us, which leads us to the next point: success is undefined.

  1. Success is undefined.

A few years back, I started a wedding and portrait photography business that challenged me both creatively and organizationally. I had been working with other photographers for quite a few years before then and couldn’t wait to get started with my own business, so when a young couple approached me about photographing their wedding, I was over the moon excited. As the wedding date approached, I decided it would be a good idea to start looking at other wedding photographers’ work to get a clearer vision for what type of style I would want to start creating in my work, what sort of files I’d be expected to deliver to my clients, etc. At first, looking through other’s work was helpful. It gave me inspiration for shots, and helped me figure out what style I might want to move towards shooting in. But soon, a half hour of scrolling through wedding photography blogs turned into an hour. Then two hours. Then nearly five hours later, I slammed my laptop closed, frustrated by the shear volume of beautiful work that I knew I would in no way be able to even come close to for my first wedding. I was frustrated, upset, and felt unworthy to shoot the sweet couple’s wedding who had so graciously offered me the opportunity. Actually, I was so upset with my lack of experience and expertise that I almost called off the gig less than a month out.

The problem was that I was using other people’s success to define my own, when in fact, I should have been the one defining my own success. I looked at what the other photographers were creating and producing, measured my work against theirs (without taking into account how long they had been photographing weddings for, their individual skill set, and their backgrounds) and decided that I sucked compared to them. It led me down a road of comparison, which continues to test my perseverance to this day. Though I continue to struggle with using other people’s work to define my own success, I’m continuously learning to set my own standard and goals for my own success, and to only compare my new work to past work. If I’m improving where I want to be improving, I’m successful. Besides – who, besides myself, can define my success?

  1. Success looks a lot like failure.

Can I just be completely honest for a second? I hate this third point. I considered leaving it out because I really just didn’t want to deal with it being a reality. But I think this is one of the most important and fatal problems we experience when trying to reach success – success looks a LOT like failure. Like, TONS of failures, all of the time, in every way you can possibly imagine. When I first started my business, I was under the assumption that if I was meant to do something (and be successful doing it), things would be easy. Everything would fall into place. Everyone would encourage me, applaud my attempts and my creations, that my clients would be easy to deal with all of the time, that nothing would ever go wrong – what a messed up view. Here’s my most current perception of success:


Photo credit: SelfMadeSucess

As Thomas J. Watson so eloquently puts it, “Would you like me to give you a formula for… success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all… you can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.”

How would you define success? Is your perception of success skewed due to comparison? Begin to determine your own success by creating goals and milestones that will keep you motivated and moving towards your own version of success.


Jenna Sasala is the lead Graphic Designer at Sparq Designs, a web development and online marketing company in Cranberry, PA

Jenna Sasala is a Marketing Account Manager & Designer at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

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