#43 Grit, Wealth or Intelligence, what would you choose?

Yesterday Jason and I were listening to Freakonomics podcast: How Many Prince Charleses Can There Be in One Room?

woman laying on bed near gray radio

At the beginning of the podcast is an intriguing multiple choice question: If you can choose to have one of the three super power, which would you choose?

  • A. Top 1% grit in the world
  • B. Top 1% wealth in the world
  • C. Top 1% intelligence in the world

Jason said, “I will choose grit.” He continued, “We get joy from what we work towards.”

I find that very powerful, and I would like to share some more thoughts on this question.

Leisure is only enjoyable to people who have work.

After a long day, long week, or a long year of hard work, either for your employer, for your own start up, or raising a family, lying on the beach (or your couch) doing nothing sounds like a dream. But imaging all you do, all day, all year long is nothing, would you still enjoy it?

A popular belief is that the joy of life comes from purpose. I am one of the believers. “The purpose of life” can be an intimidating topic. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid thinking about it. Here are some helpful perspectives I have learned recently:

1. If you don’t have a passion, don’t worry, follow your curiosity

Gray Cat on Green Grass

This idea is from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic (which is my favorite book of hers).

It is true that following your passion is one way of living a meaningful and fulfilling life. But the problem is – What if I don’t have a passion? What if I am no longer passionate about my old “passion”? What’ if I am not sure about my passion any more? What if I am so consumed by other responsibilities in life that I don’t have energy to follow my passion?

Am I myself the person to blame?

Passion is not a stuffed animal sitting on your bed – once you have it, you have it. Passion can be the Sun – sometimes you can see it clearly, sometimes it hides for days or weeks. Passion can be a plant – it grows, changes, sometimes dies, sometimes come back alive when spring comes. Passion can be cloud on the sky – you can see it the shape and movement from distance, but when you come closer, it is very different.

Trying to figure out “What is my passion” can be similar to trying to hit a moving target. And that’s what makes the question “What’s the purpose of life” intimidating too.

Elizabeth’s take on this is enlightening. In “Follow your Passion”, the follow part is more important than passion part. When you don’t have a concrete passion, start from passion’s light cousin, curiosity. And see what that leads you too.

2. If you are not as good as you hope to be, don’t be discouraged. Set a concrete goal and focus on your progress.

pile of brown wooden blocks

Steady progress over a long period of time is an unstoppable force to achieve anything.

In 2019, I became a step mother. The two children of Jason, at age 8 and 4, are wonderful. From day one, they have been completely open, positive and welcoming to me into their lives. For that, I feel deeply grateful for how their parents have raised them.

But I still often find myself an awkward step parent. I am not a fun person (to kids). I don’t know much of their favorite shows, songs, toys. I am not good at making funny sounds, telling jokes, or running in the playground, or playing any games.

I was raised as an adult.

I remember when I was very little, I wanted to play with my mom, she would continue reading her book and say, “Come read a book with me.” So that’s what I did.

In 2019, we had some great moments as a big family. But I constantly feel that I am not as good as I hope to be. I got frustrated with my awkwardness. Until last month, when I set my new year’s resolutions.

Jason reminded me that one strength of mine is asking good questions. So I wrote down 100 questions I would like to ask the kids. I asked two last weekend:

  • What animal will make a great driver? Why?
  • Would you like to grow up very fast or very slowly? Why?

Throughout the year, I will write down their answers. Maybe put together into a booklet with their photos. This way, we can record the thoughts of their precious little minds. And hopefully the grandparents and other families, who don’t get to engage with them often will enjoy this Christmas present at the end of 2020 🙂

I am 2/100 in this goal.

And that makes me feel 2% less awkward.

So far, this blog has been very far from the question from the beginning: Grit, wealth, or intelligence, what would you choose? The reason is that this is a very framed question, as if these three things are universally the most important or desirable.

Even if I don’t particularly like the choices in this question, I still find great value in thinking through it. The following is a summary of thoughts in my mind:

  • The joy of life is from the pursuit of something meaningful, which could evolve and change with life.
  • To define what is something meaningful could be intimidating, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid thinking about it.
  • If one does not have a clear purpose at the moment, the joy also comes from the pursuit of curiosity.
  • If one has to do something that he/she is naturally not good at, make a concrete goal and focus on progress.
  • Steady progress over a long period of time is an unstoppable force to achieve anything.

Thank you for reading! I have some questions for you:

  • Do you have something you are very passionate about recently?
  • What is that last thing that you are curious about?
  • Do you have something that I wish you could be better at?
  • What’s a goal you can set for yourself that you can track progress?

I hope you have a fulfilling life.

If this blog interests you, here is the Table of Contents of the rest of blogs in my #52WeeksOfWriting challenge.

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