Interest is one source of passion. Purpose - the intention to contribute to the well-being of others - is another. The mature passions of gritty people depend on both.
Angela Duckworth wrote the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In her book, she shares her research on how to be gritty. In subsequent chapters, she identifies interest and purpose as motivating factors. At the same time, she explains that interest and purpose are independent. They can both be lacking, they can both be wholly present, and one may appear without the other.
But we don't have to get into all of that in order to understand the big picture - that when other people benefit from what one does, one becomes grittier.
When I talk to grit paragons, and they tell me that what they're pursuing has purpose, they mean something much deeper than mere intention. They're not just goal-oriented; the nature of their goals is special.
When I probe, asking, "Can you tell me more? What do you mean?" there sometimes follows an earnest stumbling struggle to put how they feel into words. But always - always - those next sentences mention other people. Sometimes it's very particular ("my children," "my clients," "my students") and sometimes quite abstract ("this country," "the sport," "science," "society"). However they say it, the message is the same: the long days and evenings of toil, the setbacks and disappointments and struggle, the sacrifice - all this is worth it because, ultimately, their efforts pay dividends to other people.
Consider the parable of the bricklayers:
Three bricklayers are asked: "What are you doing?"
The first says, "I am laying bricks."
The second says, "I am building a church [building]."
And the third says, "I am building a house of God."
The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.
So does that mean that we can freely move between the three? Does that mean that grittiness can be developed? I am thankful that the answer to both of these questions is yes.
In other words, a bricklayer who one day says, "I am laying bricks" might at some point become the bricklayer who recognizes "I am building the house of God."
I tried to stay active, as well. My job was not just to delegate, but to lead by example. When folks, for instance, visited our ten-acre lake or a smaller pond, to wet their fishing line, we charged by the pound for the fish they caught. They could pay and take their stringers, or they could choose to have their fish processed in a little facility that we lovingly called the "Skinnin' Shed", named because we stocked the waters with grain-fed channel catfish.
Nobody every thought that I would have a job as a fish skinner, but when other employees were not available to wield the knives and pliers, the task fell to me.
Visitors enjoyed watching the process of skinning a catfish, and I liked putting on a show. I made up songs to go along with it, and my knife flew like the table cook at a Japanese restaurant. I suppose, in some weird way, I was performing a service. There were smiles and conversation as people were amazed that I could skin and filet a catfish in 30-40 seconds.
The point is that this was not the ultimate job at The Wilds. As the manager, I was poised to develop as the company grew. But that was the 1980s, and banks were calling in their loans. The Wilds had made a significant investment to bring a train to the property, and the company ultimately failed because they couldn't pay on the loan early. I would not be a teacher today if things had gone as dreamed. Being a leader in the tourist industry, at a place I envisioned as Silver Dollar City for Oklahoma, would have been awesome, but even working at starting levels was enjoyable because I was engaging with other people.
Plus, the food in our restaurant was so good.