Chapter 11 Summary
Last Updated on October 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 416
In chapter 11, Grant makes a case for learning to rethink our own life plans and relationships. He recounts the story of his cousin Ryan, whom everyone in the family expected to be a doctor. Before applying for college, Ryan expressed doubt about going into pre-med and wondered whether he should take up economics instead. He pushed down his doubts and doggedly pursued a medical degree. Even though he could repeatedly feel himself burning out and having doubts, he was determined to see the whole thing through. It was only after five years of working as a neurosurgeon that he finally decided to reevaluate his life and shift to business; he then founded a company and started working with other businesses toward the goal of improving the overall quality of healthcare.
We tend to think of grit as an ideal quality, but sometimes it can lead people to continue pushing a failing plan. Instead of rethinking their plan, people might engage in what is called an “escalation of commitment,” where people dig their heels deeper in the face of failure instead of changing direction.
There was, however, another psychological phenomenon at play in Ryan’s experience: identity foreclosure. This term refers to a premature commitment to identity (as a role and set of goals) without having explored other options. Grant suggests that it may be better to teach young people not to necessarily identify with their work: it’s something they do, not necessarily who they are. Moreover, with how fickle industries and job positions can be, people are likely to take on several jobs over the course of their life; disclosing that fact to younger people can help them recontextualize their decision as something provisional rather than final. Everyone stands to benefit from regularly reevaluating and reflecting on their plans and current situation.
Sometimes changes don’t have to be big and official either. It is possible to change the meaning of one’s work without making a definite career change. Consider the case of Candice Walker, who worked at a hospital in Michigan. She was a custodian, but the most important part of her work for her was comforting chemotherapy patients and their families. It wasn’t work that was required of her—it was what she wanted to do. By adding in small actions that come from one’s sense of values and not relying on any role’s basic job description, one can realize a unique and personally meaningful niche where one is.