The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Remember that time you started doing that something you loved and you gave up after only a few days? Then the disappointment came, and after a while, depression settled in. Why should it have been any different? You had the talent, you had the time, and you got off to a great start!
Angela Duckworth’s “Grit” is a book which might have the answer to that question. And it’s there in the title: you just didn’t have enough of it.
But, wait for a second: that doesn’t solve any of your problems! For starters, you don’t know what “grit” actually is.
Bear with us for some 1,000 words, and you’ll find out. Because, as always – our summaries are both short and easy to follow.
Who Should Read “Grit”? And Why?
Just like many other books tagged with a “#1 New York Times bestseller” label, “Grit” is a book about success. However, it’s not one of your regular “find your talent and be yourself” books.
In reality, it’s one of the very few books in its (or any other) category which can be summed up thus: “just choose a passion and don’t be yourself.”
OK, it’s neither that simple nor that easy!
But, if you can see some part of yourself in our opening paragraph – this book is definitely for you. If you consider yourself to be an underachiever – you really need to read this summary. Finally, if you have a child who… never mind, in fact.
Just read the book if you have a child. Period.
About Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth (1970) is an American academic and a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. An expert on self-control and grit, she has advised numerous NBA and NFL teams, in addition to the White House and the World Bank. She is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow.
If you’ve heard anybody using the word “grit” at a fancy dinner party – the chances are he or she was probably talking about this book. Really! Duckworth has been lauded as the “the psychologist who has made ‘grit’ the reigning buzzword in education-policy circles.”
And there’s a good reason for that!
You see, Duckworth is a daughter of a scientist. As she explains in “Grit,” she was frequently scolded by her father for lacking his genius. Two decades ahead, she’s a respected and oft-quoted author of a bestseller with a BA from Harvard, an M.Sc. from Oxford and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Talking about being underestimated!
Not necessarily so, says Duckworth. In her opinion, just as many other successful people, she might have been deficient in genius or high I.Q. scores on her test. What she – and, as she tries to prove, all the others – had in abundance was a mixture of hunger and persistence.
And this is what she succinctly calls “grit.”
Duckworth knows that her readers might have some problems with grasping the new concept easily. That’s why she spends the first five chapters of her book defining and delineating this keyword. And she does a decent job.
Here’s how it goes:
You might have already learned from our other summaries that success starts with finding your element. However, Duckworth thinks that this is only a part of the story. Talent is not skill, she says, and skill is what you need to succeed.
It’s pretty obvious once you think about it!
Being an advisor of NBA and NFL teams, it’s only logical that most of Duckworth’s analogies are related to sports. So, let’s say you have the talent of the next Michael Jordan in you. Do you honestly believe you’ll become as great as him if you smoke and drink and don’t train hard?
It takes great effort to turn talent into skill. And it takes even more considerable effort to turn that skill into an achievement. Take a rest at the wrong moment – and you will lose your stride. Your sports idols have become that terrific because they’ve shown up for training day in day out. Not because they took a rest after a month.
Life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And to run this marathon, you need to prepare yourself adequately for the long haul.
Of course, you’ll make it only if you persevere. And you’ll persist only if you have enough passion to keep doing the thing you’re doing. Because it’s inevitable that, at one point, things will get tough and you’ll find your career of choice less pleasurable. It’s at this point you’ll probably give up – if not motivated enough.
And there’s the moral of the book:
The talented may fail; the skilled may give up; the gritty won’t. Because “grit” is the combination of desire and determination which is required to run the marathon of life all the way to the finish line.
Duckworth’s book abounds with examples of this. According to her, her field tests prove over and over again that it’s gritty who succeed. This is true both for the cadets of a military academy and the finalists of the National Spelling Bee contest.
And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be true for you.
Key Lessons from “Grit”
1. A Personalized “Grit Scale”
2. The Magic of the Hard Thing Rule
3. Optimal Practice
A Personalized “Grit Scale”
Even though Angela Duckworth holds a Ph.D. in psychology, her methods are not really that scientific. For example, she repeatedly uses her customized “Grit Scale” developed for her study at West Point to predict someone’s success.
She claims it’s the best tool for predicting, even though it’s a highly personalized scale. It’s, in fact, a self-evaluation meter, consisting of five possible feedbacks (from “Not at all like me” to “Very much like me”) to ten different statements. The sentences range from “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones” to I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.”
Duckworth says it works. We are not so sure about this.
The Magic of the Hard Thing Rule
The “Hard Thing Rule,” on the other hand, has much more practical applications. It’s been used by Duckworth and her family, and – if she’s any proof of that – it apparently works.
It basically says that you can’t quit anything you’re doing when you feel like it. You can only walk out because of a natural, external reason.
If for example, you start learning to play an instrument, you can only give up once the first cycle of classes ends. If you decide to go to the first class of the second cycle – then you’ll need to wait for quitting at least one year more.
So, choose wisely.
Duckworth doesn’t say anything extraordinary when she says that practice is necessary. She does, however, adds a little twist to the story.
And the twist is this:
The optimal practice is the deliberate practice. Meaning – a practice with no goal equals no motivation. And in order to be motivated each time you train, you’ll need to:
- Set attainable objectives and work towards reaching them;
- Work hard, be honest with yourself and forget about half-measures;
- If you can, find an immediate helpful feedback;
- Refine through repetition.
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“Grit” Quotes“Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.” Click To Tweet “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.” Click To Tweet “With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” Click To Tweet “Every human trait is influenced by both genes and experience.” Click To Tweet “On your own, you can grow your grit ‘from the inside out’: You can cultivate your interests. You can develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can… Click To Tweet “You can also grow your grit ‘from the outside in.’ Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends—developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.” Click To Tweet “To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven… Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Angela Duckworth’s “Grit” offers a rather new way to look at what makes the difference between being successful and unsuccessful. It’s not so much inspirational and instructive, as it is informative and illuminating.
What’s more – unlike what you can expect from a Ph.D., it’s written in a simple manner. And it’s full of anecdotes, case studies, and real interviews. In addition to some rather dubious tips and tricks.
All things considered, Duckworth doesn’t say much more than that, in order to be successful, you just need to persevere in your passions. But, why the 350+ pages then?
Interestingly enough, that’s the best part about this book. It seems that learning about other people’s failures and perseverance makes you more stubborn on your road to success.
A good reason as any to at least leaf through the pages of this relatively large, but ultimately rewarding book.