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 learn… 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.
| NEW / EXTENDED | Grit Summary
Natural Talent Is Overrated
What quality do you think is most important in a partner: intelligence or beauty? What about an employee: natural talent or work ethic? In both cases, we tend to deceive ourselves by responding against our natural instincts.
Several surveys in the United States have asked the question ‘What quality is most important to success: talent or hard work? “About 66% of respondents were in favor of hard work and determination. Hard work was one of the most important qualities for hiring a potential employee.
And that opinion does not just apply to the business world. In 2011, psychologist Chia-Jung Tsay asked the question for music experts, and an overwhelming majority said practice and hard work was the secret to success.
But if we’re honest, we believe that talent outweighs hard work.
In the same study in 2011, the music specialists listened to two recordings in which one was supposed to be a naturally talented musician, while the other represented a musician with years of hard work.
Although experts have said they favor hard work, the vast majority chose the naturally talented musician as superior. But here’s the catch: the specialists listened to the same songs played by the same musician!
And that kind of situation also happens in the business world.
Tsay’s study also looked at experienced entrepreneurs and found that hard-working people need many years of experience and at least $ 40,000 more in startup capital to compete with talented people.
If a candidate is presented as a person with natural talent to connect with people, he will be considered more valuable than someone who worked hard to build a network of colleagues.
Effort Is Much More Important Than Talent
When Bill Clinton rose to the presidency of the United States, he did not seem to have worked that hard. Otherwise, for Hillary Clinton, it has never been this easy. But that could work in her favor.
The effort not only generates higher skills; it also produces results, which makes an attempt twice as valuable as talent!
You can think of it as an equation: to determine your skill level, you take your talent in a specific area and multiply by the amount of effort. Then, Talent x Effort = Ability.
But when we are talking about results, you need to put the skill back into the equation. Then, again, the results will be dependent on the amount of effort you put in. This time, Ability x Effort = Achievement.
You can also think about it in athletic terms. Even when you are naturally talented, you still need to put effort into practicing and developing your skill. For example, if you want to win the gold medal in the Olympics, it will almost entirely depend on your effort to get there.
The power of effort is often discovered by people struggling to overcome a lack of talent.
A good example of this is the writer, John Irving. Far from being natural born, Irving struggled at school, repeating a year, receiving a C-in English and reaching a below average grade in the SAT.
But there is a reason for that. Irving was dyslexic and needed much more time than others to develop reading and writing skills.
However, Irving did not give up. Instead, he worked harder than anyone else in his studies, a habit he’d kept up all his life.
Irving ended up writing and rewriting ten drafts of his novels, but he knew his effort, and hard work would be rewarded. The results speak for themselves: his novel “The world according to Garp” won the National Book award in 1978.
Keeping Simpler Objectives Will Help You Reach Great Goals
Conventional wisdom says that we should do what we love. But, even more, important than that, you need to commit to doing what you love. Performing small daily tasks is an excellent way to increase your effort levels.
Low-level goals like these can serve as a way to achieve your ultimate goals.
Many people will set high-level goals, such as becoming a doctor, lawyer or a professional athlete. Having life goals like these is inspiring, but it can also make you forget to set the small goals for the bigger ones to happen.
For example, to become a doctor, some small goals must be set first; like studying and passing the entrance exam. Once they are reached, there are even other small goals like not to be late for your classes and ensure that you achieve good grades.
Without incorporating these small goals into your day-to-day life, the big goal can stay aloof.
However, having a big dream and vision is also important to give meaning and inspiration to your life. After all, staying in a disciplined regime is much easier when you have a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve.
Think of Tom Seaver for example. All he wanted was to play baseball. When he retired at age 42, Seaver had made 3,640 strikes in his 20-year career as a major league player.
During his career, Seaver made sure that everything in his life worked for him to accomplish his goal.
It meant that when he was traveling to the beach, he avoided the sun as a burn in the arm could disrupt him to throw the ball and his goal.
And that’s what it means to be loyal to your goal. Seaver’s success was the result of a simple target.
Work With What Interests You
Do you have difficulty getting motivated during a workday? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.
A Gallup poll in 2014 found that two-thirds of American workers do not feel motivated at work, and most people believe their work is boring. In fact, only 13% of workers said they feel engaged with work.
These statistics underscore a simple fact. No matter how much willpower you have, if you want to stay motivated, it is essential to do some activity that interests you.
In 2003, psychologist Mark Allen Morris interviewed hundreds of American workers, and the results confirmed that people are happier when the job has some connection with their interests.
It means that creative people will probably never feel fully engaged in administrative work for example. In the same way, someone who likes to help and work with others may find it difficult to find satisfaction in solitary work.
Thus, it is also important to have realistic expectations about the jobs available to you.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz advised students at Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College 45 years ago, and he noted that the current generation is more likely to have unrealistic expectations about the future.
Schwartz noted that this misguided look infiltrated the romantic and professional lives of this generation. In dealing with work and novels, he discovered that today’s young adults have the impression that there is a perfect match waiting for them, and anything that is different is a waste of time.
The current generation needs to know that in reality there are many jobs and possible partners to achieve a successful career and relationship.
And once you find that career or partner, do not forget the importance of perseverance to achieve your goals.
Practice With Intelligence And Try New Techniques
If you’ve spent a lot of time studying for some tests, you probably know how easy it is to spend a whole day copying useless information and ending up with a bad grade. The fact is that practicing a lot can be a waste of time if you do not practice smart.
People who practice are always more successful at mastering a new skill than people who do not strive. So the cognitive psychologist Anderson Ericsson has found that the key to this success is smart practice.
Consider the athletes. Successful runners do not practice with vague goals in mind; they are accurate and keep an eye on every detail of the race, including the monitoring of body responses and distances traveled.
Their goals are also accurate; they seek to run 100 meters longer than the last time, reach a specific speed at the end of the month or decrease the tension in their shoulders during training.
The benefits of deliberate practice are: get you off the autopilot, help you avoid repetition and bring excellent results.
Doctors also benefit from specific training. Knowing this, Ericsson has developed a program to help train doctors to deal with specific critical situations, such as cardiac arrest.
The program gives doctors feedback after suggesting specific training methods, helping when the doctor walks in the wrong direction.
During a program training session, a doctor stayed on autopilot. He was not learning from the feedback and was always repeating the same mistake. Although he practiced carefully, he was simply repeating himself without making any progress.
He only managed to change and get it right when he was asked to stop for a while to think and reflect on what he was doing. And so, he managed to get good results.
It can be easy to get the job done and end up on autopilot assuming you will end up reaping the fruits of your practice time. But that will not happen until you stop and reflect on what needs improvement, and then start practicing.
Find Your True Purpose
You will not get away from the fact that sometimes you have to do things you do not like. And in many of those times, you will procrastinate and postpone so much a task, that it will seem like an endless struggle.
The best way to avoid procrastination is to be motivated to find the purpose of your job. It can be easy to find motivation if you do what you love. But realizing how your work contributes to the well-being of other people can also be motivating.
A 2015 survey concluded that people who work helping others are more satisfied that those who don’t.
And you do not necessarily need to help other people. Another study has surveyed some zoo janitors and found that many of them are happy with their low wages despite having a good education.
These janitors identify work as a calling. And as a result, work gives them a great sense of purpose in life; and the belief that they are helping to improve the world. That also means that they are more willing to do extra hours to care for sick animals.
If you have not found your true calling, do not worry. It may take some time, and you can see it while doing something else.
Professor Michael Baime was teaching medicine at Pennsylvania University after years of college and internships. He knew that medicine was not his real calling, but he liked to help other people.
Meanwhile, he was developing his real passion: meditation and mindfulness, a practice he had enjoyed since he was very young.
Eventually, Baime became the director of internal medicine at a hospital in Philadelphia. And in 1992, he opened a meditation class for patients with terminal illnesses.
By maintaining his practices in medicine, he was able to pave the way to his true calling. And after that, his meditation program became his primary occupation.
Encourage Hard Work Rather Than Talent
Unfortunately, children are exposed to different bad advice, especially when they listen that they are not smart enough and that hard work is a waste of time.
And this can lead to people who can not reach their potential. To prevent this from happening, it is important to recognize and encourage hard work rather than rewarding the only talent.
Rather than end someone’s hopes, remind children of what skills can be achieved through hard work, and that determination and effort bring rewards.
Unfortunately, schools often reward children for their talent, not hard work. American professors Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin are trying to change that view.
In 1994, they launched a program called ‘Knowledge and Power,’ with a rule that children would be rewarded with effort and learning rather than natural talents.
So instead of telling a child “You’re too talented, congratulations,” teachers should say, “You’re learning, congratulations.”
The results were very good. The scores of children who participated in the program rose well above the national average.
The program showed how important it is for adults and teachers to work as examples for children. Children learn that changes and improvements are possible through the examples of adults and teachers.
Psychologist Daeun Park noted how first- and second-grade children learned from their teachers. Teachers who emphasized categorizing students according to their grades gave bad examples to the children.
These children ended up thinking that their intelligence level was predetermined, so they preferred safe, non-challenging tasks.
The same was true for parents. Unfortunately, it is very common for a parent to think that bad grades reflect on lack of intelligence rather than lack of effort.
It can generate a feeling in the child that she is stupid and that she should give up. If parents and teachers told children that they needed to work hard, they would be more motivated and would achieve better results.
Effort Is More Valued In Some Cultures
It is not uncommon to see an athlete, determined and determined, overcoming a bad start and winning a match. But it is unusual to see this mentality being promoted on a grand scale. Unless you live in Finland, where these cultural values are very much promoted.
Perhaps because of the long, cold winters, and a history of defenses against the Russian neighbors, Finland is a major promoter of the effort.
Finns have their word for “effort,” “sisu,” which refers to the quality of perseverance that is an integral part of Finnish culture. Finnish psychologist Emilia Lahti takes sisu very seriously and has researched what that word means to the Finns.
After asking a thousand Finns, she found that 83% believed that sisu was a learned trait, not an innate quality.
And just as effort can be learned, it can also be encouraged as a virtue in a company.
Many credit Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, for the “can-do” spirit that allowed the company to earn $ 5 billion in profits during the 2008 financial crisis, a time when many other banks were breaking down.
Dimon learned about the effort early on. When his college calculus teacher had a heart attack, the school faced problems in finding an appropriate substitute. It caused half of the students to drop out of the class.
However, Dimon was part of the other half who insisted and learned calculus on his own.
That is the spirit of determination Dimon taught his staff at meetings throughout the country. He inspired them to fight and win in the face of adversity, to promote motivation, a sense of purpose and to set a goal that would lead them to success.
Take up a challenge and practice your effort and perseverance. For example, decide to write a short story. Set the size of the story and its timeline. Plan what you will need to achieve every day to continue on the right path. Now start cultivating the power of your effort!