Review: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Author: Angela Duckworth


Angela Duckworth defines grit not as “genius” but rather a combination of passion & long-term perseverance. She uses study after study to show how grit leads to success way much more than talent or natural ability does.

The following is the result of her research of the “psychological assets that mature paragons of grit have in common”:

“First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying the what you do. Every gritty person I’ve studied can point to aspects of their work they enjoy less than others, and most have to put up with at least one or two chores they don’t enjoy at all. Nevertheless, they’re captivated by the endeavor as a whole. With enduring fascination and childlike curiosity, they practically shout out, ‘I love what I do!’
“Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. So, after you’ve discovered and developed interest in a particular area, you must devote yourself to the sort of focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery. You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day, week after month after year. To be gritty is to resist complacency. ‘Whatever it takes, I want to improve!’ is a refrain of all paragons of grit, no matter how excellent they already are.
“Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters. For most people, interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime. It is therefore imperative that you identify your work as both personally interesting and, at the same time, integrally connected to the well-being of others. For a few, a sense of purpose dawns early, but for many, the motivation to serve others heightens after the development of interest and years of disciplined practice. Regardless, fully mature exemplars of grit invariably tell me, ‘My work is important — both to me and to others.’
“And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance. In this book, I discuss it after interest, practice, and purpose — but hope does not define the last stage of grit. It defines every stage. From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails” (pg. 91–92).

She says that these psychological assets are not things you have or don’t have. They are all learnable. That’s what the latter three quarters of her book is about.

Ratings (1–5)

  • Likelihood of recommending a friend to read? 📚📚📚📚📚
  • Likelihood of recommending a friend to purchase? 💰💰💰💰
  • Positive Influence: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Time to read (more stars is more time): 🗿🗿
  • How related to business? 🕴️🕴️🕴️🕴️
“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another” (pg. 14).

Two or Three Favorite Things

In Grit, Duckworth shares a study that looked at why one person would grow up to be an optimist & another to be a pessimist. The study worked with a group of middle school students and took a group of “helpless” students that she believed thought their mistakes were due to their lack of intellectual ability rather than a lack of effort. She surmised that their “core beliefs about success and learning” made them pessimistic, not just their past failures.

In the study, she divided those same kids into two groups and assigned half to a success-only program. The kids in that group would be praised for doing well no matter how many math problems they completed each day over the course of several weeks. The other half were assigned to an “attribution retraining program”. They solved math problems too but were sometimes told that they hadn’t solved enough problems and that they should have tried harder. Afterwards both groups were given some easy and hard problems to solve. If motivation was only based on prior failures, than being in the success-only program should increase motivation, otherwise the other program would be more effective.

“What Carol found is that the children in the success only program gave up just as easily after encountering very difficult problems as they had before training. In sharp contrast, children in the attribution-retraining program tried harder after encountering difficulty. It seems as though they’d learned to interpret failure as a cue to try harder rather than as confirmation that they lacked the ability to succeed” (pg. 179).

Another important thing I liked and I feel is important is how Duckworth said gritty people should be looking at goals. When to quit versus when to stick with a goal is a key attribute of gritty people.

Goals should be viewed in a hierarchy (see photo). Higher-level goals are more abstract but they are the things you really want to achieve. The highest goal IS the end goal, desire or purpose. The lower the level in the hierarchy a goal is means the more of a means to an end it is rather than just the end goal (and thus a more flexible goal). The goal’s value is in how effectively it is moving you towards the higher-level goal. We are allowed to change course or pivot if the lower-level goals are not moving us towards the higher-level goals. The highest-level goal is what we’ve determined is most important, our purpose, and it is the goal we should never give up on and always have in mind when working towards our other goals. I personally loved this part as it shows there are appropriate times for quitting. But when and what we quit is the difference in being gritty versus not being gritty.

“Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow” (pg. 131).

One last thing is that Duckworth talks about how deliberate practice is a huge part of developing grit. We show grit by deliberate practice. We grow our passion & purpose by developing our knowledge & skills through deliberate practice. And, deliberate practice increases our ability to experience flow, a joyful state of intense focus on what we’re doing. “Deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience” she mentions. The first is what experts do, the second is what experts feel. Certainly it’s a motivation to become really good at something, but also a guide on how to get there!

“(H)ere’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” (pg. 103)

Personal Impact

I felt like this book was very impactful personally. Duckworth simplified the message, shared many examples and showed how grit can be grown and cultivated. The book certainly increased my hope that I can become more gritty and to reach my most important goals. That hope by itself increases my grittiness a touch.

There was so much meat in this book. Each chapter had me thinking and reflecting about the value and necessity of trying again, and that as parents and teachings, in addition to praising, we need to encourage effort and perseverance through setbacks and failures. There is a great section on parenting, teaching and developing a culture of grit.

“Language is one way to cultivate hope. But modeling a growth mindset — demonstrating by our actions that we truly believe people can learn to learn — may be even more important” (pg. 182).

Final Thoughts

What an interesting book!

It wasn’t hard to read and the thesis was fascinating. I liked how it mentions that grit isn’t morality; but rather it is something that can be used to be successful in good or evil endeavors. Nevertheless, it is a requirement in obtaining success in practically any endeavor. Grit goes hand-in-hand with a growth mindset. A fixed mindset leads to giving-up, a growth mindset leads to one believing he or she can improve things and get better. And Duckworth’s conclusion is that it’s grit & it’s corresponding growth-mindset that determines success rather than talent or IQ.

Read this book! It will help you recognize and value more highly grit. It will also help you learn to grow it from the inside-out.

“To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty 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 times, and rise eight” (pg. 275).

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“‘I absolutely love what I do….It’s amazing to me how many people I know who’re well into their forties and haven’t really committed to anything. They don’t know what they’re missing’” (pg. 275).

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