Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance — Summary

Karl Niebuhr
Dec 21, 2016 · 5 min read

In this book you will learn that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence.

We tend to self-deceive us about the key to success

When people are asked about what they think is more important for success, hard work or natural talent, they tend to choose hard-work. But when individuals are presented with someone who’s skill is supposed to com from natural talent, they tend to find it more appealing than skill from a hard working person.

In several nation-wide surveys in the US, participants were asked: “Which quality is more important fro success: Talent or hard work?”. About 66% favored hard work (grit, determination).

When musical experts were asked the same question by psychologist Chia-Jung Tsay, the majority said that practice and hard work is the key to success.

Then the same musical experts have presented two identical recordings from the same musician, but being told that one piece was from a naturally talented musician and the other one from a musician who had put in years of hard work.

Here is the catch, the experts told the naturally talented musician to be superior to the hard working one, even though both pieces came from the exact same musician!

Tsay also looked at the experiences of entrepreneurs and found that hard working ones — in order to compete with the naturally gifted ones — needed at least $40.000 more in startup capital and several years more experience.

The lesson: When someone is presented as a natural talent, people tend to value him or her more than someone who has worked hard to reach his level of skill.

Effort is more important than skill

You can determine your level of skill by this equation: Talent x Effort = Skill

When it comes to results, once again Effort enters the equation: Skill x Effort = Achievement

These equations can be understood easily by an example from athletics.

Ex.: A talented athlete has to put in the necessary effort to practice — no matter how talented he or she is — in order to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games.

People who fight to overcome a lack of talent often discover the power of effort.

There are many examples through history, one of which is the writer John Irving. He overcame his shortcomings due to dyslexia by making it a lifelong habit to put in twice the effort than everyone else. This dedication gave him the skill and ultimately the achievement of winning the National Book Award in 1978.

Commit to small daily chores you love.

Conventional wisdom tells us that we should do what we love. But more important than that is, committing to what we love.

The reason is, that of the accumulative effect of doing something every day. These low-level goals are often the path to bigger goals.

Many people have big life goals like becoming a doctor or creating a successful business, but they forget to set the small goals.

Big goals are inspirational but you need small goals in order to make the big goals happen.

A good side effect is that sticking to a disciplined regime is much easier if you have a clearly defined bigger goal.

Stick to your interest

People are at their happiest if their work intersects with their interests.

This was shown in hundreds of interviews performed by psychologist Mark Allen Morris to US employees.

Ex.: Someone who enjoys helping other people, will not be satisfied with an isolated work. And someone who is creatively minded will probably not be happy with an administrative job.

Intelligent practice is key to success

Smart practice means setting clear goals, reflect on the feedback and take the necessary adjustments necessary to improve.

It is opposite to autopilot, where you basically just go unconsciously through the practice without a sense of direction.

Ex.: You may be practicing running for years, but you will not make noticeable progress until you set clear goals. For example running 100 meters more every time you practice.

Purpose is the best motivator

Research from 2015 showed that people are most content if they see their work as a calling to help others.

But it can take time to find a true calling, don’t worry if you are doing something else, often you will find your true calling while you are doing something else.

Ex: Professor Michael Baime knew that medicine wasn’t his true calling, but he did it because it let him help people. Meanwhile, he developed his real passion, mindfulness meditation. Sticking to his medical practice enabled him to make place for his true calling.

Teachers and parents can help by rewarding hard work instead of talent

Children are the most vulnerable to bad advice. This leads to many people never realizing their full potential. We should remind children that skill can be achieved through dedication and hard work.

Unfortunately, schools often do the opposite. They reward talent instead of hard work. American teachers Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin set out to change that.

They launched a program called Knowledge is Power in 1994, with the rule that children get rewarded for effort and learning instead of natural talent.

The results spoke for themselves, the grades of children rose well above the national average. This shows how important it is that adults and teachers show children that improvement is possible.

Psychologist Daeun Park found that second-grade children who were ranked with emphasis on grades would end up thinking that their level of intelligence was predetermined, and ended up preferring tasks which didn’t challenge them.

The same effect holds true if parents instill the belief to their children that bad grades reflect a lack of intelligence rather than lack of effort.

The lesson: Parents and teachers should motivate their children to work harder and explain to them that they can achieve if they put in the grit.

The key takeaway from this book is: With grit (determination/effort/perseverance) you can overcome many obstacles, oven lack of talent, to reach your goal.

Get the book here.

Originally published at Karlbooklover.


Learning is growing

Karl Niebuhr

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