Grit - Angela Duckworth

A Brief Summary - The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit is the character trait best described as the combination of passion and perseverance.  The primary argument of the books is that the best predictor of success is a person's grittiness.  It’s not talent.  Talent is where you start.  We all start at different places, but where we start doesn't determine how far we go.  Grit does.  Grit is our ability to close the gap and get ahead.  The entire book is a testament to the fact that determination and direction quickly outweigh the starter’s advantage.  

Everyone falls somewhere on the Grit Scale.  There are people who are very gritty, there are people with average grit, and there are people who aren't gritty at all.  This fact has massive implications for your quality of life, so it might be helpful to check how gritty you actually are before you proceed.  Lucky you, there's a simple test to determine your grittiness and you can take it if you click this link to the author's website and her Grit Scale:

Whether you score or higher or lower than anyone else, there's no need to fret or to judge because you can grow your grit.  Specifically, grit grows in two ways; from the inside out, and from the outside in.  The rest of this post is all about what you can do to be more gritty, to grow your grit from the inside out.  

Ideas Worth Sharing From a Book Worth Reading

“By shining the spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows.” 

According to Nietzche, when we look at impressive human achievements, we tend to “rejoice in the present fact as if it came out of the ground by magic.”  We neglect the fact that "the spectacular achievement is simply the aggregate of many individual achievements, each of which is mostly ordinary."

When we evaluate the achievements of great people, we prefer the mysterious to the mundane.  We protect our self-image by avoiding the question of how the greatness came to be.  We prefer to think that greatness is the result of unique talent, not tireless effort.  This preference represents a reason for not trying.   

“Effort Counts Twice”

Effort counts twice

When effort meets talent, talent becomes skill.  When effort meets skill, skill becomes productive.  It’s that simple.  “Without effort, talent is nothing more than unmet potential.  Without effort, skill is nothing more than what could’ve been done but wasn’t.”

“Enthusiasm is common.  Endurance is rare.”

Passion and obsession are very different.  Passion is all about follow through.  It’s about showing up every day and putting in the effort.  When the effort isn’t there, what could’ve been a passion deteriorates into a fantasy.  Fantasizing feels good in the short term, but in the long term, it only leads to disappointment.  Effort is the antidote to disappointment. 

“Grit Grows”

Grit grows when the following qualities are cultivated and developed: 

  • Interest – a child-like fascination with something
  • Practice – resisting complacency and striving to improve
  • Purpose – The conviction that what you’re doing matters
  • Hope – The belief that showing up and giving it an honest effort will get the job done

“Interests aren't triggered by introspection, they’re triggered by interaction”

Interests develop as nuance is discovered.  In fact, the latin word ‘interesse’ translated to ‘to differ’.  To be interesting is to be different.  Our attention is naturally attracted to novelty, to difference.  To the beginner, everything is interesting because everything is new.  To the expert, novelty is nuance.  Experts see what the beginner can’t. 

Deliberate Practice and Flow

Developing interest requires practice.  Everything requires practice.  Great achievement is the product of deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice is the process of setting a goal, giving a concentrated effort, seeking immediate feedback, reflecting on performance, trying again with a refined approach, and repeating the process over and over and over. 

Deliberate Practice is the behavior that let’s you achieve the experience of Flow.  Deliberate is practice is effortful.  Flow is effortless.  You need to put in the effort to experience greatness. 

“That was hard! It was great!”

Gritty people learn to love the burn.  By reshaping the way an objectively hard thing is experienced subjectively, gritty people learn 

“Purpose is the intention to contribute to the well being of others”

We seek pleasure because the things that bring us pleasure are the same things that increase our chances of survival.  Aristotle defines the pursuit of happiness in two ways. 

The hedonic approach is the seeking out of positive, in the moment experiences that are inherently self centered.  Think of things like food, sex, drugs, etc. "Dopaminergic rewards"

The eudaimonic approach is the pursuit of happiness in harmony with one’s good inner spirit.  This ‘good inner spirit’ is the part of all of us that seeks meaning and purpose.  We, unlike other animals, seek meaning and purpose because the drive to help and connect with others also promotes survival.  We're an incredibly social animal and our sociality made possible all of the uniquely human achievement in the world.  Optimizing our sociality by pursuing pleasure in harmony with a compassionate approach has massive survival advantages and is just as biologically rewarding as the hedonic pursuits, just in different way.   This drive to be ‘good’ and the subsequent devotion of our life’s work to the well-being of others is the force that creates societies.  Society keeps us fed, protected, and surrounded by people who care about us.  Society is our team.  By practicing our purpose, we strengthen our team, we create a world that’s rich with meaning, and we set the foundation for progress.  

“The Parable of Brick layers”

The first man says “I’m laying bricks.” The second man says “I’m building a church”. The third man says “I’m building a house of god”.

The first man has a job, the second a career, and the third, a purpose.  The third man has a calling.  When he lays his bricks, he’s practicing his purpose. 

“You don’t stumble upon a fully formed calling, you become able to recognize it.”

This is done through strategic reflection.  How has walking the path of your life made you better able to contribute to the well being of others?  Taking a step back from the canvas of your life let’s you see the image that each brush stroke combines to create.  With that image in mind, ask yourself how it could be better.  Look long and hard for the missing pieces and then let your life be the act of painting the missing brushstrokes in every moment.  You don’t have to change your occupation to find your purpose, you just have to change your attitude. 

“Hope is the act of resolving to make tomorrow better”

Suffering doesn’t lead to hopelessness.  Convincing yourself that you can’t control your suffering leads to hopelessness.  This is what researchers call “Learned Hopelessness”.  However, you can also “Learn Optimism” by training yourself to interpret failure as a cue to try harder instead of as confirmation that you’re not good enough.  Being gritty is having a “win or learn” attitude.  You never actually lose if you make your losses learning experience.  In the same way, true happiness is nothing more than the ability to weave your regrets into the story of your life in a positive light.   

“Name your emotions”

When you name an emotional state as something other than yourself, it becomes clear that you are not that emotion.  When you are angry, you are feeling anger.  Feeling something and being something are very different things.  Since our strength comes from who believe ourselves to be, the exercise of detaching our emotions from the conception we have of ourselves is an extremely powerful one. 

“Success is never final.  Failure is never fatal.”

Greatness, like all good things is a practice not a destination.  Greatness, like happiness, isn’t an achievement.  Rather, they’re both something that needs to be practiced in each moment.  The practice of the process of becoming great and being great, are one in the same.