Grit by Angela Duckworth

secret of all triumphs.“

Victor Hugo

Is there a secret to excellence and success? And how far does bare talent lead us to success?

Grit is a book about the power of passion and perseverance and it is a persuasive approach to the cult of talent, hard work and luck. Above talent, hard work and luck it definitely needs grit for long-term achievement, success and excellence.

Duckworth's definition of "Grit" is a combination of passion + practice + purpose + persistency.

I suggest you start the book with the conclusion. It gives readers a great outline of what the book is about, without giving it all away. In the conclusion you will also find this gem: "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."

Some of Grit’s most valuable insights are:

  • Why any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal
  • How grit can be learned, regardless of I.Q. or circumstances
  • How lifelong interest is triggered
  • How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much ecstasy
  • Which is better for your child—a warm embrace or high standards
  • The magic of the Hard Thing Rule

Passion is about consistency over time (e.g. - my analogy - taking one's personal life, it would be fidelity to one partner, not serial monogamy). She is also strong on having overarching life goals and then working systemically back from those to lower level goals, and indeed pruning distractions.

Practice should be "deliberate practice", not simply putting in the hours. That means

  1. clearly defined stretch goals
  2. Full concentration and effort (it should be intense and exhausting)
  3. Immediate and informative feedback and
  4. Repetition with reflection and refinement.

Purpose is also an interesting one. Duck herself was surprised how many of her case studies, particularly of more mature people, saw their passion as a calling and of benefit to society, whatever it happened to be (swimming, running an investment bank). And definitely one that is a challenge to most people in their working life I suspect.

I would like to finish with a quote by Marie Curie:
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. “