What’s it about?

Potential is only one part of predicting success; what you do with it is paramount. People essentially have large areas of intelligence that are only pushed to the limit by few things. Duckworth poses that passion is the drive of deliberate practice, which trumps talent. And grit is the use of that passion to persevere through difficult tasks. Along with a few other pieces.

She says we have an unconscious bias towards celebrating talent. When we can’t easily see the work that led to success, we attribute it to a gift, something “unnatural” Greatness is doable, however; it is a set of great steps that can each be accomplished. Grit is a measure of passion in the long term, remaining focused on one thing beyond its newness. But what about talent? Doesn’t that have something to do with achievement?

Talent is how quickly skills improve; achievement is using that talent. Duckworth, thus, proposes a new formula for measuring this:

Talent x effort = Skill
Skill x effort = Achievement

Effort is accounted for twice. This highlights that enthusiasm is common, while endurance is rare. She then breaks down perseverance into four parts: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. Interest is essentially looking forward to what you’re doing for reasons other than money or fame. Practice must be deliberate, focusing on improvement by targeting weaknesses. Purpose deals with your intention to help others. Lastly, hope is maintaining optimism in the face of obstacles.

Why should anyone read it?

Duckworth really gets in the trenches with this book. She had innumerable interviews directly with people she believes have a high level of grit, or as she calls them, “grit paragons”. By laying it out the way she does through story after story, you can find yourself in some of them and see that you stand a chance against adversity. Grit is about achieving something great – so this book isn’t to be read to solve your homework. It’s to find and achieve your calling in life. That is a tall order, so it has to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. Not only that, you have to have the right mindset, which she will help you develop.

She also writes about how to promote and create a culture of grit. So perhaps your effort is for the bigger picture of an organization. You first get a definitive idea of what grit looks like, what it’s made up of, and then how the concepts can be applied in life. If you aren’t hitting goals, this is well worth the read to find out why that might be.

I would also say that anyone looking for a mentor, coach, or self-improving routine should read this. It will give you insight into what you should be looking for in a mentor or coach, and how you should formulate your personal goals. About a year ago, I moved away from my mentor and the relationship has been difficult to keep up. In the market for a new one, I use this book to hone in on exactly the type of person I’m looking for. Someone who is going to help me focus my passion and intentions, then guide me to opportunities for deliberate practice and maintaining hope. If your mentor doesn’t do this for you, go get this book.

Finally, if you’re a parent (which I’m not at present writing), Duckworth devotes an entire section to parenting for grit. She gives the ins & outs to how grit comes about in children and what a parent can do to foster it.

Select Quotations

“When it comes to how we fare in the marathon of life, effort counts tremendously.”

“Nobody is interested in everything, and everyone is interested in something. So matching your job to what captures your attention and imagination is a good idea.”

“Most grit paragons I’ve interviewed told me they spent years exploring several different interests, and the one that eventually came to occupy all of their waking (and some sleeping) thoughts wasn’t recognizably their life’s destiny on first acquaintance.”

“School’s hard, but for many kids it’s not intrinsically interesting. Texting your friends is interesting, but it’s not hard. But ballet? Ballet can be both.”

“If you define genius as working toward excellence, ceaselessly, with every element of your being–then, in fact, my dad is a genius, and so am I…and, if you’re willing, so are you.”

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