Grit by Angela Duckworth is a psychological examination of the concept of Grit. A combination of passion and perseverance. She discusses how effort is often ignored, outshone by ‘talent'. When really, what is more important in life is effort. Duckworth shares personal lessons learnt, real life examples and useful tips for raising your own children to be ‘gritty'. This book is a really good in-depth discussion about the psychology of talent, effort and achievement.
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Who is this summary for?
This book is a great read for anyone interested in psychology and personal development. Grit by Angela Duckworth is a psychological examination of the concept of Grit. A combination of passion and perseverance. She discusses how effort is often ignored, outshone by ‘talent'. When really, what is more important in life is effort. Duckworth shares personal lessons learned, real-life examples and useful tips for raising your own children to be ‘gritty'. This book is a really good in-depth discussion about the psychology of talent, effort and, achievement.
About the author
Angela Duckworth began her career as a management consultant but after a few demanding years, she left her job to become a math teacher in New York City. After many years teaching young students she became increasingly interested in the role that effort had on the pathway to success. Following her findings, she began her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania to further study this topic. Duckworth is a professor at the university today as well as a TED speaker and the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit organisation committed to advancing the science of character development.
In this summary
We’ll begin the summary by discussing exactly what Grit is before diving into a summary of Duckworth’s perspective on talent and effort and why effort is often ignored. Then we will discuss goals in relation to grit and how parents can have a role in raising gritty children. Finally, we’ll summarise Duckworth’s discussion about our current culture and how it can shape our grittiness.
WHAT IS GRIT
Duckworth explains the concept of grit in terms of perseverance, she believes that only perseverance will lead to high achievement. Someone who is a high achiever never believes that they will ever reach their goals, they are always striving more. As Duckworth puts it; they are the exact opposite of complacent, constantly unsatisfied. But in a weird way, being unsatisfied and constantly chasing more is satisfying to them. Someone with true grit has enduring passion, they push through pain and frustration, giving up is simply not an option for them.
”A combination of passion and perseverance makes high achievers special. High achievers have grit.”Click To Tweet
Duckworth explains that society places a huge amount of emphasis on talent, a natural ability. She questions why talent is always perceived as the hero, and that talent is the only reason we ever have good results. What happened to effort? Isn’t effort just as important when it comes to results. If you don’t try, you can’t get anywhere. But this intense preoccupation with talent means that effort is ignored and often forgotten.
”It seems that when anyone accomplishes a feat worth writing about, we rush to anoint that individual as extraordinarily “talented.” If we overemphasise talent, we underemphasise everything else.”
Duckworth believes that a lot of the reason we place so much emphasis on talent is that we want to believe the high achievers are doing something we physically couldn’t. That an Olympic swimmer has a natural born talent that we could never possibly match. This is clearly ignoring the countless hours and an Olympic swimmer will spend in the pool training every single day for years and years. As Duckworth points out, we would prefer to not feel mundane but to associate an element of mystery to a high achiever. The idea that they have some miraculous skill is more appealing than the fact that we are simply average and don’t put in enough effort. This magical skill that someone might hold means we simply don’t need to consider ourselves in the same league as them, therefore there is no reason to compare ourselves.
Talent matters but effort counts twice
Duckworth explains the talent formula: talent = how rapidly your skills develop when you commit time and effort. And achievement is the result of your developed skills being put to good use. Duckworth doesn’t ignore opportunities as a contributing factor, for example having a dedicated coach or teacher, and the opportunity to practice is always going to be beneficial also. And she acknowledges that in some cases, these opportunities can be more significant than any individual.
Duckworth explains that her formulas and theories don’t include outside factors such as luck. She’s focusing on the pure psychology of achievement, and even though it may not give you the whole picture, it’s still an important matter to address.
”Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
Using exercise as an example
Exercise and fitness is a useful example to explain Duckworth’s talent/effort theories. She explains that people purchase exercise equipment such as a treadmill, weights or even new running shoes. These purchases are made with the best intentions but findings show that on average, 40% of people use their purchases much less than they initially intended. Duckworth acknowledges that fitness depends on how hard we workout of course, but a lot of the time that’s not the issue, the drawback is that we stop working out altogether.
”As any coach or athlete will tell you, consistency of effort over the long run is everything. How often do people start down a path and then give up on it entirely? How many treadmills are gathering dust in basements?”
Duckworth explains that it’s easier to quit, and the majority of people quit too early on in any process. A person who is truly gritty will put in maximum effort on one day, but that’s not the important part, the critical component in being gritty is waking up day after day and continuing to put in the maximum effort without excuse.
”Someone twice as talented but half as hardworking as another person might reach the same level of skill but still produce dramatically less over time.”
Duckworth explains that someone who is a striver will continually improve their skill, and simultaneously make use of their skill, they will practice it regularly. If a striver works harder than someone with a natural born skill, they will ultimately achieve a higher standard in their field. And that’s because of their effort, they never stop.
TALENT VS. SKILL
Duckworth emphasises that talent does not equal skill, although a lot of people presume they are one and the same. Duckworth reminds us that talent is a natural ability. Whereas skill comes around after many hours spent practicing and developing any given skill. The time spent on skill greatly outweighs that spent on talent.
However, it’s important to realise that skill isn’t the same as achievement. Duckworth emphasises her point that without effort, skill doesn’t count for anything, it simply becomes something you didn’t do, even though to potentially could have.
”With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”Click To Tweet
Duckworth explains that within goals, there is a hierarchy. If you look at the very bottom of your goal hierarchy, you’ll find what you might consider your short-term list of to-do’s, think you want to achieve that day, often menial tasks like hanging out the washing. Duckworth explains that the bottom of your goal hierarchy only exists as a way of moving towards your larger goals. If you don’t get the washing out of the way, you won’t be able to get down to the hard work. These goals can be considered a means to an end. However, Duckworth explains that the higher up the goal hierarchy you go, the more the goals become the end in themselves. When trying to visualise the hierarchy, Duckworth recommends considering your high-end goals as the compass, this guides all of the lower goals to the destination.
A component of grit is to have a top-level goal for a long period of time. This goal becomes so critical to your life that it essentially controls all of the other things you do in your life. Duckworth describes a gritty person as someone who has one top-level goal, and all goals below that are related to the top goal. They are all designed to help you reach the final destination. Someone without grit may have a bunch of un-related goals with no clear connections.
ARE YOU BORN WITH GRIT?
A question you’re all probably wondering, is are we born with grit? Is it part of us or is it something you can learn? Duckworth explains that there isn’t a clear answer, and if you had to provide a quick answer, she would say, you are partly born with it. Going into a little more detail, Duckworth believes that some grit can be related back to genetics, and the rest is a result of experience. So it doesn’t really seem clear? Duckworth uses a few examples to help clarify:
”It’s possible that adults in their seventh decade of life are grittier because they grew up in a very different cultural era, perhaps one whose values and norms emphasized sustained passion and perseverance more than has been the case recently.”
”Alternatively, it’s possible these age trends have nothing to do with generational changes in grit. Instead, what the data may be showing is how people mature over time.”
Characteristics of grit
Duckworth explains that there are 4 key characteristics of a gritty person:
- A gritty person must have interest and passion. They need to enjoy what they do and be committed to their passions. To dedicate time to their interests every single day. Also, a gritty person will understand that interests do not appear overnight, sometimes you have to be patient and wait for your interests to develop and mature.
- The second characteristic is the ability to practice. Someone with grit will dedicate themselves to practicing every day, and always striving to be better than the day before.
- The driver behind passion is having a purpose. Someone with grit will understand their purpose and why they do the things that they do.
- Finally, hope. A gritty person must have hope, it’s a critical element of perseverance.
”One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.”Click To Tweet
HOW TO GROW GRIT
In order to succeed in life, a child requires love, limits, and latitude. A child who has constant support is respected and is held to high standards is given the ability to reach their full potential. And parents who know this, are doing what Duckworth calls authoritative parenting or wise parenting. Rather than relying on their power as a parent, they call upon their own knowledge and wisdom when it comes to parenting, with the hope that their child will emulate them and go on to succeed.
Imitation vs. emulation
Duckworth acknowledges, that children, especially young children are simply imitating their parents almost blindly. We learn from a young age what our parents do, how they talk and how they act. We have nothing else to look up to so we copy them.
However, Duckworth explains that imitation differs greatly from emulation, despite what you might think. She explains that the older we get, the more capable we are on passing judgments on our parents (and others) actions and behaviour. Therefore, if we decide to take action and copy a certain behaviour or action, it is done with a better understanding, rather than a blind willingness to follow.
In her time studying grit, Duckworth has enchanted countless gritty people who dedicate their success to their parents, they look up to them as role models and have a deep admiration for them. And more often than not, they passions and interests are aligned with their parents. Duckworth explains that it is clear that gritty people don’t simply copy what their parents do blindly, but they emulate them and their work.
Parents with grit
Duckworth explains, that although your parents may be supportive, authoritative and wise, they may not be gritty themselves. Without expressing and enforcing the setting of long-term goals, a passion, and strong perseverance, parents are not raising gritty children.
As a parent, if you want to raise gritty children, Duckworth explains that you first have to identify your own passions, goals, and ability to persevere. Do you stick to your goals and pursue them no matter what? Is this the standard you are setting for your children? Or do you have a whole bunch of loose goals that you often stop pursing altogether? In order to raise gritty children, you have to be gritty yourself. You can’t teach something you don’t do (despite what some may think.)
GRIT AND SCHOOL
Duckworth explains the difference between interesting and hard. For some kids, school can be hard, and uninteresting. Kids may find playing with their friends at lunchtime interesting, but it’s not hard. Ballet, however, Duckworth explains, can be hard and interesting. It’s these after-school activities that can come to pay off long-term for kids.
Duckworth explains that research clearly identifies children who are involved in activities outside of their regular schooling do better overall. It can greatly benefit their marks in school, their confidence, commitment and their abilities.
Children can be fickle and flick between sports or activities as they please. But in order to be truly gritty, it’s more than practicing ballet for one term. It’s about years of dedication to the art, the hours spend practicing. And this is when the results become beneficial.
Duckworth’s hard thing rule
If you are a parent who wants to raise gritty children, Duckworth recommends implementing the hard thing rule. It’s about committing 100% to something for a specific period of time and giving it your all. Every member of the family, including the parents, needs to have their own hard thing. Duckworth explains that quitting is an option, but only if the season or year is over. When it comes to selecting a hard thing, Duckworth explains that it’s important that the child selects their own, it’s not up to you as a parent to choose. For younger kids, a season or a year is the commitment length required, but as children reach high school, Duckworth recommends implementing a 2-year minimum rule.
”On your own, you can cultivate your own grit from the inside out. You can cultivate interests, develop and habit of daily practice and work on a purpose beyond yourself. You can also grow your grit “from the outside in.” Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends—developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.”
GRIT AND CULTURE
”The culture in which we live, and with which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.”
Duckworth defines culture as a group of people who all share the same values and norms. And based on this definition, it becomes clear that you need to find a gritty culture if you want to be as gritty as possible. Surrounding yourself with others who are gritty is only going to benefit you in the long run.
Being part of the right culture or group is incredibly important to your own personal growth, the people you surround yourself with can become a significant influence on who you are as a person, your identity. The group’s culture becomes your own and an integral part of who you are.
- Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance
- There is often too much emphasis placed on talent, effort is just as important, if not more.
- Talent = how rapidly your skills develop when you commit time and effort.
- Achievement is the result of your developed skills being put to good use.
- It’s easy to quit. A person who is truly gritty will put in maximum effort on one day, but that’s not the important part, the critical component in being gritty is waking up day after day and continuing to put in the maximum effort without excuse.
- A striver will continually improve their skill, and simultaneously make use of their skill, they will practice it regularly.
- Talent does not equal skill. Talent is a natural ability. Whereas skill comes around after many hours spent practicing and developing any given skill.
- The time spent on skill greatly outweighs that spent on talent.
- The 4 characteristics of a gritty person are: interest/passion, the ability to practice, purpose & hope.
- A component of grit is to have a top-level goal for a long period of time. This goal becomes so critical to your life that it essentially controls all of the other things you do in your life.
- Duckworth has enchanted countless gritty people who dedicate their success to their parents, they look up to them as role models and have a deep admiration for them.
- Gritty parents raise gritty children.
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Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.
- You can take the Grit quiz on Angela Duckworth’s website to see how gritty you are.
- Download the complete book on Amazon.
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.