Angela Duckworth is fascinated by the unique quality in human beings that separate the successful from the unsuccessful. Her theory? It is “Grit.” In fact, she attributes her own grit for carrying her through life and changing her from the child her own father described as “…no genius.” to a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award.
Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance is the culmination of years of her studies and collaborations. If you want a small taste of her theory you can see her six minute Ted Talk here. She spent significant time studying children and adults in high stress situations and attempted to predict which person would be successful and why. In the end, she has determined that talent and intelligence matter less than grit.
Dr. Duckworth defines grit as passion and perseverance focused on one thing over a long period of time. Her whole first section is entitled, “What Grit is and Why it Matters.” This first section had numerous anecdotal stories that all boil down to two things: try harder and don’t quit. My parents would call this “winners never quit, quitters never win.” Additionally, there is a proverb, “fall down seven, get up eight.” Or, my own personal mantra taken from the fantastic Galaxy Quest movie, “Never give up, Never surrender.” Perhaps you can tell, this was not new information for me. So, the first section, while enjoyable to read, was unsurprising.
The second section, “Growing Grit from the Inside Out,” was far more interesting. Similarly, the third section, “Growing Grit from the Outside In.” In the two sections of the book Dr. Duckworth goes into the idea of how to grow grit should you not be blessed with an abundance of natural go-get-em attitude. She addresses both the internal methods of enhancing and building grit in yourself and how to encourage grit in others (or find someone to aid you in your quest for grit.)
I simply do not know enough about statistics to tell you whether her studies are reliable or not, but I do know that there have been complaints about her misrepresenting her numbers. I also know that her response to this criticism has been to accept the critics point of view and clarify her own. This style makes her more reliable in my opinion because, as she states repeatedly, this is an ongoing research topic.
There were a few things I disagreed with in the book. First, many of her individual examples are paragons of passion and perseverance in one area of their life. Olympic swimmers, spelling bee champions, and professional potters are all attempting to master one goal. Several times the point is made – pick something and stick to it. Being a renaissance learner is frowned upon – grit means sticking to limited goals. I will admit, I completely disagree.
I do agree with her that quitting gets you no closer to a goal. But quitting one thing to focus on a new goal isn’t always a personality flaw. Take Dr. Duckworth as an example – she quit her high-stress consulting job to become a seventh grade teacher. Then, she quit her teaching job to pursue her Ph.D in psychology and research grit. What if she had not had the personal strength to quit her consulting job?
Disagreeing with a the author did not make me enjoy the book any less. Grit got me thinking and that is what non-fiction books, especially those that are self-help, are made to do. If you don’t have the support system I have enjoyed in my life, Grit would be even more informative and encouraging because the first section would be eye-opening.
Grit is an informative and easy to read book on the power of passion and perseverance. I would love the opportunity to question the author on some of her points but overall her positive belief that anyone, with the right attitude and support system, can do anything won me over.
Tell me, please!
Have you read Grit? Do you think attitude is more important than IQ?