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GRIT: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, A Book Summary

Angela Duckworth believes in human potential and the ability of anyone and everyone to improve their chances of achievement. She believes that passion and perseverance count more toward success than static notions of intelligence or talent. GRIT is the term she employs to capture what it takes to be really good at something and she believes that GRIT is a learned skill.

Angela makes the strong case that effort (more than talent or native skill) is the operative ingredient. Effort gets double billing and has twice the benefit.

Talent x Effort = Skill Skill x Effort = Achievement

According to Angela, GRIT can be grown from both the inside out (through individual effort) and the outside in (through the skilled support of others). For growing from the inside out, Angela offers these four strategies:

1. Cultivate your interests. Try new things, commit to them over time, allow yourself the frustration of not being good at something right out of the gate. Enjoy things for their own sake and see where that takes you. Eventually channel those interests into a specific area of effort. (PASSION)

2. Engage in deliberate practice in your chosen area of interest. Strive to improve specific weaknesses rather than focusing on what you already do well. Seek feedback on your performance and reflect on the refinements of improving what you do. (PERSEVERANCE)

3. Connect your interest to a larger purpose. Be in it for more than yourself. Commit your strengths and abilities to others. (PASSION)

4. Focus on a growth mindset. Teach yourself hope and the power of overcoming obstacles. Learn the neuroscience of improvements and find inspiration and instruction from others who succeed. New learning about possibilities can override the emotional messaging we carry around in our heads about our limitations. (PERSEVERANCE)

Individual effort needs support, however. As social beings, we organize and orient to others and benefit from being part of something larger than ourselves. Skilled support includes the following:

1. Supporters (parents, coaches, bosses) who provide warmth plus demanding expectations rather than overly authoritarian or overly permissive and unengaged interaction. Being present for another, holding them accountable to be the best they can be, and providing instruction that breaks tasks down into digestible segments is critical.

2. Environments that support a culture of GRIT help bolster individual efforts. People are inspired by others who exhibit passion and perseverance and will hold themselves accountable to group norms for achievement if those norms are well supported within the culture.

3. Effort must be sustained over time in order to solidify interest and improve skill. People need encouragement to stick with something past the point of discomfort. Rome was not built in a day and neither is a person’s success. 10,000 hours of effort and 10 years span of time is what experts estimate it takes to build expertise.

Angela believes that GRIT is as elemental to happiness as it is to success. Sustained, effective effort builds strength and character, two keystones to a sense of purpose and wellbeing. GRIT is not the only characteristic of a successful person but it is key AND it can be built. She lays out the rationale, the steps, and the supporting examples of how to build GRIT. It is an instructive read.

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