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GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Book Review

Whatseparates the determined, tenacious, and unstoppable winners from those whogive up before they even try? What separates the successful from the people whocall it quits before truly giving it their best effort?

Thisis a question that psychologist Angela Duckworth tackles in her book GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Angela is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. And throughout this book she uses the latest psychology research to provide a powerful answer to the question that people have wondered about for thousands of years: What separates the most successful among us from the rest of the pack?

Heranswer is Grit.

Gritis a combination of both Passion and Perseverance. The highest achievers in theworld tend to have both.

These people are usually passionate about what they do. They love the process, the journey, the day-to-day work, and the chase just as much as they love the results. They are intensely interested in, curious about, and captivated by their craft.

They do what they do for its own sake. Their work is inherently interesting to them. They are “chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance.”

Passiondoes not necessarily mean that they love every single aspect, nuance, anddetail of their craft. There are definitely some aspects that they do findtedious, boring, irritating, painful, or frustrating. But overall, the love,gratification, and enjoyment that they get from their work brings them back toit over and over.

Passionisn’t just about enjoying of your job. It’s a form of guidance. Angeladescribes passion as an internal guidance system that moves you forward in thedirection you are supposed to go with your life. It works like a compass thattakes you to the places, work, people, and life that you were meant for.Passion “guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, youwant to be.”

Passionis an essential component of grit that keeps you glued to the work for the longrun.

Thesecond half of the formula for Grit is Perseverance. The highest achievers inthe world are relentless, determined, and hungry. They persevere throughdifficulty, obstacles, and hardships. They are never satisfied, nevercomfortable, and never complacent.

“Intheir own eyes, they are never good enough.”

Kaizenis a Japanese term that means constant and never-ending improvement. Peoplewith perseverance embody Kaizen. They constantly looking to challengethemselves, climb higher, improve, and get better at what they do.

So Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance—loving your work for its own sake and relentlessly seeking to get better, improve, climb higher, make progress, and attain more success.

Whenyou can incorporate both passion and never-ending perseverance into your workthere are no limits to what you can accomplish.

Angelastarts the book off by referring to some research she did on what separates themost resilient students at West Point from the ones who wind up dropping out.

WestPoint is also known as the United States Military Academy. And it is one of themost selective schools in the country and in the world.

14,000students apply to get into to West Point every single year. In order to beconsidered, students need to have top scores on the SAT or ACT, top grades, anda nomination from a member of Congress, a United States President, or a VicePresident. And they need to get strong scores on a physical fitness assessment.They need to be in great shape.

Outof those 14,000 applications, only 1200 students are actually accepted andenrolled. Even after making it through that intense application process, 1 in 5West Point cadets usually drop out at some point before graduating. And a goodpercentage of them drop out during a brutal 7-week-training program calledBeast Barracks that takes place during the first summer at West Point.

Beast Barracks is an academic and physical training program that goes from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night every day for 2 months with almost no free time whatsoever, no weekends, and no outside contact with friends and family.

TheBeast program is a demanding, brutal, rigorous, intense, and lonely process. SoAngela wanted to find out what types of students were most likely to stick withit versus those who dropped out.

Shestudied research done at West Point by others. And she went there herself toattempt to answer the question.

Youwould think that the cadets with the highest scores on academic and physicaltests would be the most likely to make it through. But that wasn’t the case. The students with the best scores andstrongest physical fitness were just as likely to drop out as all the others.

Itturned out that the biggest predictor of whether or not a student made itthrough West Point’s Beast Barracks training program was not talent, highscores, or great physical fitness. It was Grit.

Angelacreated a questionnaire where half of the questions aimed to measure thestrength of your perseverance and the other half aimed to measure how muchpassion you have. She called it the Grit Scale. And she discovered that the cadetsat West Point who scored highest on the Grit Scale were the most likely to makeit through the Beast training.

Andshe didn’t just stop there, she gave the Grit Scale questionnaire to peoplefrom many different domains including students, Army Special Operationstrainees, sales professionals, and spelling bee contestants. And Grit turnedout to be the biggest deciding factor in who succeeded versus who gave up inevery category she looked at.

Gritwas the biggest factor in who succeeded in their sales careers, which students gottheir high school diplomas, and which students went on to get higher academicdegrees. The scores showed that adults who earned graduate degrees weregrittier than those who earned undergraduate degrees from 4-year-colleges, whowere in turn grittier than those who earned just a few college credits but didnot go through with the entire degree. Grit was even the difference-maker inhow far kids went in the nationally televised Scripps Spelling Bee.

Angelacame to the conclusion that our potential, talent, intelligence, and physicalfitness do not determine our success. Our grit does.

“Ourpotential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

It’san empowering conclusion because Grit is something that you can attain. It’snot entirely fixed.

Bothyour genes and the environment you grew up in play a role in how much Grit you endup with. But Grit is changeable. You can build a gritty mindset towards yourwork, discover passion for what you do, and learn to become more determined.

Grit,and success by the same token, are both attainable.But unfortunately, there is a big obstacle to embracing Grit that is standingin our way.

Unfortunately,when it comes to success, the society we live in worships and idolizes talentover any other quality.  

Peopletend to believe that natural talent is the deciding factor in success. Researchshows that many people believe talent is more important than effort, even ifthey won’t admit it.

Televisionshows like America’s Got Talent, The X Factor, and Child Genius are prime examples of this tendency. We love to singleout and idolize that small group of people whom we think are more talented thaneveryone else. Then we place them up on a pedestal.

Talentis an overused word in our culture. It is overemphasized.

If wecan’t easily explain someone’s success, winning, and greatness, we default tosaying they are talented, genius, and gifted. It’s a much easier way torationalize somebody’s greatness: “When we can’t easily see how experience andtraining got someone to a level of excellence that is so clearly beyond thenorm, we default to labeling that person a ‘natural.’”

There’sanother reason why we focus so much on talent and natural ability. It’s acoping mechanism that people use to protect themselves from the pain ofaccepting that they have not achieved everything that they are capable of. 

We tendto label the most successful people among us as geniuses or super talented inorder to discount effort so we can protect our own self-esteems and egos. It’san easy excuse for giving up on your own dreams, goals, and ideas. It’s ajustification and rationalization for quitting.

Angelapoints out that this cultural preoccupation with talent and idolization ofnatural ability is harmful and limiting because there isn’t enough spotlight onGrit in our society. And when it comes to success, Grit is the number onequality that you need to have.

Todrive this point home, Duckworth points to highly accomplished individuals whoused effort, not natural talent, to climb the ladder of achievement. JohnIrving is a novelist and screenwriter who has published multiple bestsellingbooks and whose screenplay for the movie CiderHouse Rules won an Academy Award.

Butwhen Irving was younger his future didn’t seem so promising. He got a C– inhigh school English. And his SAT verbal score was a 475 out of 800. Hestruggled in school because he was severely dyslexic.

Hehad to read material very slowly with his finger, spend twice as long on hisassignments, and put in twice the effort as the other students. That work ethiche developed eventually led him down a path to a powerful career in literatureand in Hollywood.

Irvingcredits his success to spending lots of time constantly re-writing his materialand putting in twice the work to write his books and screenplays. Hisdisability became his advantage. Natural talent had nothing to do with it.

Angela also points to Will Smith as an excellent example of a highly accomplished person who credits effort, work ethic, and perseverance over talent. Will even said so himself: “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.”

Workingreally hard just one day or one year isn’t what put Will Smith and John Irving onthe path to greatness. They became successful because they woke up and got towork day after day, month after month, and year after year. Passion and Perseverancemade them unique. 

Inregards the power of perseverance, Angela also refers to Harvard Universitystudy from 1940 where researchers put young men on a treadmill set at a verysteep angle. Then they cranked up the speed to see how long each person couldlast. Decades later, they followed up with the young men to see how they hadfared in life. It turned out that how long the men lasted on the treadmill, howmuch perseverance they had, was a reliable predictor of how well they did inlife. 

Thatis one of the biggest takeaways that you can get from reading GRIT. Talent, is not the most importantingredient in success. Natural ability is not the difference-maker that pushespeople to the top. Embracing a Grit mindset is much more important.

If you’re looking to live your full potential and accomplish all of your dreams, stop comparing yourself to people who seem to be more talented that you are. And start focusing on instilling yourself with more Grit.

How can you get more gritty?

So whatis the best way to develop and embrace Grit in your career, your work, and yourlife? How can you get more gritty?

Thereare 4 different ways to do so. Angela identifies 4 characteristics that thegrittiest people have in common: Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope. Theseare 4 steps that you can take to make Grit your way of life.

The first step is Interest, the foundation for passion

Interest is the soil that passion grows from. When you are interested in something, you feel captivated, fascinated, curious, and attracted to the topic that you are working on.

Unfortunately,being deeply interested in your job is not an experience that very many peoplein America and around the world are familiar with. According to a 2014 Galluppoll, more than two thirds of American adults did not feel engaged by orexcited about their jobs. And worldwide, Gallup data shows that only 13% ofpeople around the world consider themselves interested in their work.

Eventhough struggling to find your main interest or passion in life can getincredibly frustrating, it’s helpful to keep in mind that many people who lovewhat they do started off in an entirely different career-field. It’s not always clear-cut orstraightforward. Angela explains that connecting with your passion is aslow and steady process that happens in 3 stages: “passion for your work is alittle bit of discovery, followed bya lot of development, and then alifetime of deepening.”

Theinitial discovery of your interest is so subtle that you may not even what’sgoing on. You just suddenly start gravitating to certain subject, topic, craft,or hobby without consciously realizing what’s happening.

Thenafter that initial spark of interest, it takes years of cultivation anddevelopment of an interest before it actually becomes your passion. Once youhave connected with that passion, you must continue to deepen it by stayingcommitted to it.

So ifyou’re looking to find your passion, go out there and explore as many differentinterests as possible! Try out as many hobbies, activities, and crafts as youcan. Explore your interests until eventually one of them becomes your passion.

The second step to Grit is Practice

Practice means showing up and getting to work, hammering away, and seeking to improve at your craft day after day, week after week, month after month, and year and year.

Angeladescribes some research on this subject by a psychologist named AndersEricsson. Anders Ericsson has spent his career studying how experts become greatat what they do.

According to Ericsson’s research, it takes an average of ten thousand hours, roughly ten years, of practice to become a master at something. This is the same ten-thousand-hour-rule that went viral when Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in Outliers back in 2008.

Loggingten thousand hours of practice isn’t all you need to do to become an expert atwhat you do. You need Deliberate Practice.

DeliberatePractice means setting stretch goals that expand your abilities, seeking toimprove on your weaknesses, and seeking out challenges that you know you can’tmeet yet. Deliberate Practice means focusing more on what you’re doing wrongversus what you’re doing right and seeking to strengthen all the areas whereyou struggle.

Afteryou accomplish a stretch goal or turn a weakness into a strength, you move onto the next one.

Ifyou want to get on the path to Grit, start by committing to putting in at least10,000 hours of this Deliberate Practice.

Duckworthalso touches on research done by another psychologist named MihalyCsikszentmihalyi about a state of mind called Flow. Flow is a mental state thattop achievers often experience while they are busy work. It’s a state ofcomplete concentration where you lose track of time, lose your sense of self,and just get lost in the work. Flow can only take place when you are working onsomething that you enjoy for its own sake.

Ifyou can combine Deliberate Practice with Flow, you’ll be well on your way toadopting a Grit mindset.

The third step to Grit is Purpose

Purpose is the intention to contribute to others with your work. You can gain a sense of purpose in your career by doing your work that you believe matters and makes a positive impact in the lives of others.

Angelanotes that people usually start out with a passion that they are interested formore selfish reasons. And then later on, as they go deeper into the passion,they find a way to use it to help others. So over time, that passion turns intopurpose. 

Whenyou have a sense of purpose, you start to believe that all of your hard work,long days, and long nights are worth the struggle because your work helps improvethe lives of other people. Purpose becomes a source of motivation.

Angelaexplains that human beings are actually wired to gain happiness through helpingothers, giving, and seeking to contribute to the greater good, just as much aswe are wired to seek out more selfish forms of pleasure. So in addition tohelping your motivation, purpose can be a powerful way to increase happiness aswell.

Peoplewith Grit tend to see their work as a purpose, mission, or a calling. And theybelieve their goals are connected to something greater than themselves likeimproving society, the world, or humanity—making the world a better place.

Duckworthrefers to work done by a psychologist named Bill Damon who has made purpose themain focus of his career. Damon explains that the best way to find purpose is bystumbling across a problem that needs solving, seeing some pain in the worldthat needs healing, and realizing that you personally can do something to makea difference in that area.

The last, but not least, step to attaining a Grit mindset is Hope

Hope means having faith, staying optimistic, and believing that you will win.

Peoplewith Grit tend to explain events and situations in their lives optimistically.They choose a hopeful outlook and optimistic explanation for the things thathappen to them in their lives.

Angeladescribes how she gave out questionnaires to 400 Teach for America teachersthat aimed to measure their grit, optimism, and happiness.  When she checked back in with them a yearlater, the data showed that the most optimistic teachers were also grittier andhappier. These teachers with the most optimism, grit, and happiness were alsomore successful with helping their students achieve more during the schoolyear.

Carol Dweck is a psychologist who has done a lot of investigation into the power of an optimistic mindset. According to Carol, there are two different types of mentalities that can play a huge role in how well you do in life: the more pessimistic Fixed Mindset versus the optimistic Growth Mindset.

TheFixed Mindset means you believe you are born with a set amount of intelligence,talent, and competence that you can never change. The Growth Mindset is abelief that with effort and application, you can change and grow yourintelligence, talent, and ability.

TheGrowth Mindset and Grit go hand in hand. People who embrace the growth mindsettend to be more determined, persistent, resilient, and successful than thosewho don’t.

So ifyou’re looking to instill more Grit in yourself, be more optimistic! Whensomething happens to you, good or bad, explain it with a positive outlook—nomatter what it is.

And embracethe Growth Mindset. Keep in mind that according to research, the human brain is very adaptive andflexible. Your brain changes when you learn and master something new. YourIQ scores and intelligence are not fixed throughout the human lifespan. You canchange and improve your intelligence, IQ score, abilities, and talents. You canbecome better.

TheSecret to Success and the Pathway to True Happiness

Ifthere is one secret to success, Duckworth makes a strong case that it has to begrit. Grit is what allows students high school students, college students,graduate school students, West Point cadets, Army Special Operations trainees,spelling bee contestants, sales professionals, and people from all walks oflife to accomplish huge goals and rise to the top of their fields.

AngelaDuckworth’s book proves with research that, contrary to popular belief, greatnessis not about talent. It’s about passion and perseverance. It’s about loving theprocess more than the results and attacking your work with a relentlessperseverance that never dies.

Andit all starts by incorporating these 4 building blocks into your daily routine:

  1. Interest
  2. Practice
  3. Purpose
  4. Hope

Thisbook is very eye-opening and empowering for anyone who is looking to get on thepath to greatness. But Grit is not all about success. It’s about happiness too.

Duckworthconcludes her book by going over some survey data that shows how Grit can increasehappiness, health, and wellbeing, in addition to boosting your achievement. Angelafound that people with more grit tend to have higher levels of well-being, lifesatisfaction, and happiness.

So basedon the research discussed in this book, it makes perfect sense that someonelike Will Smith—who credits his success to a “ridiculous, sickening work ethic”—alsoseems to be one of the happiest people in the world.

Gritis the key to rising to the top of your field while maintaining really highlevels of happiness and life-satisfaction at the same time.

Ihave not covered all of the information or all of the chapters of this book. Sobe sure to check out GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseveranceto learn more!

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