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Grit - Book Review

1 February 2024
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" is a book by Angela Duckworth in 2016. The book's central idea is that grit is the most significant factor for success and achievement.


The main topics covered in the book include:
  • What is GRIT, and why is it so significant to success?

  • Self-Grit Development

    • Interest

    • Training

    • Purpose

    • Hope

  • GRIT development with the help of others

    • Proper support as parents

    • Training fields

    • Culture

  • Conclusion and key lessons


I eagerly read it and highly recommend the summary and the book.


What is GRIT, and why is it so significant to success?

Grit is the fusion of passion and perseverance—passion for attaining a self-defined higher goal and perseverance in the relentless pursuit of it.


For years, we've been conditioned to believe that talent is the paramount factor in success across various domains—sports, science, art, sales, spelling contests, or any other physical, intellectual, or otherwise field. Some are inherently endowed with talent, while others may have less. Duckworth doesn't dispute the importance of talent. Instead, she posits a thesis backed by numerous scientific experiments, asserting that while talent is influential, our effort has a dual impact.


How?

Achievement results from a skill multiplied by effort;

Skill development results from talent multiplied by effort.

Thus, the influence of effort surpasses all else. And what constitutes that effort? This is the GRIT—perseverance to practice and improve, fueled by boundless passion and enthusiasm.


Duckworth likens passion to a compass, stating, "It takes time to build it, to direct it and to understand, but to use it, and then it guides us down a long, winding path towards the final destination we want to reach."


Perseverance means not capitulating, not halting. It's acceptable and reasonable for the direction to take time to choose. Revising the path and even the sub-goal is acceptable and crucial, but the overarching goal remains steadfast, and perseverance involves the relentless pursuit of achieving it.


Note: On professional, personal, and marital levels, there may likely be one goal and no more in each category. Naturally, there may be several sub-goals that serve the overarching purpose.


An intriguing aspect of GRIT is that GRIT test results among Americans reveal that the higher the age, the higher the GRIT. This can be explained by intergenerational cultural differences or natural maturation processes we all undergo.


In summary, the potential is crucial and determinative. What holds more significance is how and to what extent it is actualized.


Self-Grit Development

Several components are essential for the development of self-grit:

  • Interest

  • Training

  • Purpose

  • Hope


Detail:

Interest

To succeed in cultivating grit for a specific subject, it is crucial that the subject deeply interests us.

  1. Cultivating a passion for the field in which we aim to develop grit does not necessarily require us to have known our interests since childhood or the early stages of our careers. There is no guarantee that we will instantly fall in love with the field once we encounter it. Many individuals rightfully take time to explore and discover their areas of interest.

  2. Passion begins with discovery and can then develop and deepen over the years.

  3. To initiate the discovery process, we can inquire about the areas we love, what holds importance for us, what we care about, and our thoughts. Proactive searching and experimentation are crucial. While replacement is allowed, making selections and progressing before lingering in the discovery and replacement phase is essential.

  4. The transition from discovery to development is both trivial and obvious. Positive experiences, enjoyable encounters, positive reinforcement, and encouragement can enhance our desire to continue developing our interests.

  5. The deepening phase often occurs when experts realize that the more they know, the more they become aware of how much more there is to learn and how limited their understanding is. It is the subtleties of novelty, as well as success, that encourage further deepening.


Training

Many are familiar with investing 10,000 hours to achieve expertise, as outlined in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" (see summary here). Indeed, a significant amount of training forms the foundation for developing GRIT.

  1. Achieving proficiency requires a substantial number of practice hours.

  2. The training should be targeted towards:

    a. A specific, challenging goal

    b. Focused concentration and effort

    c. Receiving feedback in conjunction with the execution of learning

    d. Repetition with continuous improvement, guided by input and reflective thinking

  3. It should become a customary practice to maximize the benefits of training, eliminating the need for deliberation—it becomes second nature.

  4. Short-term experiments suggest that diligence is a learned trait. Through training, diligence can be cultivated, increasing perseverance and grit.

  5. Nevertheless, shifting our perception of training is advisable to derive as much enjoyment from it as possible.


People often note differences in their feelings during training compared to peak moments (such as competitions). Training involves mental and physical effort, sometimes pushing individuals to significant exertion and exhaustion. In contrast, the feeling during peak moments revolves around satisfaction, fun, and, at times, effortless execution akin to autopilot. Duckworth attributes this to a flow experience. According to her assertion, individuals with GRIT invest more hours in deliberate training and subsequently experience more flow and enjoyment upon achieving their goals.


Purpose

Numerous insightful individuals have underscored the importance of meaning—the realization that one is contributing to or is part of something greater that enhances the well-being of society and its individuals.


When there is a purpose that transcends mere excellence in a specific field, extending to a broader impact on others and holding value beyond individual interests, our passion for developing GRIT intensifies. This does not imply that individuals with GRIT lack the desire for personal success; instead, the statement suggests a more nuanced perspective: combining personal goals and aspirations for the greater good of society or its individuals strengthens grit and success from a long-term perspective.


Hope

Hope, as defined within the book context, is our expectation that tomorrow will be a better day than today and the faith that, when faced with a challenge, we can overcome it.


Hope can be viewed as a mental approach to growth: our internal belief in our capacity for change.

  1. Feelings of hopelessness may stem from a perceived lack of control over the situation we find ourselves in.

  2. Optimism statistically correlates with increased success in both mental and physical aspects. A profound quote by Henry Ford, highlighted in the book, encapsulates this idea: "When you think you can, or when you think you can't, you're right."

  3. Strengthening the growth mentality involves:

    a. Recognizing and praising effort

    b. Acknowledging and commending the learning process

    c. Intending to set high expectations

    d. Offering constructive feedback through collaborative discussions on improvement strategies

    e. Creating an environment where many others share a similar mindset.


A growth mentality nurtures an optimistic internal dialogue, enhancing the ability to persevere in effort, even in the face of challenges. This significantly contributes to the development of GRIT.


GRIT development with the help of others

Grit can be cultivated through internal efforts and with assistance and encouragement from external sources. In this context, three key factors are suggested:

  • Proper support as parents

  • Training fields

  • Culture


Detail:

Proper support as parents

Many individuals aspire to instill GRIT not only within themselves but also in their children.


Is this approach legitimate? Probably yes, according to Duckworth, who asserts that children thrive when a portion of their time is dedicated to challenges rather than solely to enjoyment.


There are seemingly contradictory schools of thought concerning the optimal parenting style for fostering GRIT: whether a loving yet stringent approach (expecting much from children for their success) or an enabling parenting style that provides endless support, assuming it instills a sense of security and the ability to break through in any chosen way. Interestingly, among individuals with GRIT questioned about their parents, some experienced intense pushing, while others felt insufficient support.


Duckworth proposes a balanced conversation about smart parenting that combines supportive and demanding elements.


Smart parenting involves raising children with support, respect, and high standards.

  1. In smart parenting, parents serve as role models for their children—not necessarily in the same field but in passion and perseverance towards a specific aspect of life.

  2. Psychologically, another significant adult, such as grandparents or teachers, can step into the role of parents.


Training fields

This topic was composed with reservations, expressing objection that the arguments presented within have yet to undergo empirical testing in long-term experiments owing to various subject-related limitations. Nonetheless, it's worth reading – and perhaps even embracing the proposed ideas.


The training fields for GRIT development can be diverse – at home, at school, in between, during afternoons, and in additional activities.


Interestingly, despite many waking hours of learning occurring in school, it is considered a "chore," GRIT development necessitates interest and, initially, a sense of play and fun.


The training fields, therefore, specifically reside in extracurricular activities and enrichment programs that occur after school hours:

  1. The extracurricular training field incorporates fun and allows for the development of interest.

  2. Coaches who are not parents find it easier to demand, are less likely to give up, and can effectively combine support with accountability.


Studies have explored the correlation between enrichment activities (lasting a significant period until their completion) and GRIT. However, the direction of influence remains unclear—whether GRIT enables persistence or if persistence fosters the development of GRIT. It is also plausible, of course, that both answers are correct.


Culture

Culture is defined as the norms and values shared by a group, creating a sense of belonging for those who participate in it.


Belonging to a group where GRIT is a norm and value propels individuals to cultivate GRIT within themselves.


Fostering a GRIT culture is feasible in specific fields, such as various sports teams, or cultivating a more general GRIT culture, as seen in the workplace where the implementation can vary among employees. Duckworth highlights several examples of companies that have championed the development of GRIT among their employees.


The primary tools for fostering a GRIT culture include:

  1. Personal examples are set by leaders, as well as by peers to one another.

  2. Consistent communication of messages regarding the importance of GRIT and the encouragement of its development.


The advantage of cultivating GRIT as part of a culture lies in the ease of development in such an environment compared to attempting it alone, where others may have different passions, habits, training, and perseverance.


Conclusion and key lessons

GRIT, as defined at the beginning of the book, encompasses a passion combined with perseverance and determination to achieve a higher goal.


GRIT can be developed individually, and it can also be cultivated with the assistance of external elements.


Repeated experiments demonstrate a connection between GRIT and long-term success and between GRIT and mental health.


While GRIT is not the sole crucial trait in people's characters, it undeniably contributes to the mosaic of qualities that shape us as human beings when combined with other attributes related to will, heart, and intellect.

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