The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth

When I picked up this book, I admit that my thought was, “How much could someone really write about the subject of grit?” In my mind, grit is something that is just intrinsically understood. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Apparently there is a lot to write about grit, and not just within the pages of this particular book, either. I read the Kindle version of this book and in that version there are 38 pages of just notes and references. Throughout the book, Angela references to many different studies done by other social scientists and conversations with other scientists to give a well-rounded picture of grit.

So what is grit? After reading this book I can tell you that grit is…extremely difficult to define in one or two sentences. Indeed, roughly one third of this book is devoted to simply exploring what grit is. It’s passion. It’s perseverance. It’s purpose. It’s perspective. It’s consistent effort toward long-term goals. It’s consistent effort toward short-term goals in pursuit of long-term goals. It’s falling seven times and getting up eight. It’s many, many things, such that even Angela never does give a one or two line definition. In reality, the first half of the book is the definition.

If grit is so hard to define, then why is it so important? Ah, that, now, is an easy question. Simply, grittier people tend to accomplish more and tend to be happier. If that isn’t motivation, then I don’t know what is. In general, people want to accomplish something great and more books are written concerning the “pursuit of happiness” than most other topics. According to Angela, being gritty is one good way to find happiness.

So can grit be learned or is it something inherent that we are born with? Yes and yes. According to Angela, everyone is born with a certain amount of grit, just like everyone is born with a certain amount of most attributes. However, grit can be learned. Angela explores the Nature vs. Nurture argument with a focus on grit. The conclusion is that everyone can learn to be grittier, even those who may not currently have a lot of grit. This is encouraging for everyone, but especially those who might consider themselves less gritty.

While the first third of the book is essentially the definition of grit, the rest explores how grittiness may be achieved in two parts. The first part explores growing grit from the inside out. This is how you personally can purposefully grow your own grit. What this section seemed to come down to is a couple of points. First, it’s much easier to be gritty about things you enjoy. Basically, it’s easier to do something if you like it and much easier to continue doing it over a long period of time if you like it. This is not new wisdom. It’s something that most everyone knows innately. What may be less intuitive is the other side of the equation: Purposeful practice with the hope that your effort will improve you.

Let’s break that down. People practice doing things every day. Doctors practice medicine. Lawyers practice law. Musicians practice their instruments. Athletes practice their sport. But what separates real practice from vain repetition is purpose. Anyone can throw a baseball a hundred times, but only a true athlete will consider how the ball feels in his hand, how he is gripping the ball, how his arm and wrist are aligned, how his step is aligned to the pitch, feeling the exact moment of release, feeling the exact way his wrist gives the ball spin…and so on. Practicing with purpose yields much greater results than simply going through the motions. Those results then encourage the practitioner to stick with the practice, which is the development of grittiness.

Overall, this book should be on everyone’s shelf, from parents to teachers to businessmen to anyone else. The development of grittiness makes for happier and more productive employees and happier and more productive entrepreneurs. It makes for happier and stronger children growing into happier and stronger adults. As Angela says, there is a lot more work and research to be done in this field, but this book is an excellent start.

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