Book Notes : Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book presents the concept of grit and highlight that we can be confused by natural talent and as such feel that people enter the world fully formed – which is far from the case. It states that grid might be genetic but it is also generated by experiences.

You can calculate a grit score based on:

Not at all like me Not much like me Somewhat like me Mostly like me Very much like me
New ideas a projects sometimes distract me from the previous ones*
Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily#
I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one*
I am a hard worker#
I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete*
I finish whatever I begin#
My interests change from year to year*
I am diligent. I never give up#
I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest*
I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge#

Grit is made up of two components – passion and perseverance. The * questions measure your passion and the # questions above measure your perseverance. It is these two qualities themselves which have been shown to be more important to accomplishment that other characteristics, such as IQ.

Grit is about holding a top-level goal for a very long time, persevering at it improving and ultimately succeeding. These are then made up of mid and low level goals. The more unified, aligned and coordinated our goal hierarchies are the better. The Warren Buffett approach to this is:

  1. Write down a list of 25 career goals
  2. Identify the top 5
  3. The remaining 20 goals you should avoid at all cost as these are goals which will distract you

The book poses that this is a simplification and that the goals listed might be related and so they can be grouped into a higher level goal. However the goal is that energy is limited and that to be successful you need to decide what is important and what is not important to exert energy on.

How grit grows:

  1. Interest – you have to have a fundamental interest before you can to build a passion
  2. Practice – this is addressing your weaknesses and proactively trying to get better, not just repeating what you already know. To achieve more you need:
    • A clearly defined stretch goal
    • Full concentration and effort
    • Immediate and informative feedback
    • Repetition with reflection and refinement
  3. Purpose – feeling that your work matters is key to you sustain interest and to practice for a long period of time
    and at all times Hope – to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, if we get knocked down we get up again

It is possible to help people grow grit and some of the ways to do this are through language and by encouraging the uptake of activities.

Using a growth mindset language helps build grit

From terms which undermine a growth mindset and grit To terms which promote a growth mindset and grit
“You’re a natural! I love that.” “You’re a learner! I love that”
“Well, at least you tried!” “That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”
“Great job! You’re so talented!” “Great job! What’s one thing that could have been even better?”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it.” “This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”
“Maybe this just isn’t your strength. Don’t worry-you have other things to contribute.” “I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

Activities where a person has participated for a number of years and have gained achievements (e.g. sport, volunteering, research, hobbies etc) as a result improve grit. A form such as:

Activity Check grad levels of participation Achievements, awards, leadership position, if any
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  
  9 _ 10 _ 11 _ 12 _  

For activities completed for a single year were filtered out. Each activity completed for two or more years they earn a grit point, if they achieved some form of advancement scored a second point and a third if this advancement was deemed “high” e.g. president of a society or employee of the month. The score was the sum of the two activities with the highest achievement so a total score of 6 points. This follow though on activities both requires grit and builds it.

It has been shown that people with grit achieve more and are happier at the same time.

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