Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance [Book Summary]

Does Angela Duckworth think success is more about grit and perseverance than talent?

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth presents a compelling argument: success hinges more on grit—a fusion of relentless passion and perseverance—than on talent. Duckworth, a celebrated psychologist, challenges conventional beliefs, asserting that the persistent pursuit of long-term goals is a more critical determinant of success than innate talent. This perspective is particularly enlightening for entrepreneurs, emphasizing that continual effort and unwavering dedication are key drivers of lasting achievement.

Are you striving to achieve great things? Angela Duckworth believes it isn’t talent alone that will help you get there, but a combination of passion and persistence that she calls “grit.”

This is great news if you’ve ever felt that you weren’t naturally talented in an area of great interest to you. That’s because your deep and persistent interest is part of the equation that will help you achieve lofty goals.

What Is “Grit” by Angela Duckworth About?

Grit is about finding your passion or meaningful focus and persistently practicing and striving until you achieve your goals. In the book, Angela explains what grit is, how to identify your passion, and how to persevere to achieve great things. She also shows us how to develop grit if we aren’t naturally “gritty.” This is a talent that could come in handy if you’re struggling to decide on which new business to start, or wondering how you’re ever going to make it through those rocky initial startup phases. The answer is to develop some real grit!

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How Can Entrepreneurs Benefit From Reading “Grit”?

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and freelancers alike can all benefit from reading Grit. Learning how to identify your passion, what type of entrepreneur you are and how to become grittier so you can persevere and achieve your goals is valuable in business. This enables you to better prioritize how you spend your time and get greater joy from your efforts.

Another way entrepreneurs can benefit from reading Grit is understanding how to mentor or coach someone to become grittier and to create a “gritty” culture where your employees can thrive and be their best.

Who is Angela Duckworth, Author of “Grit”?

Angela Duckworth author of Grit

Angela Duckworth earned a B.A. in neurobiology at Harvard College, then graduated from the University of Oxford with a master’s in neuroscience and a PhD in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing her master’s at Oxford, Angela worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, then quit to become a math teacher in San Francisco.

She is currently a professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania where she studies perseverance and self-control. She was also the founder of Character Lab, a not-for-profit whose mission is to advance the practice and science of character development. Angela is currently the co-host of the podcast “No Stupid Questions” on the Freakonomics network.

Angela’s first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”, stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for 21 weeks and created a buzz around the topic, especially in education circles. She did a TED talk about “Grit” that, as of this writing, has been viewed over 31.4 million times.

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Breaking Down “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”

Perseverance, or grit, gives you the power to achieve lofty goals and, like the so-called “Miracle Morning”, be your best self over the course of every day and over your entire lifetime. Although some people are born more naturally gritty than others, we all have the ability to develop grittiness. You don’t have to rely on your inherent talents, it’s more about aligning your passions with what is most meaningful to you and focusing your energies on continuously improving to achieve proficiency.

Let’s look at what grit is, what it isn’t, how gritty you are, and how to develop grit to achieve your loftiest goals.

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Part 1: What Grit Is and Why It Matters

In the first section of Grit, Angela discusses what it means to have grit, how talent and effort come in to play, and the fact that you can develop more grit if you want to become more perseverant.

What is Grit?Showing Up

At the beginning of the book, Angela talks about studying West Point cadets who attended an intensive seven-week training program named Beast Barracks. One in five cadets dropped out of this program, most of them doing so early on.

Angela set out to determine the predictors of surviving this rigorous program where none of the pre-screening provided any clues. In fact, many candidates who were expected to excel in this program dropped out before completing it.

Her study’s conclusions were that the highly successful candidates were resilient and hardworking and that they knew specifically what they wanted. They not only had determination, but they also had direction. “It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special,” Angela explained, “In a word, they had grit.” She discovered that grittier people went further than others in all studies that she and other researchers conducted on the subject.

Distracted by Talent

As a math teacher, years before studying the West Point cadets, Angela noticed that talent for math didn’t necessarily lead to achievement. “Some of the students I expected to excel, because math came easy to them, did worse than their classmates,” Angela explained, “yet, some of my hardest workers were consistently my highest performers on tests and quizzes.”

She came to realize that talent wasn’t a natural predictor of success and that effort seemed to generate better returns. This observation is what inspired her to leave teaching to study this further. Angela came to realize that focusing on talent distracts us from something that’s at least as important: effort.

Effort Counts Twice

Natural talent and developed talent are not necessarily equal. “When you consider individuals in identical circumstances, what each achieves depends on just two things,” according to Angela, “talent and effort.” Someone with natural talent may not put forth the effort of someone who develops talent.

Talent develops more quickly when effort is invested. Then achievement occurs when acquired skills are applied. So, effort factors into achievement twice, “effort builds skill, then effort makes skill productive,” Angela explained. “When it comes to how we fare in the marathon of life, effort counts tremendously.”

Effort is key to achievement. “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential,” according to Angela.

How Gritty Are You?

“Grit is more about stamina than intensity,” Angela shared. Gritty people don’t skip around from one pursuit to another. Grit isn’t just working incredibly hard. “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it (on the long term),” according to Angela.

Do you want to find out how gritty you are? Angela developed a “Grit Scale” for her West Point study and has used it since. She shared a copy of it in the book for readers to take. Your score is only a reflection of how gritty you are when you take the test, but if you take the Grit Scale later, you may get a different score.

Grit has two components: passion and perseverance. Passion is a compass. It is more than something you care about. Passion is that same ultimate goal you pursue over time. “Each day you are pointing in the same direction, eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination,” Angela added, “Most of your actions derive their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy. You have your priorities in order.”

Speaking of prioritizing, Angela shares Warren Buffett’s three-step process for prioritizing:

    1. Write down a list of twenty-five career goals.
    2. Do soul-searching and circle the five highest-priority goals.
    3. Look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle. Avoid these at all costs. They’re what distract you from your primary goals and eat up your time and energy.

When Angela completed this prioritization process, she found that a lot of her goals were related to one another. Most of them were means to ends that helped her progress toward her ultimate goal. Time and energy are limited so any successful person must prioritize how you spend your time wisely.

Grit Grows

Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy. We learn to overcome rejection and disappointment and recognize the difference between low-level goals to quickly abandon and higher-level goals worth pursuing. As we get older we develop the capacity for long-term passion and perseverance.

“The data I’ve collected on grit and age are consistent with two different stories. One says that our grit changes as a function of the cultural era in which we grow up. The other story says that we get grittier as we get older,” according to Angela, “This reveals that grit is not entirely fixed. It is more plastic than you might think.”

So, if grit can grow, how does that happen?

Start by understanding where you are today. Then, if you’re not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why.

For example, when people drop out of things, they do so for a reason such as being bored, feeling like the effort isn’t worth it, the endeavor isn’t important enough to them, or they feel like they can’t do it.

Gritty people quit goals too, but the higher the level of the goal, the more stubborn they are about seeing it through. When it comes to one, singularly important aim that guides almost everything else they do, the very gritty tend not to give up.

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Part 2: Growing Grit From The Inside Out

Research shows that people that possess grit share the following psychological abilities:

Interest: Intrinsically enjoying what you do, being captivated by the entire endeavor with enduring fascination and childlike curiosity. They love what they do.

Practice: One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than you did yesterday. Devoting yourself to focused, full-hearted challenge-exceeding skill practice that leads to mastery. To be gritty you must resist complacency. Doing whatever it takes to improve.

Purpose: The conviction that your work matters. Interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime. So, it’s essential that you identify your work as both personally interesting and being connected to the well-being of others. Individuals who have developed grit feel that their work is important both to themselves and to others. This dovetails with having a well-defined mission or value proposition for your small business.

Hope: A rising to the occasion kind of perseverance. The ability to keep going even when things are difficult, or we have doubts. When we get knocked down, if we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.

Focus on developing these four psychological abilities to grow your grit from the inside out. Angela explains how to go about doing this in great detail in the book.

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Part 3: Growing Grit From The Outside In

When Angela talks about increasing your grittiness from the outside, she talks about the importance of supportive parents, coaches, mentors, peers, and the culture you immerse yourself in.

“Interests thrive when there is a crew of encouraging supporters, including parents, teachers, coaches, and peers,” according to Angela, “They provide the ongoing stimulation and information that is essential to actually liking something more and more. Also, positive feedback makes us feel happy, competent, and secure.”

She said that following through on commitments as we grow up requires grit while building it.

“If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it,” Angela explained, “If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.”

Culture ultimately has the power to shape your identity as you internalize the norms and values of the group. This can influence how gritty you become over time.

Build Grit to Achieve Your Personal & Business Goals

Be your best and achieve your loftiest goals. Start by determining how gritty you are. Determine what abilities you need to develop to become grittier, if desired. Then start trying different things until you find your purposeful passion that, paired with persistence, will develop into achievement. This occurs over time with focused practice to develop expertise in your chosen area.

Once you’ve become grittier, or if you are already gritty enough, you can encourage others around you and create a gritty culture in your own business to drive greater achievement.

You can find out more about the book and read other reviews or purchase your own copy on Amazon, or listen to the audiobook on Audible.

Did you enjoy this book review? Make sure to check out the full list of 44 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs, Startups & Small Business.

And don’t forget to browse our collections of business podcasts and online forums for entrepreneurs for more small business resources.

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A special high five to Margot Howard for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about business success strategies. Thank you Margot! ❤️

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