Praise for Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth, Published by Scribner New York 2016

What does it mean to have true grit?

Watching the recent Commonwealth Games, I found myself observing many of the athletes and thinking “Wow! They have so much talent!” I have often looked at skilled people ─ ballerinas, singers, athletes ─ and thought that they were so lucky to be blessed with natural talent.

But after reading Duckworth’s literature on grit, I have a deeper insight into the world of the genius / talented, and how people who are leaders in their fields have so much more than natural talent as success does not start or end there.

Duckworth’s book is a brilliant piece that presents the scientific evidence to prove that what we accomplish depends more on our passion and perseverance rather than our innate talent.

Part 1 − What is Grit and why it matters

In Part 1, Duckworth explains that highly accomplished people are exemplars of perseverance. In their eyes they are never good enough, they have enduring passion, are hard working, and know what they want. After studies on academic and physical standards vs the 1 in 5 drop-out rate on recruits from the United States Military Academy, Duckworth found that what mattered was a never give up attitude. Duckworth’s studies on this Academy concluded that passion plus perseverance equals grit.

Wanting to find a way to measure or quantify grit, Duckworth continued studies with national spelling bee entrants taking her grit scale questionnaire. What she found was that the grittier kids in the spelling bee went further in the competition; and they did this by studying for more hours and competing in more spelling bees. After many findings, Duckworth concluded potential is one thing, what we do with it is another.

Distracted by talent

In parallel with my own career, Duckworth was also a teacher before she was a psychologist. In this chapter, Duckworth describes her experience as a teacher and how she found that talent was not all there was to achievement. I could relate to Duckworth in this chapter with her experience in finding that struggling students would sometimes do better than expected, and students with seemingly natural talent not doing as well as expected. Duckworth highlights the why behind this occurrence. The strugglers, in her experience were overachievers. They came prepared to class, took notes, asked questions and stayed back for extra help. What she found was that aptitude did not guarantee achievement.

Effort counts twice

As in my admiration of the athletes from the Commonwealth Games, Duckworth highlights that there is an unconscious bias toward talent. What this chapter sheds light on is that talent may lead to achievement, but: talent x effort = skill, and skill x effort = achievement. In other words, how quickly your skill improves depends on the effort you invest in. The consistency of effort in the long run is everything, and with effort, talent becomes skill and at the same time makes skill productive.

How Gritty are you?

I loved this chapter and Duckworth’s explanation that grit is about working so hard on something that you care about – so much so that you are loyal to it, aligns with my values when working on tenders.

There is a grit scale in this chapter and I highly recommend you take the time to read it and take it. It is an insight into your grit components of passion and perseverance. This chapter also features a section on goals and an explanation that very gritty people have low and mid-level goals that relate to an ultimate goal, and that gritty people are resilient and adaptable when the goals change.

Grit grows

It is a relief to know that talent is not entirely genetic and that we grow grittier as we grow older. We learn in this chapter that grit grows. We can learn to dust ourselves off, try again and persue goals with tenacity. Duckworth explains that when we are gritty we are captivated by endeavours and we have the capacity to practice. Our passion grows with interest, we practice purpose and hope, and then hope is able to rise to the occasion of perseverance.

Part 2 – Growing grit from the inside out

Follow your passion

Part 2 describes the factors that nurture our growing grit. It suggests that grit paragons have years experimenting with different interests and the interest they ended up with was not necessarily the one that was their first acquaintance. Duckworth explains that, in her study on the grittiest people, the grit paragons kept plugging away and their interests grew as they were encouraged with positive feedback by peers, making them confident to persevere. Duckworth clarifies that even experts start off as conscientious beginners, but they are spurred on by encouragement and the desire to learn new things with a drive to explore.

Practice

Duckworth suggests that after passion comes development. Kaizen, a Japanese term for continuous improvement is visited here, and Duckworth highlights that most grit paragons exude Kaizen. Having grit is the desire to do better, and with a positive state of mind we can help our grit grow. Duckworth revisits her studies on the spelling bee in this chapter. In this study, deliberate practice was rated as effort practice which required the children to work on challenges that exceeded their skill. Duckworth suggests that deliberate practice:

  • presents clearly defined goals
  • has immediate and informative feedback, and
  • requires repetition, reflection and refinement.

Sounds like working on a bid!

Purpose

According to Duckworth, people who exude grit are not just goal orientated. The nature of their goals are special and at the core of the grit paragon’s goals is the notion that what they do matters to people other than themselves. Their motivation is to contribute to the wellbeing of others, and to connect to a world beyond themselves. Duckworth reassures us that we are never too old to cultivate purpose and make a contribution; and that we can create our purpose by being inspired by someone who wants to make you be a better person. It may be as simple as being inspired by your parents’ generous nature or your peers’ contribution to society.

Hope

This chapter defines grit as the hope and expectation that our own efforts can help improve the future. Having my own experience using positive affirmations after setbacks, I have learned we can keep fighting with perseverance to improve. Duckworth uses her experience as a struggling neurology student, and how her positive self-talk / CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and deliberate practice helped her achieve her goals of acing her finals. Duckworth describes that our hope sits hand in hand with our mindset.

Page 182 provides you with a table with notions of what language cultivates a growth mindset. The evidence Duckworth presents is that a fixed mindset leads to pessimistic explanations of adversity, which in turn leads to giving up. Whereas a growth mindset leads to optimistic self-talk – leading to perseverance over adversity. In Duckworth’s words ‘don’t pack it in, keep going, and find people who will tell you this… because everyone needs someone like that’.

Part 3 – growing Grit from the inside out

Parenting for Grit

Duckworth moves on to suggest what we can do to encourage grit in children. Explaining two different family dynamics, Duckworth highlights that children follow by example and that the grit paragons don’t necessarily experience wise parenting, but in one way or another had someone in their life to encourage them to aim high with confidence and support. The patterns in Duckworth’s examples included parents that were loving but tough, and tough but loving. Both parenting styles suggest that to nurture grit development there is a need for support, clear discipline and principles.

The playing fields of Grit

Duckworth’s studies are highly suggestive in that extracurricular activities for children can cultivate interest, practice purpose and hope; the very factors Duckworth mentions earlier in her book that are needed for growing grit. I enjoyed the idea Duckworth describes that children do play the field in relation to curricular activities but grow grittier as they get older and practice. Duckworth suggests here that as a hard and fast rule, parents should encourage grit without obliterating the child’s capacity to choose their own path.

A culture of Grit

“Not a King deterred by challenges and hurdles” Duckworth describes is the attitude that really refers to grit. A wise person once told me that we are the culture we surround ourselves with. Duckworth suggests if you want to be grittier, find that culture and join it.

Angela Duckworth’s Praise for Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is a great read giving you all the science and secrets behind developing your grit. Duckworth is right. Join a great team who will develop you, who will celebrate your successes, and influence your behaviour to accomplish your goals.

As it turns out, our values at Aurora Marketing include both passion and perseverance so we are happy to think we are on the right track for being a gritty team of tender experts. If you need some grit to help your organisation win more tenders, contact Aurora Marketing on 07 3211 43299 or email info@auroramarketing.com.au