Now and again I come across a book, or an article, or a podcast that really makes me sit up and think. That happened a few weeks ago. I’d been recommended a book called “Grit: The Passion and Power of Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth but hadn’t got around to reading it yet. Then, by coincidence, her TED talk on the subject popped up as a recommendation on my Spotify list. Her name seemed to be coming up once too often to ignore, so I clicked through and couldn’t stop watching her presentation. I found what she said so interesting that I immediately started on the book itself, which has proved equally compelling.
Duckworth’s concept isn’t new but it’s communicated in a fresh and thought-provoking way and, as a highly respected academic, she knows what she’s talking about. As a former teacher of seventh grade students, she noticed that the children who got the best grades weren’t necessarily the children whom she had identified, by their IQ numbers alone, as “the brightest”. Similar trends were seen at West Point Military Academy and other institutions she studied.
So, why is that, she wondered? Why do some people with more natural or innate talent fail when others with far less succeed?
Essentially, she identifies the quality of “grit” as the one defining feature that marks people out for succeeding at long term goals – going for the marathon rather than the sprint. It’s passion, perseverance, getting up when you get knocked down, keeping going. It’s about time and patience and “stickability”.
I really enjoyed this book because it challenges the concept that you’re either born with the ability to do something or you’re not. People with far less “natural” talent can succeed far more in life if they apply themselves, consistently, over time. Whether it’s a child at school, a student at college or someone in the workplace, what really counts, according to Duckworth’s research, is sticking at it, showing up, day after day, putting in the effort over time and making constant small improvements for long term gains. And she suggests a four step method to help the reader achieve long term success.
As Duckworth says herself: “Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.”
I’ve shared the link to the TED talk with several of my teams here at Peninsula hoping they’ll take something from it as I have.
It seems that I wasn’t alone in enjoying her TED talk – it’s been viewed by more than eight million people. Here’s the link.
And if you want to read the book, here’s the Amazon link.