The Development Source

Do You Have Grit (the book, that is)?

From my perspective, most of the popular books about the business world are not worth reading. Many are vanity books while others should have been short articles. I prefer solid biographies and studies in economics, psychology, and the law along with good reporting on contemporary affairs.

In 2016, Angela Duckworth published a book that has received sterling reviews – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth, who has been a successful businesswoman and a New York City public-school teacher, is now a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the recipient of a coveted MacArthur “genius” award.

This book should be high on any businessperson or proposal professional’s reading list. It is a delight to read and brims with great stories, interviews, and insights about what drives success.

According to Duckworth, what drives success is not great talent or genius but a combination of passion and good-old perseverance. As she writes, “no matter what the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were usually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it is they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.”

These are some of the basic insights in her book:
• Talent absolutely matters, but effort factors into talent in two important ways. First, effort builds skill. And second, effort makes skill productive.
• Grit is about holding your highest goals for a very long time.
• Grit usually increases as we age, especially after the age of 45.
• Grit tends to develop over the years in four stages: (1) interest – enjoying what you do; (2) the capacity to deliberately practice and learn from your mistakes and failures; (3) purpose – learning that your work matters; and (4) hope – rising to the occasion because you are confident that you can succeed and that tomorrow will be better than today.

In the last section of her book, Duckworth practically applies the concept of grit to parenting, the maturation process in young people, and to contemporary American culture.

Do you have grit? Take Duckworth’s grit test in the book to find out. This book not only defines grit, but it provides good advice about how to develop it.

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