Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit, is a combination of nonfiction, self-help, and autobiography. Duckworth effortlessly blends her childhood memories of her father’s strict parenting, her experience as a teacher in low-income areas, and her career as an educational psychologist to explain her lifelong goal of discovering what she calls: Grit. At times the book seems silly because everyone understands the general concept of what grit is, an inner drive that pushes us to succeed. It is Duckworth, however, who spends years of her life conducting interviews, tests, and experiments to come up with formal explanations and equations for exactly what grit is, and why it is the foremost indicator of why people succeed.
Grit is something that every person wants to have, it’s something that I want to have. Before reading this book, if you asked me what grit was I could give you an honest answer of what I thought it was- an inner drive that some gain through genetics and life experience, (Duckworth explains that it takes both nature and nurture to form grit.) After reading the book, my answer has now changed for the better. I now know that grit is (among other things) the multiplication of passion and perseverance.
Duckworth explains that to have grit, you must find your professional passion. This is your one, overarching goal that you spend your entire career trying to obtain. She explains in her “How Gritty Are You?” chapter (64) through various diagrams (which I deeply appreciate and enjoy) of how one can find their goal by writing down all the professional goals that they have. Then, you categorize them by low level goals- short term goals. Eventually, you should narrow down your list until you have reached your singular goal.
The second half of her equation deals with perseverance. In this book, she defines perseverance as the act of staying true to your one goal for your entire career. A scene that I particularly love is when she gives a speech at Harvard (38) and a young man comes up to her afterward and proclaims himself to be extremely gritty because he’s been working on the same app for the past nine months. She quickly shuts the pretentious boy down by asking if he plans on working on this app for the rest of his life. He naturally responds that no he does not, and therefore he does not have grit. I love this memory because in some ways it’s exactly how I thought of grit before reading this book, working very hard and very intently at something will give you grit. Grit is a marathon more than a sprint; it is working tirelessly at something and yet never getting tired of it.
The chapter that I enjoyed reading the most in this book was chapter nine: hope. Duckworth explains that grit thrives on the hope that “our own efforts can improve our future.” (169) She describes the fact that hope is a learned tool, using a famous experiment of rats and learned helplessness- and learned optimism to describe the ways that optimism can be used as a tool for success. She then speaks to the founder of Teach For America about giving children the hope to succeed in poor communities and shows the ways that teachers can use reinforcements to promote growth grit in their students, (I realized my mother had stolen this book from me during a vacation when she couldn’t stop trying to explain how much she agreed with this concept.) Hope, growth, and optimism will lead to perseverance over adversity. As someone who proudly considers herself to be an optimist, I was incredibly pleased that there was a scientific, positive result in finding the best in situations.
Thanks for letting me read this book, Katie. I learned valuable lessons and teachings from it, and if you get a chance, I hope that you can read it too (if you haven’t already.) It’s a little Malcolm Gladwell, with a little Eat, Pray, Love, and even some motivational self-help in here as well. I hope that you get a chance to read it, and when you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.