Grit by Angela Duckworth

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The Book in One Paragraph

Most people are obsessed with talent, but effort is the one variable you can control and should focus on. The number one predictor of success is grit, which is the ability to stick with something even when it’s hard. To develop grit, you can cultivate interests, develop and habit of daily practice and work on a purpose beyond yourself.

Grit Summary

This is my book summary of Grit by Angela Duckworth. My notes include quotes, big ideas, and important lessons from the book.

  • We live in a society that adores talent. We’re quick to label high achievers as “talented” and naturally gifted. We’re quick to undermine the role that effort plays in achievement.
  • “It seems that when anyone accomplishes a feat worth writing about, we rush to anoint that individual as extraordinarily “talented.” If we overemphasize talent, we underemphasize everything else.”
  • Part of the reason that we attribute achievement to talent is because it gives us an excuse to not try. It’s easier to say that high achievers are simply born with more ability. 
  • “We want to believe that Mark Spitz was born to swim in a way that none of us were and that none of us could. We don’t want to sit on the pool deck and watch him progress from amateur to expert. We prefer our excellence fully formed. We prefer mystery to mundanity.”
  • Talent determines how fast your skills develop.
  • Achievement is the result of developed skills being put to good use.
  • Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance. Passions means long-term adherence to a goal and consistency of interest. Perseverance means overcoming setbacks and continuing to put forth effort until a task is finished, as opposed to quitting early. 
  • “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
  • “There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
  • Talent × effort = skill. Skill × effort = achievement. In other words, “Effort counts twice.”
  • “Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
  • The reason most people aren’t high achievers is not because they lack talent, but rather because they lack consistency. They quit too soon.
  • “As any coach or athlete will tell you, consistency of effort over the long run is everything. How often do people start down a path and then give up on it entirely? How many treadmills are gathering dust in basements?”
  • “Someone twice as talented but half as hardworking as another person might reach the same level of skill but still produce dramatically less over time.”
  • Studies show that grit predicts salespeople retention better than other personality traits like extroversion, emotional stability, and conscientiousness.
  • “Most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”
  • Studies show that “grittiness” is associated with higher GPAs among college students.
  • “High but not the highest intelligence, combined with the greatest degree of persistence, will achieve greater eminence than the highest degree of intelligence with somewhat less persistence.” – Catharine Cox in 1926, studying historical geniuses.
  •  Interest deepens after engaging with an activity over time.
  • “Interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t…Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.”
  • “Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.”
  • Receiving immediate feedback can be one of the quickest ways to make progress in a certain field. “As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy.”
  • Grit is malleable; it can be grown over time. 
  • “Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity. The maturation story is that we develop the capacity for long-term passion and perseverance as we get older.”
  • “On your own, you can cultivate your own grit from the inside out. You can cultivate interests, develop and habit of daily practice and work on a purpose beyond yourself. You can also grow your grit “from the outside in.” Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends—developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.”

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