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Grit by Angela Duckworth

12 December 2019 •

By: Farran Reviews

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Q: What attracted you to this book?

I was at Exclusive Books looking for something motivational and industry-related. The table at the entrance is usually targeted at professionals walking past, featuring best sellers by big names including Ries, Ferriss, Sharma, Brown, Gladwell… so I browsed through and eventually I came accross Grit. The simple title and complementary colours captured my attention and I wanted to know what grit meant in this context. I found the description intriguing and decided I could definitely use more grit. Seeing that the author was a non-white female was refreshing too.

Q: What is the basic storyline?

Angela Duckworth left a high-paying job at McKinsey to become a teacher because it gave her purpose. While teaching, she began to notice that ‘smarter’ or more talented students were not necessarily the best performers, rather average students often outperformed talented students because they worked harder.

Realising that doing well at school had less to do with natural ability and more to do with persistence— grit––led Angela to leave teaching to pursue psychology to prove this theory by studying what grit is, where it comes from and how to develop it. She takes the reader through various case studies demonstrating instances of success or achievement as a result of grit, tying in other theories like nature vs nurture, growth mindset etc. her ultimate goal is to transform the education system and help kids to develop grit early on so they can succeed at whatever they choose to pursue.

Q: What were some highlights?

Angela’s first case study involved West Point Military Academy. Aspiring candidates spent 2 years working hard for this opportunity, being groomed physically and mentally to get accepted into this prestigious school. But so many of these cadets dropped out in the first two weeks of intense training in the ‘beast barracks’, despite having worked their asses off to get there. Angela developed a ‘grit scale’ to help determine who would stay and who would leave before they even started. It became a reliable predictor which she went on to apply to a diverse group of people who faced challenging situations, and it was interesting to note the common characteristics or patterns that came up across the group.

I also enjoyed Bob Mankoff’s story. He relentlessly submitted cartoons to the New Yorker over 3 years before they accepted one, and eventually took him on as a contract cartoonist. His advice to aspiring cartoonists is to submit artwork in batches of 10, “because in cartooning, as in life, 9 out of 10 things never work out.” Might sound pessimistic, but it was a reality for him.

Q: What insights have you gained?

I learned about grit indicators but also how we can develop grit. I enjoyed contemplating how it takes both talent and grit to succeed, however grit can outperform talent, and someone gritty who pursues something they’re really passionate about will probably do great things.

It was interesting to learn that grit grows, as we do, with time and life experience and it’s a good reminder that we can decide to change our mindset and behaviour at any point in time. Sounds logical right? But I appreciate the effort she went to, to explore and demonstrate her theory.

Oh and Warren Buffet’s three-step exercise in prioritising was pretty helpful too.

Q: Who do you think should read this book?

Anyone with an interest in psychology and human behaviour, anyone who feels like they’re not living up to their potential, anyone who wants to develop a more enduring, positive mindset.

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12 December 2019
By: Farran

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