“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955.
Angela Lee Duckworth (born 1970) has an impressive background as a global management consultant, inner-city teacher, and research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her PhD. She also has a BA in neurobiology from Harvard and a MSc in neuroscience from Oxford. Duckworth believes that what really drives success is not talent, intelligence or even a particular set of skills, but instead a combination of passion and long-term perseverance she defines as Grit.
According to Angela Duckworth, Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance. Through years of research, she found grit to be a stronger predictor of high-achievement than intelligence, talent and other personality traits.
Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance surveys a range of challenging endeavors, including the difficult process of writing and rewriting novels, the physically and emotionally struggles of surviving the seven-week “Beast Barracks” at West Point, or the training needed to become a successful swimmer or even to win spelling bees competition.
In all of these activities, Duckworth finds that those who stand out have more grit. Too many quit what they start far too early and far too often, but the gritty people don’t give up easily and continue what they have started, improving through deliberate practice, often becoming better than those who are more talented in the same area.
But what makes one person grittier than another? Duckworth recognizes several components that help make people grittier. The first is a great passion for something. “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it.” The second component is a tolerance for the mundane. “The most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which, in a sense, ordinary,” The third component is a connection to like-minded communities. “If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.” The last component is a willingness to face failure.
I still remember a comment made by one of the professors when I was starting my PhD Program in Marriage, Family and Human Development at Brigham Young University. Since I had obtained a Master in Business Administration a couple of years before, he was convinced that I considered myself smarter than the average student in their PhD program. So, in his comment, he stressed that to be successful and finish a PhD program, perseverance (or grit) is a lot more important than being smart. I absolutely agree, and Duckworth would agree too.
My Favorite 45 Quotes from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
“Learning from mistakes is something babies and toddlers don’t mind at all. . . . Watch a baby struggle to sit up, or a toddler learn to walk: you’ll see one error after another, failure after failure, a lot of challenge exceeding skill, a lot of concentration, a lot of feedback. . . . Very young children don’t seem tortured while they’re trying to do things they can’t yet do.”
“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
“It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things:”
“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.”
“I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”
“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”
“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.”
“When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won”
“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.”
“most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”
“At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.”
“Stop reading so much and go think.”
“One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. So,”
“It isn’t suffering that leads to hopelessness. It’s suffering you think you can’t control.”
“Without effort, your talent is nothing more than unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.”
“Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.”
“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.”
“Well okay, that didn’t go so well, but I guess I will just carry on.’ ”
“Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it’s related to staying true to our commitments even when we’re not comfortable. But getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit. Because when you don’t come back the next day—when you permanently turn your back on a commitment—your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have.”
“In other words, 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.”
“There’s a vast amount of research on what happens when we believe a student is especially talented. We begin to lavish extra attention on them and hold them to higher expectations. We expect them to excel, and that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.”
“Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.”
“When I am around people,” Kat wrote, “my heart and soul radiate with the awareness that I am in the presence of greatness. Maybe greatness unfound, or greatness underdeveloped, but the potential or existence of greatness nevertheless. You never know who will go on to do good or even great things or become the next great influencer in the world—so treat everyone like they are that person.”
“Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius,” Nietzsche said. “For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking. . . . To call someone ‘divine’ means: ‘here there is no need to compete.”
“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.”
“To be gritty is to resist complacency.”
“The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.”
“People assume you have to have some special talent to do mathematics,” Sylvia has said. “They think you’re either born with it, or you’re not. But Rhonda and I keep saying, ‘You actually develop the ability to do mathematics. Don’t give up!”
“A fixed mindset about ability leads to pessimistic explanations of adversity, and that, in turn, leads to both giving up on challenges and avoiding them in the first place. In contrast, a growth mindset leads to optimistic ways of explaining adversity, and that, in turn, leads to perseverance and seeking out new challenges that will ultimately make you even stronger.”
“Optimistic young adults stay healthier throughout middle age and, ultimately, live longer than pessimists.”
“Optimists are more satisfied with their marriages.”
“trying to do things they can’t yet do, failing, and learning what they need to do differently is exactly the way that experts practice.”
“When it comes to how we fare in the marathon of life, effort counts tremendously.”
“I’m not going to lie,” he replied. “I never really enjoyed going to practice, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it while I was there. In fact, there were brief moments, walking to the pool at four or four-thirty in the morning, or sometimes when I couldn’t take the pain, when I’d think, ‘God, is this worth it?’ ” “So why didn’t you quit?” “It’s very simple,” Rowdy said. “It’s because I loved swimming. . . . I had a passion for competing, for the result of training, for the feeling of being in shape, for winning, for traveling, for meeting friends. I hated practice, but I had an overall passion for swimming.”
“What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends tremendously on our grit—our passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”
“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
“Most of us become more conscientious, confident, caring, and calm with life experience.”
“Have a fierce resolve in everything you do.” “Demonstrate determination, resiliency, and tenacity.” “Do not let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses.” And, finally, “Use mistakes and problems as opportunities to get better—not reasons to quit.”
“In the most general sense, talent is the sum of a person’s abilities—his or her intrinsic gifts, skills, knowledge, experience, intelligence, judgment, attitude, character, and drive. It also includes his or her ability to learn and grow.”
“If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself how likely it is that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you.”
“Since novelty is what your brain craves, you’ll be tempted to move on to something new, and that could be what makes the most sense. However, if you want to stay engaged for more than a few years in any endeavor, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy the nuances that only a true aficionado can appreciate. “The old in the new is what claims the attention,” said William James. “The old with a slightly new turn.”
“The scientific research is very clear that experiencing trauma without control can be debilitating. But I also worry about people who cruise through life, friction-free, for a long, long time before encountering their first real failure. They have so little practice falling and getting up again. They have so many reasons to stick with a fixed mindset. I see a lot of invisibly vulnerable high-achievers stumble in young adulthood and struggle to get up again. I call them the “fragile perfects.” Sometimes I meet fragile perfects in my office after a midterm or a final. Very quickly, it becomes clear that these bright and wonderful people know how to succeed but not how to fail.”
BUY ON AMAZON: Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
HOW GRITTY ARE YOU? ABOUT CHAPTER FOUR OF THE BOOK “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance“