This is a comprehensive summary of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.
Printable: Download the actionable worksheet of this summary.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
Talent has nothing to do with success. If you want results, you have to become a gritty person. What’s grit? A combination of unshakeable focus, long-term perseverance, and a never-give-up attitude. How to gain those? That’s the whole point of the book. Grit by Angela Duckworth is full of scientific studies and real-life examples from the lives of successful people who are at the very top of their field. All of those conducted to help you develop this life-changing personality trait called grit.
The Core Idea:
Humans default to laziness. In order to thrive, achieve academic excellence, become a world-class athlete, you need grit. Or in other words, to get comfortable with doing hard things. To be disciplined and to keep going even when things are falling apart.
- At some point, every task becomes at least a little boring. To keep going, you need enduring passion.
- Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing and to keep going despite the difficulties that will surely come along.
- Understanding what you want to get out of life is crucial. Make sure you spend enough time figuring this out.
5 Key Lessons from Grit:
Lesson #1: Talent is Only Part of The Success Equation, You Also Need To Put A Lot of Effort
Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.” Angela Duckworth
According to the author, to reach your goals you shouldn’t solely rely on talent. Talent, actually, can often misguide you and make you believe that you’re not good enough. That’s why people often abandon projects. “I’m not talented enough,” they say.
But talent is not the dominating factor when you’re trying to make something work, it’s effort.
Talent sounds sexy and a lot of people put it on a pedestal. They think that you need to be born with this gift in order to become a world-famous actor. But that’s not true. (Check my article on Talent vs Skill for more on this topic.)
Reaching greatness and being an Oscar-winning entertainer is a combination of the skills you have multiplied by the efforts you put in. The more you rely on the effort part, the more your skills will improve.
Eventually, if you do this for long enough, people will say you’re talented but you’ll know that’s not true. You were simply self-disciplined enough to get what you want from life.
Lesson #2: Enthusiasm is Common. Endurance is Rare
The 9 to 5 job market plummets because people all over the world are following their passion – or are at least trying to.
There are a number of online gurus that are heavily advertising the passion path. But becoming more resilient, gritty, and actually getting what you want out of life involves doing something additional.
That’s right. It’s enduring hard times. Staying committed to a task for a long period of time and consistently doing things that are a lot of times quite boring.
Passion is a strong sensation and it can surely get you moving, but to keep hustling, you need a large dose of stubbornness. That’s why the word grit is often explained as the combination of passion and perseverance. Your passion will inspire you and get you moving but only your perseverance will actually get you to where you want to be.
One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.” Angela Duckworth
Lesson #3: Doing Hard Tasks Will Help You Improve
Life nowadays is easy. You just flip your phone and you have yourself a meal. You don’t have to think about, “What should I cook for dinner?” We transition from hunter-gatherers to lazy consumers.
And this is noticeable in every aspect of our current existence.
For literally pennies, you can have your clothes cleaned, ironed, and delivered to your door. You don’t have to learn how to dry them, wash them, or sort them, you can hire people for that. Soon, also, we’ll probably rely on Google or Alexa to answer existential questions like, “What should I do with my life?”
Big corporations are doing everything possible to make our daily life easier – for cash of course. And while all these services free us some extra time to watch Netflix, if we settle for this easy way of living we’ll never learn how to handle emergency situations or make important decisions.
That’s why you need to do hard things, regularly. Remind yourself that life is not easy. Especially if you want to achieve something that can potentially outlive you.
So, try something new that feels uncomfortable. Expose yourself in front of others. Add a few more pounds the next time you’re going to the gym. Train harder. Work harder and keep pushing.
The harder you push, the better you’ll become.
As is often said, great things never came from comfort zones.
Lesson #4: Define Your Own Life Philosophy
What are you trying to get out of life? Or in other words, what’s your life philosophy?
You probably have goals, tasks, and you probably even know what you’re passionate about. But defining your life philosophy is something different.
A well-defined life philosophy gives you guidelines and sets some boundaries that will keep you on track. Consider it something like your personal rule book.
For instance, setting up a goal to earn one million dollars in cash sounds nice but it won’t help you much in your quest for financial independence.
In contrast, defining a philosophy to be a mindful spender and to work hard daily to keep moving forward regardless of the outside circumstances is what will navigate you when you’re facing difficult decisions.
After all, it’s a lot easier to make decisions if your philosophy is to track your spendings and make sure focus on your work than to simply have a goal of becoming a millionaire.
Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment.” Angela Duckworth
Lesson #5: Grit Paragons Have Four Psychological Assets In Common
Though growing grit in yourself can hardly be explained in a single book, not to mention a summary of that book, there are four things you need to consider doing if you want to increase your mental stamina and upgrade your level of persistence.
The following four:
- Interest: First comes interest. Stats show that people stay committed to tasks longer when they are interested in what they’re doing. So, to be grittier, you need to be passionate about something. You need to be intrigued. Interested in this thing. Your thing. Otherwise, you won’t be motivated enough to pursue it.
- Practice: Once we know what interests us, we need to roll up our sleeves and put in the work. This stage sifts through the amateurs, the fake wannabes, the online gurus who claim that they have it all figured out. If you want to truly master a field, you need to practice. There’s no shortcut. Also, practice is the thing that distinguishes gritty people from everyone else. Or as the author mentioned in the book, “… it seemed like the major advantage of grit was, simply, more time on task.”
- Purpose: For a lot of people, including myself, the word purpose feels like a spiritual place, a nirvana-like gizmo that only a selected few are able to use. But this is not exactly true. To understand it better, imagine purpose the following way: A north start that is guiding your decisions in life and motivating you to do things that are beneficial for others. If you don’t yet have one, ask yourself the following question: “How can I contribute to the well-being of others?”
- Hope: Life is a series of failures. No matter how strong and resilient you are, you’ll surely fail. That’s why we need doses of hope. Hope is the most important ingredient for grit because, without hope for a better tomorrow, you will never try again. You’ll never get up and do the hard stuff if deep down inside you don’t believe that things will get better. But here we’re not talking about simply hoping. We’re talking about believing that our own efforts can improve our future. In other words, to understand that there is a connection between your actions and what happens to you.
The above four can be seen in world-famous leaders, athletes, and entrepreneurs. Take your time to think about the qualities – if we can call them like that – and do all you can possibly can to add them to your life.
- Routines are friends: We’ll do everything humanly possible to avoid doing hard work. That’s normal human behavior – our body wants to save energy. But you can do something to boost your productivity with at least a little bit by doing the following: Designate a particular place in your home, office, or wherever, for work. When you work at the same time and at the same place every day, you won’t think about getting started. You’ll just do it when you’re there.
- Measure how gritty are you: If you’re not a gritty person, ask yourself why. Why you’re dropping the ball? Are you lazy? Do you think that what you’re doing isn’t worth it? Or do you believe that you’re not capable of proceeding because things are hard? A lot of times we abandon projects because they don’t seem important (weak purpose) and that’s ok. But when we leave them because we’re tired this means that we’re weak. Therefore, we need to gain strength by doing some hard things.
- The Hard Thing Rule: The Hard Thing Rule is a set of principles that can help you, and your family, to stay on track towards your goals. Here are the 3 rules: 1) Choose one hard thing that requires deliberate practice. 2) You can’t quit because you had a bad day. You must keep pushing and finish what you’ve started. 3) You pick your hard thing.
- How could the world be a better place? Thinking about this question more frequently will prompt us to take action and help make the world a better place. Yes, I just said that. It sounds really cheesy-ish but it’s worth thinking about. After all, change should start from somewhere.
- What’s your life philosophy? Your daily decision-making process will be a lot simpler if you have a clear vision of where you want to go and what type of life you want to live. Once you have it – the life philosophy I mean – you won’t have to ask yourself, “What I need to do” or waste time doing unimportant tasks. You’ll simply bring to mind your philosophy and make a decision based on that.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
The boring scientific definition of grit by the author, Angela Duckworth, is the following: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. But after reading the book I can say it’s more like this: the ability to endure the troubles coming along your lifelong goals. But since my aim is to summarize stuff I can pack it in this short statement: To pick goals and to finish them.
People are great at setting goals but suck when they have to finish what they’ve started. But exactly the latter is what distinguishes winners from losers.
The whole point of the book is to inspire you to take action.
By throwing the idea that talent is the key factor for achieving success in the trash, Angela Duckworth wants to explain that no one is born talented. Successful people were simply disciplined enough to pursue their dreams regardless of their misfortunes.
My main takeaway from the book Grit is the following: choose a task worth doing and keep getting better at it.
You need to learn that there’s a contingency between your actions and what happens to you: “If I do something, then something will happen.” Steve Maier
Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.” Angela Duckworth
My goal was to teach them discipline,” Grit said, “and to go at things hard like I learned to do. You have to learn those things. They don’t just happen. It was important to me to teach the kids to finish what you begin.” Angela Duckworth
It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things.” Angela Duckworth
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