Grit by Angela Duckworth

Grit

In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, athletes, students, and business people-both seasoned and new-that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit.” Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research o...

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Grit Reviews

  • Amy

    Saying, "I really wanted to like this book" would be an understatement. I started it expecting a 5-star read. I agreed with the premise and was eager to learn more. However, this book fell short for me. The first half read too much like a self-help book. "Be gritty! You'll be successful!" The second half had more of the academic analysis I craved but it still lacked the depth I was looking for. This might be a good intro for the importance of work ethic, follow through, and an internal locus of

    Saying, "I really wanted to like this book" would be an understatement. I started it expecting a 5-star read. I agreed with the premise and was eager to learn more. However, this book fell short for me. The first half read too much like a self-help book. "Be gritty! You'll be successful!" The second half had more of the academic analysis I craved but it still lacked the depth I was looking for. This might be a good intro for the importance of work ethic, follow through, and an internal locus of control, but it didn't expand beyond what I already knew. It added new stories and studies to my understanding but I still would have liked

    .

    I saw one review critique this book for focusing rather narrowly on

    success stories, a culture and environment that differs greatly from many parts of the world. After all, we call it "the American dream." I'd like to see this analyzed more. Does "grit" fit success in China or India or Ethiopia? Can you use grit to measure societies where people are struggling for clean drinking water or surviving civil war? What needs to be in place alongside grit for people to succeed? Opportunity? A free market? Something else? I'm genuinely curious about the broader, philosophical underpinnings of a society that fosters grit.

    Duckworth spends a long portion of the second half discussing how you can develop gritty kids. She focuses on the importance of extracurricular activities. She briefly references the

    in grit for students depending on their socioeconomic status. I would have liked more analysis of this because it was something I was struggling with throughout the entire discussion. It is one thing to tell parents to enroll their kids in ballet and soccer and piano, but all those things cost money. Unless you have two parents with full-time jobs and only one or two kids, affording the sort of extra-curricular activities she references is nearly impossible.

    These two areas are just examples of a broader analysis I want to see - how much is Duckworth's study of "grit" limited to a certain entitled, well-to-do section of modern American society? Is this study practical or necessary outside of a white-collar bubble? At any other point in history, would this emphasis on developing follow through seem ridiculous to people trying to make enough to survive?

    I do like the brief discussion on the importance of culture and gritty environments in sports and businesses. I would have liked more focus on this as well.

    This is a good book, but it is too general. I would like to see more details about the practicality of grit outside of the NFL and Ivy League schools. Is this useful outside of building up an otherwise entitled generation of American kids or helping business people “be gritty! Be successful!”?

  • Suzanne

    Disappointed to read this in the acknowledgments:

    "First and foremost, I want to thank my collaborators. I wrote this book in the first-person singular, using "I" when, in fact, pretty much everything I've done as a researcher or writer was accomplished by a plurality. The "we" who deserve credit -- in particular coauthors on published research -- are named individually in Notes. On their behalf, I extend a heartfelt thanks to our research teams who, collectively, made this research possible."

    Wow

    Disappointed to read this in the acknowledgments:

    "First and foremost, I want to thank my collaborators. I wrote this book in the first-person singular, using "I" when, in fact, pretty much everything I've done as a researcher or writer was accomplished by a plurality. The "we" who deserve credit -- in particular coauthors on published research -- are named individually in Notes. On their behalf, I extend a heartfelt thanks to our research teams who, collectively, made this research possible."

    Wow, way to bury the gratitude and acknowledgment of people who are your research coauthors!

    Also, looks like there are several challenges to the importance/influence of Grit. See this NPR story:

    According to that story, Duckworth is thinking about revising her "grit scale," specifically the questions around passion.

  • Andrew

    It was hard to pay attention to or stick with because most of the chapters seemed the same.

    But perhaps I haven't learned enough grittiness yet.

  • Diane

    What a fascinating book! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this research on how important effort and perseverance is in being successful. Duckworth calls this grit, and has tests for measuring how gritty a person is in his or her projects. Her findings are that "natural talent" is helpful, of course, but

    .

    I've heard about grit research in relation to education, and how grittier students tend to do better in school. But grit applies to more than just getting good grades or

    What a fascinating book! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this research on how important effort and perseverance is in being successful. Duckworth calls this grit, and has tests for measuring how gritty a person is in his or her projects. Her findings are that "natural talent" is helpful, of course, but

    .

    I've heard about grit research in relation to education, and how grittier students tend to do better in school. But grit applies to more than just getting good grades or how many degrees you can earn -- you can think about it in terms of whatever hobby or career you are passionate about.

    Duckworth also talks about gritty people feeling as if they have a core mission or purpose to their life, and I was inspired by this chapter to write my own mission, and it's positively affected how I think about my work. I highly recommend this book to those interested in education, psychology or personal growth.

    "You can grow your grit 'from the inside out': You can cultivate your interests. You can develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can learn to hope when all seems lost. 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."

  • Brandon

    Ultimately, there's not much new in this latest entry in the personal improvement genre. I had high hopes for this book, initially believing that it would have new (to me) insights along the lines of what I found in Carol Dweck's book "Mindset" and Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit." Sadly, this book falls quite flat with entirely too much repetition of a singular topic.

    If you want a tl;dr version of the book, it comes down to this: don't give up. When you are going through hell, keep going.

    Ultimately, there's not much new in this latest entry in the personal improvement genre. I had high hopes for this book, initially believing that it would have new (to me) insights along the lines of what I found in Carol Dweck's book "Mindset" and Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit." Sadly, this book falls quite flat with entirely too much repetition of a singular topic.

    If you want a tl;dr version of the book, it comes down to this: don't give up. When you are going through hell, keep going. If you quit, no one will care, and you will always know.

    Two of those quotes aren't mine. One is Churchill, the other is Cmdr. John Collins.

    Duckworth presents that as an individual, your future success is less gated by innate talent, and more reliant on your ability to see things through. She puts forth that for an individual to develop grit, they must endeavor to partake in an exercise in which they have interest, can practice, have passion, and hope of doing well.

    The singular idea of 'grit' is an interesting one to inspect, but this book ends up feeling like more of a pop psychology exercise in self reflection than anything truly profound. She's clearly very wise on her research, but if you are looking for something that is actionable and likely to cause you to change your behaviors, look elsewhere.

  • Jason

    This book may be the first to employ the humblebrag as a rhetorical device. Roughly: "My dad always told me I was no genius. Then I won a MacArthur Fellowship 'Genius Grant' on my research showing that hard work is more crucial to success than genius." It's a little boastful, as are the author's numerous references to her Ivy League education and her consultant work with McKinsey (who apparently only hire based on intellect) and, most of all, her namedropping, but it all works well in supporting

    This book may be the first to employ the humblebrag as a rhetorical device. Roughly: "My dad always told me I was no genius. Then I won a MacArthur Fellowship 'Genius Grant' on my research showing that hard work is more crucial to success than genius." It's a little boastful, as are the author's numerous references to her Ivy League education and her consultant work with McKinsey (who apparently only hire based on intellect) and, most of all, her namedropping, but it all works well in supporting her larger claims that talent is overrated, that fixed mindsets often result in complacency and/or learned helplessness, and that grit is something that can be acquired at any time by virtually anybody.

    In the process of developing these claims, Duckworth looks at grit-based success in the military, sports, the country of Finland, and, most of all, in the classroom. The best section of the book looks at graduation commencement speech tropes that encourage young people to "do what [they] love" rather than acknowledging that finding what one loves can be a long process. Her approach is anecdotal much like Malcolm Gladwell's in his various mononymous pop psychology works, and the results are similarly enjoyable. There's also useful advice for teachers and parents on how to encourage grit and growth mindsets in children although it does occasionally veer uncomfortably close to Tiger Mom authoritarianism (Note: I'm not referencing Duckworth's Chinese lineage here; she herself invokes Amy Chua at one point in the book).

    I do have one gripe with methodology, but I'll allow that this is likely addressed in Duckworth's more academic publications (I'm a lowly state university educated plebeian, after all). In summarizing her findings that predictions of academic success based on talent are less reliable than her own grit scale, she repeatedly uses high school grades and SAT scores to quantify talent, which again is less important to success than resilience and passion. I get it, but I'm not sure that grades and scores aren't themselves potentially measurements of grit rather than talent. Certainly, many people achieve high SAT and ACT scores and great GPAs after working hard, taking practice tests, meeting with private tutors, etc. There's nothing here explaining how this is reconciled, which to me leaves a bit of hole, but it doesn't diminish what is otherwise an informative and enjoyable book.

  • Elliot

    I've been a fan of Dr. Duckworth and her research since long before she became famous, so it's hard to overstate my disappointment with this title. The fundamental problem with the book is that instead of writing a popularization aimed at the intellectual/policy market, she decided to cash out with a different type of book aimed at the (larger) self-help/business market. The problem with this approach is that the self-help market doesn't want to learn about limits: they want the secret to succes

    I've been a fan of Dr. Duckworth and her research since long before she became famous, so it's hard to overstate my disappointment with this title. The fundamental problem with the book is that instead of writing a popularization aimed at the intellectual/policy market, she decided to cash out with a different type of book aimed at the (larger) self-help/business market. The problem with this approach is that the self-help market doesn't want to learn about limits: they want the secret to success. And so Duckworth ends up having to sell her "grit" mantra as the secret to success, with unlimited power to overcome all obstacles.

    At one point, Duckworth tells the story of a waitress who rolled up her sleeves and learned to work every job in the restaurant as needed and got promoted to general manager of the restaurant and now runs a Fortune 500 company. I can tell another story, where a waitress learned to work every job in the restaurant, but management gave the general manager job to the son of the regional vice president. Or the economy went south and the restaurant closed. Or she couldn't give the job anywhere near 100% because her child developed cancer. Or any of the multitude of shitty things that happen in life that are totally beyond any individual's control.

    There's no room for my waitress in Duckworth's universe. Duckworth silently defines her out of existence. But in the real world, there are a lot more copies of my waitress than of Duckworth's.

    Of course, Duckworth never outright *says* that grit has unlimited power to produce success, or that my waitress's failure to become a Fortune 500 CEO is her own fault. In fact, Duckworth explicitly denies it. But the book is written in such a way that grit without success is presented only as a theoretical possibility, to be noted and then ignored. The message ends up being that anyone can achieve unlimited success by demonstrating enough grit, and if it doesn't work then all you need to do is demonstrate even more grit. Which is exactly what the self-help/business audience wants to hear: people have unlimited power to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and the people who are at the top of society because they are just better people.

    The explicitly-denied-but-much-more-strongly-implied apologia for an imagined meritocracy is further underlined by her fawning portrayal of James Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase. Dimon's predictably self-serving claims about his management style and the corporate culture of JP Morgan Chase are taken at face value, with no interrogation at all.

    It's quite unfortunate that Duckworth decided to push the presentation of her research in this direction, because her actual research is very good and a popularization that presented her research in a balanced way could have been excellent.

  • Jennifer

    Professor and MacArthur Award winner Angela Duckworth has entered the "talent vs. effort" discussion with years of research showing that dedicated effort -- what she calls "grit"-- is far more important to success than any innate talent. While some agree (see books such as

    , and

    , among others) critics have both

    Professor and MacArthur Award winner Angela Duckworth has entered the "talent vs. effort" discussion with years of research showing that dedicated effort -- what she calls "grit"-- is far more important to success than any innate talent. While some agree (see books such as

    , and

    , among others) critics have both

    or dismissed it as nothing more than the sage old advice that's been around for ages: "Work hard and never give up."

    I found this book to be very engaging and inspiring, not only for my own aspirations but also in thinking about the values and skills I hope to instill in my children. Duckworth explains her research in easy-to-understand terms, and gives plenty of real world anecdotes and examples. While I find myself more in the camp that thinks that this research is likely just the next step of the age-old "work hard" advice, for me this book still served as a motivating rallying call to keep pushing on to reach my personal and professional goals.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Scriber for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Note: while I was provided a galley I chose to listen to the audio version of the book, which was excellent.

  • Winter Elegy

    I'm not giving this such a high rating because I'm totally sold on the premise or her research. Her theory has been challenged by other studies with equally intriguing findings which suggest that grit is not a trait that can be easily influenced because it's mostly determined by genetics while Duckworth claims that it's something that can be learned and trained. They also suggest there are so many more factors that influence someone's success while she chose to focus on this one specifically. He

    I'm not giving this such a high rating because I'm totally sold on the premise or her research. Her theory has been challenged by other studies with equally intriguing findings which suggest that grit is not a trait that can be easily influenced because it's mostly determined by genetics while Duckworth claims that it's something that can be learned and trained. They also suggest there are so many more factors that influence someone's success while she chose to focus on this one specifically. Her book is heavy with anecdotal evidence from successful people from the US, which is a first world country offering privileges some people can only dream of, so you could say her samples are pretty skewed because the people she mentions already have a head start even people that were initially underprivileged simply because they later have access to opportunities which in other places are basically nonexistent.

    However, I did find value in this book, I do feel more inspired and hopeful. It might be a placebo, but they have been shown to work, so at the end of the day, it doesn't matter that much to me. Having grown-up in an environment that placed so much emphasis on natural intelligence and talents, I was taught to always stick to what I'm immediately good at, avoid failure at all costs (because failure is something inherently bad) and other elements of a closed mindset. Based on my experience and that of the people around me, I realized this kind of thinking was detrimental to our development and throughout the years I've learned that people are so much more adaptable and can achieve so much more when they simply try harder and they believe they can make it, which is the opposite of what I've been taught to believe. Ironically, the easiest way to fail is to simply not try because you fear failure.

    I don't necessarily think that grit the is main/only reason behind someone's success (what I mean by success is the achievement of one's personal goals whatever these may be, I'm not talking about the standard version of success: money and fame) but I do think it helps a lot. It feels that it should be common sense that applying grit (a combination of passion and perseverance) can only bring someone a step closer to what to what they want to accomplish. And even if it turns out to be true, that grit is mostly determined by genes, how could it hurt to try improving it, even if just by a little. Life can be unpredictable, messy, unfair but to give up on improving as a person and improving the quality of your life just because you were handed a certain genetic makeup is just adding to the unfairness of it all. I wish I'd learned this earlier.

  • H.A. Leuschel

    What an inspiring and very well written book! Human beings love magic, the idea of a gift, natural talent and to be swept off their feet by a stunning piece of music or witnessing a person doing something no one has ever managed to do before. We like to believe that there is an innate natural gift that allows some people to stand out of the crowd. Yet, the author of this book suggests that she 'is yet to meet a Nobel laureate or Olympic champion who says that what they achieved came in any other

    What an inspiring and very well written book! Human beings love magic, the idea of a gift, natural talent and to be swept off their feet by a stunning piece of music or witnessing a person doing something no one has ever managed to do before. We like to believe that there is an innate natural gift that allows some people to stand out of the crowd. Yet, the author of this book suggests that she 'is yet to meet a Nobel laureate or Olympic champion who says that what they achieved came in any other way' ... than with being 'especially gritty'. Using a plethora of fascinating case studies, she concludes that 'as much as talent counts, effort counts twice'. This tells me that encouraging children and adults to be gritty, to follow their passion while embracing the fact that 'to be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight' is far more important than overemphasizing talent. Furthermore, perseverance is very much part of the path to reach a goal. She does not deny that natural talents exist but that at the end of the day, the aim is not to be the next Mozart, Dickens or Usain Bolt but rather to learn to put significant effort in what you like so that you reach your personal potential which is so much richer and wider than most of us believe.


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