Book Review: Grit by Angela Duckworth

08 February 2018

When I read, I dog-ear pages that I want to revisit later. These could be quotes, ideas or experiments, and make up the key ideas that I want to retain. I started Grit by Angela Duckworth about two weeks ago, and this is one of those books where you want to keep going through the book because it’s so good, but also want to go back to re-read and savor each section, because it’s so relatable.

So, as usual, I started dog-earing the pages I wanted to revisit later. Two weeks on, I can quite confidently say that I have never ended with as many marked pages in any other book I’ve ever read. ‘Grit’ is required reading for anyone, in any field, in any part of their life – from managers, to athletes, to parents, to students. Angela Duckworth has explored concepts in this book that are well-known, but little thought of. What grit means, how it applies, how to develop it within yourself and others…the takeaways are just fantastic.

Here are my top three takeaways:

Takeaway One:

Talent x Effort = Skill;

Skill x Effort = Achievement

Having a talent at something is great, but it’s not predictable nor acquirable. I can not now get the talent in something I wasn’t born with. But that’s okay – everyone is talented at something, so we’d even out. The difference comes in the effort applied, and effort counts twice. Turning a talent into a skill takes magnificent effort, particularly as the world gets smaller and more competitive. But we don’t live in a world where pure skill is applauded; rather, we reward outcomes. This is where effort counts again. It is the continuous, unrelenting, uncompromising application of skill that produces world-class outcomes.

Question: What are my talents, and how am I working to develop them further? With this skill set, what are my big goals that I am aiming towards?


Takeaway Two:

Practicing something to get better at it is good; knowing the elements that supercharge skill through practice is great. There are three elements to ‘deliberate practice’:

– The science behind practice: This is made up of (a) having a clearly defined stretch goal, (b)full concentration and effort, (c) immediate and informative feedback, and (d) repetition with reflection and refinement.

– Making practice a habit: creating a schedule around practice that will make it automatic for your body and mind to get into the practice zone.

– Develop a “that was hard. It was great!” mindset about practice and the inevitable mistakes you will make. It’s ok to not be perfect at it at the start…else there would not be a need to practice. Stick at it, see it through, and relish the difficulty.

Question: What is my ‘stretch goal’ for the thing(s) I am practicing, and how am I making my practice ‘deliberate’?


Takeaway Three:

“Compete” has nothing to do with a one-winner-one-loser outcome. The word is derived from Latin, and means to “strive together”. Competing is about excellence, about continually striving to improve, to be better today than I was yesterday. The whole purpose of ‘competition’ is to be in a field with someone who will push me to work harder, stretch myself and show me my weaknesses.

Question: how am I competing in the area of my practice, and how am I measuring my own improvement and growth?

Angela draws on years of research, dozens of studies, and hundreds of conversations and observations. The sheer amount of grit displayed by her in the creation of this work is remarkable. Get a copy (and read it!), you will be glad you did.