Grit by Angela Duckworth

I would give this book a 9-10/10!

I got this book from the library because I saw that Emily Hayden had posted and commented a lot about it and how much it spoke to her and really highlighted her passion and perseverance toward her goals.

I have not been keeping up with reading as many nonfictional books as I would like so I marched myself to the library and…put this book on hold. Apparently it is a popular one!

I finally got it and immediately dove in. What I like about this book is that it is a very easy read and is not like a lot of the other self improvement books I have read that list and explain tip after tip or behaviour change to make, etc. Rather, this book is full of real world examples that all tie into the overall theme of Grit.

It was not as simple to weed out the main points as they are not all bold and underlined as in other books, but I think I have done a decent job of it so here are my key takeaways that I think anyone could benefit from:

Ch.1 – Showing Up

  • Highly successful people have a kind of determination that has 2 components: 1) They are resilient and hardworking and 2) They know what they want
    • Determination + Direction
    • Passion + Perseverance
  • Potential is only part of the equation – it is what we do with it that really matters

Ch.2 – Distracted by Talent

  • People often live far within their limits and below their maximum potential
  • There is this cultural obsession with “talent” and acknowledgment of “natural talent” over hard work/effort – we seem to place more importance on talent even though it does not predict who succeeds the most
    • The “naturalness bias” is a hidden prejudice against those who have achieved what they have because they worked for it, and a hidden preference for those who are naturally talented
  • The biggest risk with the preoccupation with talent is that we send the message that other factors (i.e. effort/grit) don’t matter as much as they really do

Ch.3 – Effort Counts Twice

  • When we cannot easily see how experience/training got someone to their level of excellence that is beyond the norm we label them as “natural”
    • This way we do not have to consider the fact that maybe they did work this hard because that could lead to comparing ourselves to that person and we risk feeling bad about ourselves
    • Saying they are a “natural” is an excuse for our own lacking/laziness/lack of effort
  • Talent + Effort = Skill
  • Skill + Effort = Achievement
  • Talent: how quickly skills improve when you invest effort
  • Achievement: what happens when you take acquired skills and use them
  • Talent does matter but effort builds skill and makes skills productive -> Effort counts twice
  • What matters is not just actions of one day, but the effort we put day after day after day (this is grit)
  • Without effort, talent is unmet potential
  • Without effort, skill is what you could have done but didn’t
  • With effort, talent becomes skill and makes skill productive

Ch.4 – How Gritty Are You?

  • p.55 – a Grit Scale that measures your passion and perseverance and gives a Grit Score of 1-5
    • Your score is a reflection of how you see yourself right now – this can change with time
  • Grit has 2 parts: Passion and Perseverance
  • Passion does not equate with intensity – rather, it is how consistent you are over time
  • Envision your goals in a hierarchy with a Top-Level Goal that is your ultimate goal and form there, a few Mid-Level goals and each one with various Low-Level goals
    • These low level goals feed into the mid-level, which all work towards your highest goals
    • It is okay to have flexibility in your Low-level goals; they can change and be modified as you learn what works and does not
    • Top-level goals do not change and you do not give up on them
  • Passion = caring about the same ultimate goal in a steady/loyal way
    • Working toward a definite goal and tendency not to abandon tasks and not “looking for a change”
    • It is what guides you on your path to where you ultimately want to be – it takes time to build and finally get right
  • Perseverance: Strength of will, stick to a decided course, don’t abandon tasks because of obstacles
  • Grit = Holding the same Top-Level goal for a long time and all Mid and Low-Level goals some way relate to that ultimate goal
  • It is okay to have a couple ultimate goals (i.e. one for profession/career, one for personal life, but not to have multiple for career)

Ch.5 – Grit Grows

  • Traits (e.g. honesty, generosity, grit) are influenced by genetics and environment/experience – nature and nurture matter
  • The rate at which we develop skills is also a function of experience and genetics
  • Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that we should abandon and high-level goals that are worth the trials and tribulations and demand perseverance
    • We develop the capacity for long term passion and perseverance as we get older
  • Personality change is often a function of life experience – our personality may change as we learn something we did not know before that affects our goals/pursuits/values/etc.
  • As we age our circumstances change too – we are put into new situations and these may require us to act differently than we used to – we adapt and change as we need to by necessity
  • The Maturity Principle: over time we learn life lessons that stick with us and we adapt in response to the demands of our circumstances. Eventually these new ways of thinking become habitual; we adapt and these adaptions become our identity – we have matured and evolved and changed as a person
  • 4 Stages/Aspects of Grit:
    • 1) Interest – passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do
    • 2) Practice – daily practice is a form of perseverance; the desire to be better than you were yesterday. It is personal devotion and to do whatever it takes
    • 3) Purpose – the belief that it matters to yourself and others
    • 4) Hope – hope defines all stages of grit – you must learn to keep going when things are difficult

Part II: Growing Grit from the Inside Out

Ch.6 – Interest

  • People are much more satisfied with their jobs when it fits their interests and people perform better at work when it interests them
    • But worldwide, only 13% of adults say they are “engaged” at work!
  • Most people with grit spend years exploring many options and interests before they figure out what it is that ultimately is their passion – it does not always appear like a light switch from a young age
    • You don’t always know what you want to be when you grow up – you need to experiment and try many things before you figure it out
  • Passion for work is discovery, development and then deepening of your interest
    • Discovery: cannot predict what will capture your attention and cannot force an interest upon self (or others!)
      • Encouragement is important here from others as well as a sense of autonomy/freedom to make own decisions about interests/figure out what enjoy
    • Development: once you discover your interest, you need to practice again and again and ensure you are constantly encountering this interest
      • Keep asking questions, find a mentor
    • Deepening: having a good support network of people who encourage you to continue to pursue your interest further
      • You become more of a SME
  • If do not know your passion, start with discovery – ask self: What do I like to think about? Where does my mind wander? What do I care about? What matters most to me? How do I like to spend my time? What do I find miserable?
    • Once you have an idea, you need to actually start doing things that are in line with what you think your interests are
    • It is okay to try things and discover you don’t like them – that is part of discovery!

Ch. 7 – Practice

  • Kaizen: Japanese for “continuous improvement” – the persistent desire to do better; a positive state of mind and always looking forward and wanting to grow
  • Deliberate Practice (Ericsson): how experts practice – set a stretch goal (one aspect of overall performance) and then strive to improve specific weaknesses and reach the stretch goal
    • Seek constant feedback and use negative feedback to make more progress/get better/try again
    • Once reach stretch goal, they set a new one and start over
    • Requires a lot of effort and can be exhausting but leads to ultimate goal
    • Can only handle so much each day
    • Carefully planned
    • Challenge exceeds skill
    • Goal is to improve a skill
    • For preparation
    • Can be enjoyable i.e. the thrill of getting better
  • Flow (Csikzentmihalyi): a state of complete concentration that leads to top level performance but feels effortless
    • Challenge and skill are in balance
    • Highly intrinsically enjoyable
    • Not trying to improve your skill, just doing it
    • Feel like in complete control/in the zone
    • For performance
    • The thrill of performing at your best
  • Gritty people do more deliberate practice and also experience more flow
  • For gritty people, the deliberate practice is also rated as more enjoyable and more effortful – so they work harder but also enjoy the hard work more
  • Subjective experience of effort (what it feels like to work hard) can change i.e. when effort is rewarded
  • How to get the most out of deliberate practice:
    • Know the Science – have a clear stretch goal, full concentration/effort, immediate/informative feedback, repetition, reflection, refinement
    • Make it a Habit – do deliberate practice in the same way/place/time each day until it becomes a routine
    • Change how your Experience it – learn to embrace the challenge; self-awareness without judgment

Ch. 8 – Purpose

  • Purpose: the intention to contribute to the well-being of others; take your passion and combine it with an other-centered purpose
    • When what we do makes a difference to other people, not just ourselves
  • There still needs to be a level of self-centered pleasure, but gritty people are much more motivated to also have a purposeful, other-centered life
  • It doesn’t matter what the actual job is; it is the subjective experience and how the role is viewed that determines if it is job, career or calling (purpose)
    • Any occupation can be a calling
    • If the person feels and believes that their role is helping the well-being of others it can be a calling, regardless of the work they are doing
  • Can progress from feeling like you are in a job, to a career, to a calling
  • Need to enjoy the work and want to help others in order to be motivated to work hard/put in effort
    • Not enough to just want to help others – need to have intrinsic motivation and enjoy it as well
  • To develop Purpose from nothing:
    • Have an interest in something
    • Observe someone who is purposeful (role model) and demonstrates working for the well-being of others; demonstrating the trials and tribulations and obstacles as well as how ultimately fulfilling it can be
    • Revelation follows where the person discovers a problem the world needs solving
    • Second revelation that you can do something to make a difference
  • To cultivate Purpose from what you already do:
    • Reflect on how your work can make a positive impact on society; how it can contribute
    • Think about how you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values
    • Find inspiration in a purposeful role model

Ch.9 – Hope

  • Hope in terms of grit requires the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future – that we have control and will make things happen
    • Different from hope that is just praying that things will workout/be better/etc.
  • Helplessness/hopelessness does not just occur from suffering; Learned helplessness can occur when suffering happens over and over and there is nothing you can do to overcome/get out of it – no control is the key factor
    • But not all people fall into learned helplessness
  • Learned Optimism – despite suffering, even repeatedly, some will keep trying to get through it
    • Will not quit with adversity
  • Pessimists: explain negative situations in permanent terms that are pervasive e.g. I am a screw up -> lasts forever and influences many aspects of life
    • vs Optimists: explain negative situations in temporary and specific terms e.g. I mismanaged my time -> this is specific to this situation and does not speak to future behaviour and therefore it is something you can fix
  • Pessimists more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety
  • Subjective interpretation of situations/events is what leads to our feelings/behaviour (not the objective event itself) – therefore how you view yourself and the situation matters more
  • CBT: helps people think more objectively about events to help manage the negative self talk – observe your negative thoughts, evaluate the truth of them, actively change your thoughts to more positive, realistic thoughts and behaviours
  • Growth Mindset: the belief that we can change (gritty people); optimists; when you have failures, need to analyze them and learn from them and grow
    • Perseverance and seek new challenges
  • Fixed Mindset: believe that you can learn new skills but your capacity to learn new skills (talent) is limited
    • Pessimistic explanations of adversity and so give up on challenges and avoid them
  • E.g. Fixed: “You’re a natural!” vs. Growth: “You’re a learner!”
  • Most people have both fixed and growth mindsets – need to become aware of these thoughts when they occur and how our thoughts and behaviours align or are misaligned
  • Not as simple as talking someone into a growth mindset; need to rewire their brain and this will only happen if they are experiencing mastery/success at the same time as adversity
  • Trauma without control can lead to helplessness; can avoid this with some control or some success at the same time
  • Also not good to never face adversity otherwise will not learn to grow and will not learn the value of growth mindset – need to fail and get up again to develop a growth mindset
  • Teach yourself Hope/Growth Mindset:
    • Update your beliefs about IQ and talent
    • Practice optimistic self-talk (resilience training)
    • Ask for help

Part III: Growing Grit From the Inside

Ch.10 – Parenting for Growth

  • Parents who exemplify grit and have high expectations of their kids raise gritty kids
  • Not only parents – teachers have the same effect; as can mentors, etc.
  • Teach kids to finish what they start while being supportive and aware of their limitations and emotional needs
    • Selfless tough love; only their kids best interests at heart
  • “Tough love” is both supportive and demanding and puts the child’s interests first (child-centered)
  • 4 Styles of Parenting:
    • Permissive – Supportive and Undemanding
    • Neglectful – Unsupportive and Undemanding
    • Authoritarian – Unsupportive and Demanding
    • Wise (Authoritative) – Supportive and Demanding
      • Accurate judges of the psychological needs of their kids; provide love, limits and expectations
      • Supportive, respectful, high standards encourage kids to emulate their parents (vs. imitate)
  • The message kids receive is more important than the message parents aim to deliver – what matters more is the perception by the child and how they view the situation/comment/etc.
  • Just being a psychologically wise parents does not mean you will raise gritty kids – you have to model grittiness as well – need to be supportive, demanding AND show passion and perseverance in life endeavours
  • This is paralleled with teachers – they can have the same effect as parents on the kids they teach

Ch.11 – The Playing Fields of Grit

  • 2 features of activities/clubs/teams/etc. that act to increase and improve grit in others:
    • Adult in charge (not parent) who is supportive and demanding
    • Activities designed to cultivate interest, practice, purpose and hope
  • Kids who are more involved in extracurriculars do better on all metrics (grades, self-esteem, etc.)
    • Act to improve grit but only if done for more than one year (quitting multiple things within the 1 year mark does not improve grit)
    • This “follow-through” is necessary
  • Following through on commitments requires grit and also builds it
  • Corresponsive Principle: The very traits that push us toward certain situations are the same traits that those situations encourage/reinforce/build
    • This is the cycle of having grit so following through with hard tasks to build more grit, etc.
  • Learned Industriousness: Association between working hard and reward can be learned and if we do not experience the connection between effort and reward we become lazy

Ch. 12 – A Culture of Grit

  • The drive to conform and fit into a group is powerful – often without conscious awareness, people will fall in line with a group that acts/thinks a certain way
    • Therefore it is important to be part of groups of people who exemplify grit!

Ch. 13 – Conclusion

  • You can grow your grit
    • From the inside: Cultivate your interests, develop a habit of daily practice, connect work to a purpose beyond yourself, learn to hope when it gets hard
    • From the outside: Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, etc. can help you develop your grit
  • Happiness matters as well as success
    • Grittier people are more emotionally healthy
  • It is okay to quit an activity to choose another so long as it still relates to your ultimate goal
    • You may miss opportunities if you refuse to quit anything
  • Grit is not everything – also need other aspects of character that are grouped into three clusters:
    • Intrapersonal: grit and self-control, “performance character”, “self-management skills”
    • Interpersonal: gratitude, social IQ, self-control over emotions i.e. anger; help you get along with others; “moral character”
    • Intellectual: curiosity and zest; encourage engagement with world
  • All three clusters are important for different areas of life


Overall I absolutely loved this book. I just reread these notes and again I was filled with a sense of hope and purpose and determination. I may not be the grittiest person out there but I know what I need to do to become more of one. I don’t know that I have necessarily found my passion yet but I am working towards figuring it out and that is the first step. I do have perseverance for whatever I set my mind to and I think that that is definitely positive. While being almost 30 and not really knowing my ultimate passion can make me nervous…I cannot overthink or harp on that. That won’t get me anywhere. What I need to do is start experimenting with different things, learning more, and developing my interests over and over until I have found my passion.

I hope these notes have motivated you to become more of a gritty person. Or at least to pick up the book to read it for yourself!




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