Grit (a book review)
Have you read the book ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ by behavioral psychologist and 2013 MacArthur Fellowship winner Angel Duckworth? It’s worth your time.
As you know, this blog is about how to recognize the intangible traits that predict founder success, so obviously behavioral psychology is an important source of theory and study.
The two big ideas in this book are that grit predicts success more reliably than talent or I.Q. and that anyone, man or woman, adult or child, can learn to be gritty.
As I read the book it occurred to me that it serves as a way of framing things I have heard before. For example, Thomas Edison said that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Malcolm Gladwell, a personal favorite, says it takes 10,000-hours to become great at something. Woody Allen says that 80% of life is showing up. Each thought here is about perseverance. Angela Duckworth calls this type of perseverance “grit.”
The book lays out how she measures grit and then how her research correlates the grit measurements to success. The book has received a lot of attention and commentary, and the reason, I think, is that she pushes the discussion further with a little more scientific rigor than most others. Although to be fair she is not the first to study perseverance. Anyone can go online and measure themselves on the 'grit scale'. They can compare themselves to others that have been successful.
The book explores the fact that some of us are able to persevere in the face of adversity, while others with the same talent and same goals, just don’t. Grit makes clear that talent exists (defining talent as the rate in which a person learns with effort), but argues "a focus on talent distracts us from something that is at least as important, and that is effort". While not strictly measureable, the book lays out an interesting hypothesis:
Given: Talent + Effort = Skill
Given: Skill + Effort = Achievement
Therefor: Talent + Effort squared = Achievement
In addition, the book contains interesting anecdotes about successful people and the grit they have demonstrated. These are patterns that can be helpful in determining the grit in others. The book also discusses the importance of cultivating other character strengths (e.g., humility, social intelligence, kindness, etc.) for success in life.
I’d say the author has created a nice blueprint for identifying life goals and how to achieve them.