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Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

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In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, 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 on grit, Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not genius, but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own character lab and set out to test her theory.

Here, she takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she's learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers; from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that not talent or luck makes all the difference.

9 pages, Audiobook

First published May 3, 2016

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About the author

Angela Duckworth

11 books2,382 followers
Angela Duckworth, PhD, is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. An expert in non-I.Q. competencies, she has advised the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs. Prior to her career in research, she taught children math and science and was the founder of a summer school for low-income children that won the Better Government Award from the state of Massachusetts. She completed her BA in neurobiology at Harvard, her MSc in neuroscience at Oxford, and her PhD in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. More recently, she founded Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help kids thrive. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is her first book.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,323 reviews
4 reviews17 followers
May 30, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Andrew.
573 reviews166 followers
March 13, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
May 14, 2019
I remember when I started writing my PhD thesis. I had this vague idea of being a fraud, as I knew I wasn't a genius, and I believed that to achieve academic excellence, you needed to be one.

There were many other students who seemed endlessly more talented than I was, who were creative and came up with brilliant suggestions. To top it all off, they had all the time in the world whereas I juggled being a mum of babies and toddlers and doing the research at the same time.

And yet, I finished my thesis. Many others did not. Back then I was astounded, as it seemed such an odd contradiction. Why had they not persevered, when they so obviously had all the talent and time in the world? And why had I done it eventually, despite banging my head against the wall many, many times, and despite thinking that the thesis itself was a product of multiple mistakes that I took the effort to correct as best I could?

With hindsight, a decade and a half later, and well into another career as a teacher of adolescents and a mother of teenagers, I believe what I developed back then was a good dose of grit, that stuff that makes you reach your potential because you make sure to keep the engine going.

Angela Duckworth' book is both enlightening and readable, and it may guide parents, teachers, coaches, leaders towards building a culture of believing in a growth mindset in Carol Dweck's definition. What it takes to be successful is a combination of four quite straight forward things:

Discover Your Passion - it all starts with interest!

Deliberate Practice - it is not only the quantity of the time you are willing to spend on a topic, but also the quality of that time that counts a thousandfold!

Purpose - we're humans, we want meaning in our lives, and we want to believe that what we do makes a difference, to ourselves and to those we care about!

Hope - we have to be able to imagine a positive outcome, no matter how often we fail to achieve it. If we can't see a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, we won't move forwards.

Grit is about combining those things, setting an overarching goal that creates meaning for us, and being able to follow through with it, no matter what. It is about having priorities and being honest and self-reflective. It is about valuing life enough to want to make the most of it.

It's teaching and parenting in a nutshell!
Profile Image for Brandon.
158 reviews44 followers
May 10, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Jason.
Author 19 books65 followers
October 5, 2021
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 work with McKinsey & Company (the Petyr Baelish of consulting firms 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.
Profile Image for Rayhan Momin.
7 reviews6 followers
February 1, 2017
Trivial and littered with shameless self-promotion and self-adulation. Duckworth isn't so much a grit paragon as she is a paragon of privilege. There are painful moments where she pays lip-service to socioeconomic and racial diversity issues that clearly interfere with her measurements of 'grit', as she narrowly defines it. People may find her book and research inspiring because it draws you away from fixating on talent as the key determinant of success. However, both her analysis of success and prescription to be grittier is incomplete. Grit can manifest in many ways that do not show up in neither occupational achievement, or her favored measurements of it. I would hazard to guess that a large portion of the population must be necessarily gritty in order just to survive. For the privileged (likely most of her readership), her research could make sense, but for many others, her recommendations will come across as disingenuous.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
221 reviews36.1k followers
October 11, 2016
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: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/0...

According to that story, Duckworth is thinking about revising her "grit scale," specifically the questions around passion.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,628 reviews414 followers
April 27, 2017
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 more.
I saw one review critique this book for focusing rather narrowly on American 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 gap 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!”?
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,718 followers
April 6, 2017
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 effort matters more.

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.

Favorite Quote
"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."
Profile Image for Sarah.
685 reviews158 followers
February 4, 2020
I'm quitting. I think I had 4 chapters left. I read this for a work book club.

The good: It's easy to read and has some great examples of grit.

The bad: The whole concept of the book can be summed up in literally one sentence: "Success is not dependent on talent, but on the combination of a effort and perseverance, dubbed by Duckworth as Grit." That idea or some variation is repeated ad nauseam over the course of 277 pages and I just really can't take anymore. This doesn't need a whole book dedicated to it. I'm annoyed.

She also never bothers to define success or what it means for the average Joe or Jane. She gives great examples of Jeff Bezos, Presidents and CEOs of huge companies, olympic athletes.

I mean- is this the only way we are defining success? What does grit and the resulting success look like for me? Examples that didn't seem so unattainable would have been nice and made the book more relatable. Maybe she gets to that point in a later chapter. I don't know. I don't really care anymore. Some of us don't live to work. We work to live.

Duckworth also doesn't really bother to comment on how some degree of luck factors into the whole thing. The Cinnabon girl - great she learned all the jobs at Hooters and went on to become VP. I learned all the jobs there were to learn at a company, trained countless employees, and it never resulted in more than a pat on the back. Sorry. It isn't only about grit.

She also uses some examples of academics, studies done on school age children and such. Academics is the wrong way to measure this success. Plenty of people become successful who did terrible in high school or dropped out of college (granted, this is not the norm). Academics is just not a good factor for determining success. Myself, I did great in school, and I did it with what felt like little effort on my part. It just wasn't difficult for me. Grades are also therefore, a terrible indicator of grit in general.

This book reaffirmed for me why I don't want to be bothered with non-fiction. Most of what needed to be said I could have read in an article which would have been less time consuming. Bleh. I'm happy to be done with this.
Profile Image for Sanjay Gautam.
233 reviews443 followers
July 2, 2021

I do not, usually, leave a book in the middle and stop reading. However, I had to break this rule for this one.

This book is nothing but a typical self help filler, sometimes interspersed with some information, if any. Writing is on the level zero. I was getting annoyed whenever I was reading it because each chapter could have been written in one page. It was like you went to mine gold but you found for every 100k tons of dirt removed you hardly procured 1 gram of gold.

Not recommended.
Profile Image for Dragos Pătraru.
51 reviews2,732 followers
August 25, 2019
Scop cu sens, tati, asta este cheia. Iar pentru a-ți realiza scopul cu sens, e nevoie de pasiune și de perseverență. Da, fără muncă pe care s-o iubești cu fiecare fibră a corpului - chiar și atunci când ești pe punctul de a renunța sau poate mai ales atunci - nu se poate face nimic. Aș fi vrut să-mi spună cineva asta la 5, la 10, la 15 ani. Am aflat-o singur, am simțit-o și-am crescut-o în mine, am educat-o și-am cultivat-o citind și vorbind despre asta cu oameni mai învățați decât mine și pot spune, acum, la 42 de ani, după lucrurile pe care le-am realizat, că proverbul ăla japonez care apare în cartea Angelei Duckworth de mai multe ori, să cazi de șapte ori și să te ridici de 8, trebuie scris undeva deasupra patului, să-l vezi în fiecare seară când mergi la somn și-n fiecare dimineață când te trezești. Testul Grit e foarte util, vreau să îl de acum persoanelor cu care vreau să lucrez, de pildă eu mă consider o persoană cu mai mult grit decât am ieșit la acest test (sigur, poate fi trișat ușor, dar aici e vorba de a fi sincer față de tine).
Fericirea mea este sentimentul de utilitate. Scopul meu cu sens este să-mi folosesc priceperea pentru a crea lucruri care să-i ajute pe oameni să evolueze. În curând, voi deschide Școala nației, al cărei scop cu sens este să facă educația de înaltă calitate accesibilă tuturor. Scopul tău cu sens care este?
Profile Image for Acordul Fin.
486 reviews181 followers
June 16, 2019
“There’s a vast amount of research on what happens when we believe a student is especially talented. We begin to lavish extra attention on them and hold them to higher expectations. We expect them to excel, and that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
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 a lot of value in this book, I do feel more inspired and hopeful. It might be a placebo, but 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 (read as perseverance when odds seem to be against you) 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.
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,645 reviews383 followers
September 7, 2020
Honestly, I hoped for more.

I picked this book up thinking it would be inspiring; that it would motivate me to find my own grit and understand new ideas about how resilience plays a role in becoming a more successful person.

Then I read This Review and began to worry. I hoped I would interpret this book differently, find some kernel to hold onto that would make this a worthy read. Unfortunately, Andy has pretty much nailed it.

So much of this book seems obvious, and so many times it felt like the author was reaching. Like she's been comissioned to write this book so now not only does she have to come up with unique, fascinating concepts but there's also a decent word count to meet. I just got so bored with it.

Here's the breakdown:
- Hard work and determination outweigh talent when it comes to succeeding
- Hard work is more likely to occur when there is interest in the work
- The work is more likely to be interesting if you feel it has purpose
- If you feel your work has purpose you're much more likely to stick at it

Then there are countless anecdotes about successful people working hard with purpose.

I enjoyed the 'Grit' questionairre, but it's vague and misleading; the first time I did it, I considered the questions generally. My grit score is quite low, because I'm one of those people who drifts from one interest to another. I don't stick with something that bores me, or makes me unhappy. I did it a second time, however, considering the questions in relation to something I am passionate about, and I got a much higher result. So yes, that pretty much confirms the notion that you have more grit if you care about something. But at the same time, so much of the book is about the vague idea of people being 'gritty' without properly considering these multifaceted depths of grittiness.

I agree with most of what is here, but so much is supposition and assumption. The author seems to talk more about her ideas than actual evidence. 'We did this study, and I don't really know why this is the result, but I would guess it's because ...' So even the research is inconclusive, even if highly suggestive.

She also talks a lot about herself? Which honestly came across as more arrogant than helpful.

I have a friend who is a brilliant artist. Once, while looking at some of his work, I said, 'Man, I wish I had half your talent!'

His response? That by envying his talent, I was minimising all of the hard work he'd put into mastering his craft.

For me, that single comment from my friend told me everything this book spent 400-odd pages trying to tell me. I still think about it when I find myself envying the success of others, or wanting my own success.

The takeaway: As much as we admire talent, and fantasise about having it ourselves, to truly be successful in something we need to work at it. By seeing the result of someone's hard work as 'talent', we're excusing ourselves from having to put in the same kind of effort. If you want something bad enough, you'll put in the work. If you don't want to put in the work, you don't want it enough.

I think this book should have been less about how important grit is, and more about how one can find their own grit. It discusses it vaguely, but it seems purposeless instead of motivational; aimless instead of focused. It's crowded with the success stories of others, but the message never changes: determination to succeed is more important than having a talent for it.

It's certainly got some good ideas and will serve as a great awakening for some - this may be the book you need to motivate you to start structuring your life in terms of goals that will lead to your ultimate success. It might encourage you to stop thinking ideally and start thinking practically. It might reveal to you what you ARE passionate about, and what you AREN'T. But it's ultimately a book of ideas, and you're going to have to do a lot of hard work by yourself.

Here's how I think of Grit:
Say you're reading a book and you find it's not really your cup of tea. It's dull, with lifeless characters, and it's riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. It's mostly a chore to read. By the time you finish it, you're exhausted and regret the hours you wasted on it.
Then you pick up a book that has everything you love - brilliant writing, interesting plot, great characters ... you find yourself unable to put it down and when you finish you feel satisfied and happy you chose to read it.

Don't berate yourself for not having grit - you do. You just need to find the passion that unlocks it.
Profile Image for H.A. Leuschel.
Author 5 books255 followers
September 10, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Chadi Raheb.
335 reviews352 followers
July 25, 2019
I know! I know! I know! I got that! Talent is not everything! Yeah we got that! Gosh!
Why would she repeat each point like million times through millions of pages?!

Briefly: Don't just rely on your talent if you consider yourself smart! Because there's somebody out there who is less talented than you, but working his ass off, and while you're busy procrastinating, thinking there's still time, that person would surpass. So make that damn plan & get it done!

P.S. These authors have to learn how to write short & specific. Even a 100-page would be too much & a waste of time! We don't need to just read for days; we need to act quickly!

Profile Image for Sasha Nelson.
243 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2019
I have so many issues with this book I hardly know where to begin, but I will do my best to summarize my main concerns, and limit myself to 5. The first being, it took a lot of grit for me to get through this. I am glad to hear that much of the research in Duckworth's work is now being questioned.

I became interested in Duckworth because she is often quoted on Freakonomics and other podcasts I enjoy, and I frequently found her comments to be insightful. After reading this book, I am fairly convinced that her research is far from innovative and rigorous and proves little of what we don't already intuitively know: working harder can help you get ahead. I have been seething throughout this excruciatingly boring Audiobook, and am just glad I got it from the library instead of paying for it. Here goes:

Concern #1: (as mentioned above), almost impossible do get through. Repetitive, hardly distinguishable chapters with very little practical information. Lots of corporate speak fillers for punch lines. Just not very well written.

Concern #2: Obsession with famous leaders/programs and all things deemed "highly successful" without scrutiny. Duckworth falls pretty squarely into the camp of people who are fascinated by the rich and the famous. From Jamie Dimon to Jeff Bezos, she loves them all and sees them as paragons of grit. Duckworth doesn't seem at all interested in the grit it takes to say, be a single mom and work 3 jobs to put your kids through school. Why study the grit of regular people who do difficult things every day when you can focus on celebrities, and such uncontroversial ones at that? This drove me absolutely nuts, especially since unlike say Malcom Gladwell, who at least acknowledges in Outliers that such high levels of success are usually a result of circumstances and luck, not just bare-knuckle focus, Duckworth sees no other factors to success other than grit.

Concern #3: Self-aggrandizing. Duckworth won't miss a chance to remind you that her life goal is more noble than yours: she wants to help kids learn and succeed. This is hard to buy especially given the self-help nature of this book - I don't think there are many tangible things in here for kids short of, "you should work really really hard". Moreover, she loves Teach for America and the KIPP schools, praising them unequivocally without acknowledging any of the controversies or criticisms around them. Her top level priority came away feeling as disingenuous.

which leads me to a big one...

Concern #4: Passion-talk. This is an issue I have spent so much time thinking about that it was almost impossible for me to get through the sections of the book that focused on passion. Duckworth claims that the grit she is talking about/trying to measure is distinguished by "passion." *Spoiler alert* "people who are passionate at what they do enjoy their work more than those who aren't." This is all amazingly new and innovative, except for the fact this kind of thinking, in my opinion, is incredibly narrow and sets people up for failure. First, not everyone has a "passion" and that's ok. Second, not everyone's "passion" a career makes. Third, not all people want/need their "passion" to be their career. Duckworth's central tenant, seemingly, is that the best outcome is if your job is your passion so you can happily work 24/7, family, responsibilities, and all else be damned. I emphatically disagree. Having your passion be your work, for many is an extreme privilege. Many passions don't lead to careers that end up making you be able to put food on the table or have a life outside of your job. I'd love to be a book critic for the New York Times. Anyone know how often that job opens up? Also, the idea that you should only have one passion and pursue it as your job is narrow and simplistic. I have many passions like reading, travel, etc. I don't even try to them for a job because I simply don't want my livelihood to depend on them. My student loans certainly can't depend on them. Instead, I have a job I like, which allows me to pursue these passions in my free time. Of course, I'm also a horrible person, because my life doesn't have a fancy mission like "helping all kids." So there's that.

Concern #5: Breaking News: Working Hard Makes You Better at Things. In the end, I'm not really sure what I learned here that's new. Does working hard make you better at things? Sure. Is that what leads to what Duckworth defines as "success" (i.e. becoming Jeff Bezos, or something)? Sometimes. Maybe. Often not. As many have said, working hard is part of the equation. There's a reason Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In has quickly fallen from grace. And that was a much more interesting read with some good tips, despite it's problems. If you want to read a book about working hard and succeeding at work, (i.e. the only important place to succeed according to Duckworth), I'd stick with Sandberg. Sometimes working hard works, often times, it can burn you out and get you nowhere. Also, not all jobs are ones that you can just "work really hard at." They take new strategies, a sponsor, and of course, luck.

I rarely write reviews that are this long, but this is because Duckworth's book infuriated me, with its simplistic, under-baked message. I don't understand how these less-than scientific anecdotes about professional celebrities have struck such a chord that they become movements, but it is clear that Duckworth's' theory doesn't care about real people or real issues. But actually, I do understand. Our culture is obsessed with "Thought Leaders," and anyone whose idea sounds like quick fix gets disproportionate air time. For more on this, I recommend Anand Giriharadas' Winners Take All. In the meantime, here are some articles that highlight the issues with Duckworth's Grit much more eloquently than I did:


Profile Image for Ana Marlatt.
573 reviews6 followers
July 21, 2016
For the many critics of Duckworth and her theory of Grit, I say: read this book. You will not find anywhere here that Grit is about "sucking it up and getting it done". Angela Duckworth writes: "This book has been my way of taking you out for a coffee and telling you what I know." To me, this coffee date pacified off and will be repeated a few times. This book is filled with the science of Grit (Duckworth is a scientist after all), as well as countless stories about Grit. The stories stick. I will have to read the book again to internalize the science of it all. I suggest you start the book with the conclusion. It gives readers a great outline of what the book is about, without giving it all away. In the conclusion you will also find this gem: "To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight." Inspiring stuff, but definitely easier said than done. If you inspire more grit in your life, this book is a good way to find focus, inspiration and guidance.
Profile Image for Rosie Nguyễn.
Author 6 books6,017 followers
January 22, 2019
An excellent read after the Growth Mindset.
Some takeaways:
- Why effort is important (effort can make a change to the brain structure, as the brain is remarkable adaptive).
- Why deliberate practice is a crucial part to experience the "flow" condition.
- Why we have to learn how to fail and look back to our mistakes and ask: "what did I learn, how can I make it better the next time, how to make the right kind of effort".
- IQ is not fixed, so are other qualities.
- The circle of struggle, followed by progress, followed by trying something even harder.
- Talent is common, attitude is more important.
- How should you parent for grit. What are the "wise" type of parents?
- Character is plural. There are intrapersonal character (including grit, self-control...), interpersonal character (gratitude, social intelligence), and intellectual character (curiosity, zest).
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews395 followers
October 22, 2016
"As much as talent counts, effort counts twice."

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 Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, and Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why, among others) critics have both questioned her research 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.
Profile Image for Daniel Clausen.
Author 11 books467 followers
May 2, 2021
There is a lot to like about this book. There are lots of great examples in this book. If you are a psychologist, then you will find lots of great research. If you are a coach, parent, or teacher there is a lot of great, useable material.

However, I was looking for something more from this book. And I didn't find it. I also realized that there was a more soulful and philosophical approach woven through several other books.

I guess, I was hoping for great stories. Rocky-esque type, against the odds, stories that would inspire me.

If the book was going to win me over with research, then it would have had to do better than books such as
*Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers"
Or, other thoughtful books such as:
*Essentialism (Greg McKeown)
*Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
*The Algebra of Success (Scott Galloway) (actually Galloway's blog is great!)
*The Dip (Seth Godin)
*Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
*A Mind for Numbers (Barbara Oakley)

If you are a fan of this book and have not read these other books, let me make a case for how each of them can improve on the points made in this book. I will try to do so briefly.

*Outliers: This book is a more honest look at success because it stresses a lot more of the environmental factors that lead to success. It's not just Grit!
*Essentialism: This book focuses on how focus and design will help you get the most from your effort. It's easy to expend a lot of effort and go nowhere. I see it all the time in large companies and university. (Duckworth talks about this a bit, but doesn't systematize her observations).
*Anything by Taleb: It teaches you "survivorship bias". Duckworth MUST also examine the losers in life, not just the winners. I'm sure there are a lot of gritty losers out there too.
*Scott Galloway's writing: Duckworth argues that you must follow your passion. Galloway makes a spirted argument why it is important NOT to follow your passion. This is an important point that needs to be considered.
*The Dip: a more philosophical approach to when to quit. Sometimes, quitting is necessary for success. This point is in the book...but again, if you understand the concept of the dip, you have a better idea of when it's in your interest to quit.
*Zen and the Art of...: Before Duckworth found grit, Pirsig talked philosophically and systematically about "gumption". He also provided useful tools on how to overcome things like "gumption traps". I would recommend the chapters in this book over Duckworth's book.
*A Mind for Numbers: This book applies the idea of grit specifically to learning difficult subjects. I would recommend this to students and parents who want their children to excel in school.

So, I will avoid rating this book. It's not Duckworth's fault that I read her book after these other ones. If I had read this book in high school, I'm sure I would have gained a lot from it. My discontent from the book did also help me remember the lessons of other books.
Profile Image for Rebecca Renner.
Author 4 books643 followers
September 29, 2017
I loved this so much more than I thought I would! It's a must-read for teachers and writers. Actually, I would recommend it to anyone who is working toward a big goal, especially if they've experienced some setbacks.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,284 reviews80 followers
May 11, 2022
4 Stars for Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (audiobook) by Angela Duckworth read by the author.

This was a interesting look into passion and perseverance. It’s was fascinating to listening to the author try and quantify what grit is and she actually has a test to determine how much you have.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
December 14, 2016
Tiger mom 2.0. Just watch the TED talk. There's not much in here.
Profile Image for C.
697 reviews
February 21, 2017
I am interested generally in the idea of “grit.” It’s hard sometimes to not be discouraged, to have resilience and to get up and keep going after setbacks, and I’m interested in how to develop that trait.

To that end, this book skims over some relevant ideas. Apparently everything might come down to your overall worldview, or, as I read it, your humanism and compassion. The author talks about a “fixed mindset” vs. a “growth mindset”: whether you believe that people are born a certain way and have an innate capacity for skills/talents/intelligence, or whether you believe that people can change, based on their effort or opportunities or support. This general belief often translates to how you see challenges in your personal life: whether you pessimistically believe that there are permanent and pervasive reasons for your suffering, or whether you optimistically believe that there are temporary and specific reasons for your suffering. (This is also where mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful.) It’s also important to have people around you to encourage you and support you and believe that you can do it. All of this then adds up to your capacity for perseverance and resilience. tl;dr: It’s important to believe in change and have hope.

All of that kind of gels, but was really a small part of the book. Overall, the writing was overly punchy and mostly empty filler, which become tiresome. I was most disappointed that the book focused so much on career. I’m really tired of all these articles and books about pursuing your “passion” in your job. These pieces use people like Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos as examples, without mentioning that (1) these people are arguably geniuses in their fields who were laser-fixated on their particular interests from childhood, something that is very rare, and (2) most people don’t want to spend every waking minute thinking about their work at the expense of family, or friends, or leisure time, etc. (N.B. I just watched the Warren Buffet documentary on HBO and I’m not sure that he doesn’t regret not developing his personal/familial relationships more throughout the course of his career.) I don’t think it’s important or realistic to instruct people to find a “passion”; I particularly don’t think it’s important or realistic to instruct people to find a “purpose.” And I don’t believe that either is a recipe for happiness. It all seems kind of backwards. If you have the privilege to choose what you do, I think it’s important to find a monetize-able skill that you generally like and want to be better at, and then to choose a workplace with a structure and environment that suits you where you can use that skill. “Passion” is then something that develops only after you begin to excel in your work, once you can add value and feel competent and confident. You can also feel "passion" not only in your job, but also in anything else you choose to do, so people don't only have to have one "passion" they are pursuing as a career. I have more to say about this but won’t ramble any more on goodreads about it.

Anyhow, by focusing so much on career, the book kind of lost its way, and missed a good opportunity to talk deeply about “grit” in general in life, to talk about how this is impacted by socioeconomics/culture/race, to talk about social support or the lack thereof and how we as a society can work to change it, and, ultimately, to really help people move forward from difficult times, even if they don't have the people or environment to help them do so.
Profile Image for Kristin Butler.
94 reviews6 followers
September 5, 2016
I guess if you really have something to prove you might be interested in reading this book. I found it a snoozer and I felt a little sorry for the author who appears to be obsessed with the topic of achievement. Perhaps I'm too much of a slacker to appreciate the power of " grit", but I think my real issue is tethering grit to " success", because I'm not sure I agree with the author's definition of success. I had the same problem with Gladwell's Outliers as all his case studies were cherry picked to illustrate examples of "success" filtered through his own perception of what that should be. The yogi in me completely disagrees with Grit at all costs and I daily see the physical price paid by those who adhere to inflexible goals.

And the Tiger Mom in me conversely says " so what?" Of course I want my kids to pursue extracurricular activities and have a work ethic! Not sure I learned anything here I didn't already know.
Profile Image for David.
671 reviews337 followers
January 3, 2017
A fascinating exploration of Grit. There’s even a Grit questionnaire to assess how gritty you are. I’m moderately gritty BTW - happily mediocre. I’m aware I could be grittier and resolve to do so, but then I’ve already moved on to the next book.

I like the idea though. It seems like a hearty admonishment of work and stick-to-it-ness that appeals to my Asian upbringing - Duckworth herself is raised by Chinese immigrants. It’s resonated far more than the conversing with your creativity ala Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic or Brené Brown’s focus on shame and our own imperfections. And like all the best pop-psych books there’s lots of anecdotes from folks at the top of their game. Truly gritty paragons.

And it’s reassuring for those of us lacking natural talents or long past the age to ever be considered a prodigy of anything. That through focused effort and perseverance we can excel. An extension of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. Perseverance and passion - perhaps distilled down to this it’s nothing new but nonetheless an engrossing read that got me thinking of where I could be grittier and how to raise grittier kids.
Profile Image for Shahzad Suleman.
59 reviews38 followers
March 4, 2018
Angela Duckworth compels attention with her idea that regular individuals who exercise self-control and perseverance can reach as high as those who are naturally talented — that your mindset is as important as your mind.
Profile Image for Fredrik deBoer.
Author 3 books574 followers
August 30, 2023
Let's set aside the fact, mentioned by other reviewers, that study after study has shown that when it comes to predicting life success, you'd rather be naturally smart than "gritty." And let's further set aside evidence that grit is in fact heritable, meaning influenced by genetics.

Here's my question: in what world does American culture undervalue grit??? Perseverance and "hustle" are a secular religion in this country. The idea that anyone can become anything if they set their minds to it is something like the foundational myth of our society. In fact, huge numbers of people stick with it and have grit and don't succeed; we just don't hear their stories because of survivorship bias. (The failures don't get to make speeches or write books.) As I argued in my first book, we sell this worldview to our children relentlessly, and the result is cruel: when some of them inevitably fail, they feel they have no one to blame but themselves. But in fact chance wreaks havoc on our lives, and only the richest and most privileged have the tools necessary to counteract it. Grit never stood a chance.
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