Book Summary & Highlights: Grit By Angela Duckworth

Book Summary & Highlights: Grit By Angela Duckworth



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Amazon Summary

The daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Angela Duckworth is now a celebrated researcher and professor. It was her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience that led to her hypothesis about what really drives success: not genius, but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance.

In Grit, she takes us into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, 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 New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Among Grit’s most valuable insights: any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal; grit can be

learned , regardless of IQ or circumstances; when it comes to child-rearing, neither a warm embrace nor high standards will work by themselves; how to trigger lifelong interest; the magic of the Hard Thing Rule; and so much more. 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.

About Author: Angela Duckworth

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Big Ideas

Stages Of Interest

1. Initial Discovery

Paradoxically, the initial discovery of an interest often goes unnoticed by the discoverer. In other words, when you just start to get interested in something, you may not even realize that’s what’s happening. The emotion of boredom is always self-conscious—you know it when you feel it—but when your attention is attracted to a new activity or experience, you may have very little reflective appreciation of what’s happening to you. This means that, at the start of a new endeavor, asking yourself nervously every few days whether you’ve found your passion is premature.

2. Interest Development

Third, what follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development. Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention—again and again and again.
Our early interests are fragile, vaguely defined, and in need of energetic, years-long cultivation and refinement.

3. Support

Interests thrive when there is a crew of encouraging supporters, including parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. Why are other people so important? For one thing, they provide the ongoing stimulation and information that is essential to actually liking something more and more. Also—more obviously—positive feedback makes us feel happy, competent, and secure.


Part II: What Grit Is And Why It Matters

Chapter 1: Showing Up

Chapter 2: Distracted By Talent

We overrate talent in our explanations of success and our preferences for hiring.

Chapter 3: Effort Counts Twice

  • Learning the skill
  • Applying the skill

Chapter 4: How Gritty Are You?

Chapter 5: Grit Grows

Part II: Growing Grit From The Inside Out

Chapter 6: Interest

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos told Princeton graduates the story of leaving a high-salary, high-status Manhattan finance job to start Amazon: “After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion.” He has also said, “Whatever it is that you want to do, you’ll find in life that if you’re not passionate about what it is you’re working on, you won’t be able to stick with it.”

Summary Of Hundreds Of Interviews Of The Mega Successful

Hester is a British journalist who has been interviewing achievers of the caliber of Shortz and Bezos—one per week—since 2011. Her column appears weekly in the Financial Times. Whether they’re fashion designers (Nicole Farhi), authors (Salman Rushdie), musicians (Lang Lang), comedians (Michael Palin), chocolatiers (Chantal Coady), or bartenders (Colin Field), Hester asks the same questions, including: “What drives you on?” and “If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?” I asked Hester what she’s learned from talking to more than two hundred “mega successful” people, as she described them during our conversation. “One thing that comes up time and time again is: ‘I love what I do.’ People couch it differently. Quite often, they say just that: ‘I love what I do.’ But they also say things like ‘I’m so lucky, I get up every morning looking forward to work, I can’t wait to get into the studio, I can’t wait to get on with the next project.’ These people are doing things not because they have to or because it’s financially lucrative…”

Job-Interest Fit

Research shows that people are enormously more satisfied with their jobs when they do something that fits their personal interests. This is the conclusion of a meta-analysis that aggregated data from almost a hundred different studies that collectively included working adults in just about every conceivable profession.
People whose jobs match their personal interests are, in general, happier with their lives as a whole.

Passion Is Fostered Over Time, Not Found In A Moment

That said, I don’t think most young people need encouragement to follow their passion. Most would do exactly that—in a heartbeat—if only they had a passion in the first place. If I’m ever invited to give a commencement speech, I’ll begin with the advice to foster a passion. And then I’ll spend the rest of my time trying to change young minds about how that actually happens.
When I first started interviewing grit paragons, I assumed they’d all have stories about the singular moment when, suddenly, they’d discovered their God-given passion. In my mind’s eye, this was a filmable event, with dramatic lighting and a soundtrack of rousing orchestral music commensurate with its monumental, life-changing import.
But, in fact, most grit paragons I’ve interviewed told me they spent years exploring several different interests, and the one that eventually came to occupy all of their waking (and some sleeping) thoughts wasn’t recognizably their lif e’s destiny on first acquaintance.

Barry Schwartz Riff

My colleague Barry Schwartz has been dispensing counsel to anxious young adults for much longer than I have. He’s been teaching psychology at Swarthmore College for forty-five years. Barry thinks that what prevents a lot of young people from developing a serious career interest is unrealistic expectations. “It’s really the same problem a lot of young people have finding a romantic partner,” he said. “They want somebody who’s really attractive and smart and kind and empathetic and thoughtful and funny. Try telling a twenty-one-year-old that you can’t find a person who is absolutely the best in every way. They don’t listen. They’re holding out for perfection.” “What about your wonderful wife, Myrna?” I asked. “Oh, she is wonderful. More wonderful than I am, certainly. But is she perfect? Is she the only person I could have made a happy life with? Am I the only man in the world with whom she could have made a wonderful marriage? I don’t think so.” A related problem, Barry says, is the mythology that falling in love with a career should be sudden and swift: “There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it, or what have you. Well, that requires that you stick with it.” After a pause, Barry said, “Actually, finding a mate is the perfect analogy. Meeting a potential match—not the one-and-only perfect match, but a promising one—is only the very beginning.”

Prototypical Failing Generalist

A few months ago, I read a post on Reddit titled “Fleeting Interest in Everything, No Career Direction”: I’m in my early thirties and have no idea what to do with myself, career-wise. All my life I’ve been one of those people who has been told how smart I am/how much potential I have. I’m interested in so much stuff that I’m paralyzed to try anything. It seems like every job requires a specialized certificate or designation that requires long-term time and financial investment—before you can even try the job, which is a bit of a drag.
To the thirty-something on Reddit with a “fleeting interest in everything” and “no career direction,” here’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.

Start Young

First of all, childhood is generally far too early to know what we want to be when we grow up. Longitudinal studies following thousands of people across time have shown that most people only begin to gravitate toward certain vocational interests, and away from others, around middle school. This is certainly the pattern I’ve seen in my interview research, and it’s also what journalist Hester Lacey has found in her interviews with the “mega successful.” Keep in mind, however, that a seventh grader—even a future paragon of grit—is unlikely to have a fully articulated passion at that age. A seventh grader is just beginning to figure out her general likes and dislikes.

Interests are not discovered through introspection.

Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t. You can’t simply will yourself to like things, either. As Jeff Bezos has observed, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.” Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.

Response To Anxious Parents

Sometimes, when I talk to anxious parents, I get the impression they’ve misunderstood what I mean by grit. I tell them that half of grit is perseverance—in response, I get appreciative head nods—but I also tell them that nobody works doggedly on something they don’t find intrinsically interesting. Here, heads often stop nodding and, instead, cock to the side. “Just because you love something doesn’t mean you’ll be great,” says self-proclaimed Tiger Mom Amy Chua. “Not if you don’t work. Most people stink at the things they love.” I couldn’t agree more. Even in the development of your interests, there is work—practicing, studying, learning—to be done. Still, my point is that most people stink even more at what they don’t love. So, parents, parents-to-be, and non-parents of all ages, I have a message for you: Before hard work comes play. Before those who’ve yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest. Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice. But at this earliest stage, novices aren’t obsessed with getting better. They’re not thinking years and years into the future. They don’t know what their top-level, life-orienting goal will be. More than anything else, they’re having fun.
A degree of autonomy during the early years is also important. Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation. Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion. So, while my dad in Shanghai in 1950 didn’t think twice about his father assigning him a career path, most young people today would find it difficult to fully “own” interests decided without their input.

Benjamin Bloom Research

This is also the conclusion of psychologist Benjamin Bloom, who interviewed 120 people who achieved world-class skills in sports, arts, or science—plus their parents, coaches, and teachers. Among Bloom’s important findings is that the development of skill progresses through three different stages, each lasting several years. Interests are discovered and developed in what Bloom called “the early years.” Encouragement during the early years is crucial because beginners are still figuring out whether they want to commit or cut bait. Accordingly, Bloom and his research team found that the best mentors at this stage were especially warm and supportive: “Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding. Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game.”

Do lots of sampling if you're unsure

Sports psychologist Jean Côté finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences. In his research, professional athletes like Rowdy Gaines who, as children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run. This early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others. Sampling also provides an opportunity to “cross-train” muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training. While athletes who skip this stage often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialized peers, Côté finds that they’re more likely to become injured physically and to burn out.

Interests are adaptive in evolutionary history

If babies didn’t have a strong drive for novelty, they wouldn’t learn as much, and that would make it less likely they’d survive. “So, interest—the desire to learn new things, to explore the world, to seek novelty, to be on the lookout for change and variety—it’s a basic drive.”

Different types of novelty

The key, Paul explained, is that novelty for the beginner comes in one form, and novelty for the expert in another. For the beginner, novelty is anything that hasn’t been encountered before. For the expert, novelty is nuance.
“Take modern art,” Paul said. “A lot of pieces could seem very similar to a novice that seem very different to an expert. Novices don’t have the necessary background knowledge. They just see colors and shapes. They’re not sure what it’s all about.” But the art expert has comparatively enormous understanding. He or she has developed a sensitivity to details that the rest of us can’t even see. Here’s another example. Ever watch the Olympics? Ever listen to the commentators say things, in real time, like “Oh! That triple lutz was just a little short!” “That push-off was perfectly timed”? You sit there and wonder how these commentators can perceive such microscopic differences in the performance of one athlete versus another without watching the video playback in slow motion. I need that video playback. I am insensitive to those nuances. But an expert has the accumulated knowledge and skill to see what I, a beginner, cannot.


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No matter the field, the most successful people were lucky and talented. I’d heard that before, and I didn’t doubt it.. [...] Why were the highly accomplished so dogged in their pursuits? For most, there was no realistic expectation of ever catching up to their ambitions. In their own eyes, they were never good enough. They were the opposite of complacent. And yet, in a very real sense, they were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it was the chase—as much as the capture—that was gratifying. Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring. In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.

Spelling Study

The year I started graduate school, the documentary Spellbound was released. The film follows three boys and five girls as they prepare for and compete in the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. To get to the finals—an adrenaline-filled three-day affair staged annually in Washington, DC, and broadcast live on ESPN, which normally focuses its programming on high-stakes sports matchups—these kids must first “outspell” thousands of other students from hundreds of schools across the country. This means spelling increasingly obscure words without a single error, in round after round, first besting all the other students in the contestant’s classroom, then in their grade, school, district, and region. Spellbound got me wondering: To what extent is flawlessly spelling words like schottische and cymotrichous a matter of precocious verbal talent, and to what extent is grit at play? I called the Bee’s executive director, a dynamic woman (and former champion speller herself) named Paige Kimble. Kimble was as curious as I was to learn more about the psychological makeup of winners. She agreed to send out questionnaires to all 273 spellers just as soon as they qualified for the finals, which would take place several months later. In return for the princely reward of a $25 gift card, about two-thirds of the spellers returned the questionnaires to my lab. The oldest respondent was fifteen years old, the absolute age limit according to competition rules, and the youngest was just seven. In addition to completing the Grit Scale, spellers reported how much time they devoted to spelling practice. On average, they practiced more than an hour a day on weekdays and more than two hours a day on weekends. But there was a lot of variation around these averages: some spellers were hardly studying at all, and some were studying as much as nine hours on a given Saturday! Separately, I contacted a subsample of spellers and administered a verbal intelligence test. As a group, the spellers demonstrated unusual verbal ability. But there was a fairly wide range of scores, with some kids scoring at the verbal prodigy level and others “average” for their age. When ESPN aired the final rounds of the competition, I watched all the way through to the concluding suspenseful moments when, at last, thirteen-year-old Anurag Kashyap correctly spelled A-P-P-O-G-G-I-A-T-U-R-A (a musical term for a kind of grace note) to win the championship. Then, with the final rankings in hand, I analyzed my data. Here’s what I found: measurements of grit taken months before the final competition predicted how well spellers would eventually perform. Put simply, grittier kids went further in competition. How did they do it? By studying many more hours and, also, by competing in more spelling bees. What about talent? Verbal intelligence also predicted getting further in competition. But there was no relationship at all between verbal IQ and grit. What’s more, verbally talented spellers did not study any more than less able spellers, nor did they have a longer track record of competition. The separation of grit and talent emerged again in a separate study I ran on Ivy League undergraduates. There, SAT scores and grit were, in fact, inversely correlated. Students in that select sample who had higher SAT scores were, on average, just slightly less gritty than their peers. Putting together this finding with the other data I’d collected, I came to a fundamental insight that would guide my future work: Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.

Naturalness Bias - We favor people with innate talent over people with high effort despite the opposite stated belief

Chia’s research pulls back the curtain on our ambivalence toward talent and effort. What we say we care about may not correspond with what—deep down—we actually believe to be more valuable. It’s a little like saying we don’t care at all about physical attractiveness in a romantic partner and then, when it comes to actually choosing whom to date, picking the cute guy over the nice one. The “naturalness bias” is a hidden prejudice against those who’ve achieved what they have because they worked for it, and a hidden preference for those whom we think arrived at their place in life because they’re naturally talented. We may not admit to others this bias for naturals; we may not even admit it to ourselves. But the bias is evident in the choices we make.

The Mundanity Of Excellence And Explaining Extreme Success With Talent Bias

A few years ago, I read a study of competitive swimmers titled “The Mundanity of Excellence.” The title of the article encapsulates its major conclusion: the most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary. Dan Chambliss, the sociologist who completed the study, observed: “Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then are fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produce excellence.” But mundanity is a hard sell. When finishing up his analyses, Dan shared a few chapters with a colleague. “You need to jazz it up,” his friend said. “You need to make these people more interesting. . . .” When I called Dan to probe a few of his observations, I learned that he’d become fascinated with the idea of talent—and what we really mean by it—as a swimmer himself and, for several years afterward, as a part-time coach. As a young assistant professor, Dan decided to do an in-depth, qualitative study of swimmers. In total, Dan devoted six years to interviewing, watching, and sometimes living and traveling with swimmers and coaches at all levels—from the local swim club to an elite team made up of future Olympians. “Talent,” he observed, “is perhaps the most pervasive lay explanation we have for athletic success.” It is as if talent were some invisible “substance behind the surface reality of performance, which finally distinguishes the best among our athletes.” And these great athletes seem blessed “with a special gift, almost a ‘thing’ inside of them, denied to the rest of us—perhaps physical, genetic, psychological, or physiological. Some have ‘it,’ and some don’t. Some are ‘natural athletes,’ and some aren’t.” I think Dan is exactly right. If we can’t explain how an athlete, musician, or anyone else has done something jaw-droppingly amazing, we’re inclined to throw up our hands and say, “It’s a gift! Nobody can teach you that.” In other words, when we can’t easily see how experience and training got someone to a level of excellence that is so clearly beyond the norm, we default to labeling that person a “natural.” Dan points out that the biographies of great swimmers reveal many, many factors that contribute to their ultimate success. For instance, the most accomplished swimmers almost invariably had parents who were interested in the sport and earned enough money to pay for coaching, travel to swim meets, and not the least important: access to a pool. And, crucially, there were the thousands of hours of practice in the pool over years and years—all spent refining the many individual elements whose sum create a single flawless performance. Though it seems wrong to assume that talent is a complete explanation for dazzling performance, it’s also understandable. “It’s easy to do,” Dan explained, “especially if one’s only exposure to top athletes comes once every four years while watching the Olympics on television, or if one only sees them in performances rather than in day-to-day training.” Another point he makes is that the minimal talent needed to succeed in swimming is lower than most of us think. “I don’t think you mean to say that any of us could be Michael Phelps,” I said. “Do you?” “No, of course not,” Dan replied. “To begin with, there are certain anatomical advantages that you really can’t train for.” “And,” I continued, “wouldn’t you say that some swimmers improve more than others, even if they’re trying equally hard and getting the same coaching?” “Yes, but the main thing is that greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.” Dan’s point is that if you had a time-lapse film of the hours and days and weeks and years that produced excellence, you could see what he saw: that a high level of performance is, in fact, an accretion of mundane acts. But does the incremental mastery of mundane individual components explain everything? I wondered. Is that all there is? “Well, we all love mystery and magic,” he said. “I do, too.” Then Dan told me about the day he got to watch Rowdy Gaines and Mark Spitz swim laps. “Spitz won seven gold medals in the ’72 Olympics and was the big thing before Michael Phelps,” he explained. “In ’84, twelve years after retirement, Spitz showed up. He’s in his mid-thirties. And he gets into the water with Rowdy Gaines, who at that time held the world record in the one hundred free. They did some fifties—in other words, two lengths of the pool, just sprints, like little races. Gaines won most of them, but by the time they were halfway through, the entire team was standing around the edge of the pool just to watch Spitz swim.” Everyone on the team had been training with Gaines, and they knew how good he was. They knew he was favored to win Olympic gold. But because of the age gap, nobody had swum with Spitz. One swimmer turned to Dan and said, pointing to Spitz, “My god. He’s a fish.” I could hear the wonder in Dan’s voice. Even a student of mundanity, it seems, is easily lulled into talent explanations. I pressed him a bit. Was that sort of majestic performance something divine? Dan told me to go read Nietzsche. Nietzsche? The philosopher? What would a nineteenth-century German philosopher have to say that might explain Mark Spitz? As it turns out, Nietzsche, too, had thought long and hard about the same questions. “With everything perfect,” Nietzsche wrote, “we do not ask how it came to be.” Instead, “we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.”

Formula For The Psychology Of Achievement

I have been working on a theory of the psychology of achievement since Marty scolded me for not having one. I have pages and pages of diagrams, filling more than a dozen lab notebooks. After more than a decade of thinking about it, sometimes alone, and sometimes in partnership with close colleagues, I finally published an article in which I lay down two simple equations that explain how you get from talent to achievement. Here they are:

Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them. Of course, your opportunities—for example, having a great coach or teacher—matter tremendously, too, and maybe more than anything about the individual. My theory doesn’t address these outside forces, nor does it include luck. It’s about the psychology of achievement, but because psychology isn’t all that matters, it’s incomplete. Still, I think it’s useful. What this theory says is that when you consider individuals in identical circumstances, what each achieves depends on just two things, talent and effort. Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive. Let me give you a few examples.

Staying On The Treadmill

Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it’s related to staying true to our commitments even when we’re not comfortable. But getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit. Because when you don’t come back the next day—when you permanently turn your back on a commitment—your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have. The treadmill is, in fact, an appropriate metaphor. By some estimates, about 40 percent of people who buy home exercise equipment later say they ended up using it less than they’d expected. How hard we push ourselves in a given workout matters, of course, but I think the bigger impediment to progress is that sometimes we stop working out altogether. As any coach or athlete will tell you, consistency of effort over the long run is everything. How often do people start down a path and then give up on it entirely? How many treadmills, exercise bikes, and weight sets are at this very moment gathering dust in basements across the country? How many kids go out for a sport and then quit even before the season is over? How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all of our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets. How many of us start something new, full of excitement and good intentions, and then give up—permanently—when we encounter the first real obstacle, the first long plateau in progress? Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going. If I have the math approximately right, then someone twice as talented but half as hardworking as another person might reach the same level of skill but still produce dramatically less over time. This is because as strivers are improving in skill, they are also employing that skill—to make pots, write books, direct movies, give concerts. If the quality and quantity of those pots, books, movies, and concerts are what count, then the striver who equals the person who is a natural in skill by working harder will, in the long run, accomplish more.

Four Key Qualities Fit

These stories of grit are one kind of data, and they complement the more systematic, quantitative studies I’ve done in places like West Point and the National Spelling Bee. Together, the research reveals the psychological assets that mature paragons of grit have in common. There are four. They counter each of the buzz-killers listed above, and they tend to develop, over the years, in a particular order. First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do. Every gritty person I’ve studied can point to aspects of their work they enjoy less than others, and most have to put up with at least one or two chores they don’t enjoy at all. Nevertheless, they’re captivated by the endeavor as a whole. With enduring fascination and childlike curiosity, they practically shout out, “I love what I do!” Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. So, after you’ve discovered and developed interest in a particular area, you must devote yourself to the sort of focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery. You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day, week after month after year. To be gritty is to resist complacency. “Whatever it takes, I want to improve!” is a refrain of all paragons of grit, no matter their particular interest, and no matter how excellent they already are. Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters. For most people, interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime. It is therefore imperative that you identify your work as both personally interesting and, at the same time, integrally connected to the well-being of others. For a few, a sense of purpose dawns early, but for many, the motivation to serve others heightens after the development of interest and years of disciplined practice. Regardless, fully mature exemplars of grit invariably tell me, “My work is important—both to me and to others.” And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance. In this book, I discuss it after interest, practice, and purpose—but hope does not define the last stage of grit. It defines every stage. From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.

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“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”
“It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things:”

“...there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people've got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people....Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to's doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”

“as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They'd rather show the highlight of what they've become.”

“...grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity. The maturation story is that we develop the capacity for long-term passion and perseverance as we get older.”

“I learned a lesson I’d never forget. The lesson was that, when you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them.”

“When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won”

“Yes, but the main thing is that greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.”

“...interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can't really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won't...Without experimenting, you can't figure out which interests will stick, and which won't.”

“most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”

“At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.”

“Stop reading so much and go think.”

“One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.”

“I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better.”

“It isn't suffering that leads to hopelessness. It's suffering you think you can't control.”

“Without effort, your talent is nothing more than unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't.”

“Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.”

“As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy.”

“No whining. No complaining. No excuses.”

“Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it’s related to staying true to our commitments even when we’re not comfortable. But getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit. Because when you don’t come back the next day—when you permanently turn your back on a commitment—your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have.”

“Well okay, that didn’t go so well, but I guess I will just carry on.’ ”

“In other words, we want to believe that Mark Spitz was born to swim in a way that none of us were and that none of us could. We don’t want to sit on the pool deck and watch him progress from amateur to expert. We prefer our excellence fully formed. We prefer mystery to mundanity.”

“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.”

“Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.”

“Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.”

“When I am around people,” Kat wrote, “my heart and soul radiate with the awareness that I am in the presence of greatness. Maybe greatness unfound, or greatness underdeveloped, but the potential or existence of greatness nevertheless. You never know who will go on to do good or even great things or become the next great influencer in the world—so treat everyone like they are that person.”

“When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won’t.”

Key People Cited


  • Will Shortz
  • Jeff Bezos


  • Paul Silvia,
  • Benjamin Bloom