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Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur "genius" 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 listeners 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 J.P. 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.
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By Tristan on 06-11-16
Two different books
Duckworth demonstrates her own grit by giving an expert performance narrating her own book. It's clear she put considerable work into learning to narrate effectively. She does a great job.
To me, this book has two distinct halves.
The first half is excellent and easily deserves 5 stars. She shows that a simple, self-reported test on people's willingness to stick with goals carries significantly more predictive power than more traditional predictors, such as SAT scores or athletic ability. I walked away from this section with an all new appreciation of how crucial it is for me to focus on a few, high-priority things in my own life if I ever want to achieve greatness. Her work here is based on sufficiently strong research that it forces the reader to rethink their assumptions about talent and accomplishment.
The second half is based less on research, and more on anecdotes. As a result, it reads a bit like a fluffy self-help book. The chapter on the importance of "purpose" to success is basically unsubstantiated. None of the testimonials prove that "purpose" is important to success because the people she interviews could equally just want to rationalize their story in a way that makes them feel good. While purpose may be important to some people, Duckworth failed to convince that pure self-interest would have been an insufficient motivator for plenty of the successful people she interviewed. Her interviews with investment bankers made me throw up in my mouth a bit.
It is also seems counter-productive to include purpose and passion in the definition of grit. The ability of people to push themselves through tasks they do not enjoy is itself an important, distinct quality to understand, and it would be valuable to have a word that refers specifically to that. I know that part of my own success rests on the fact that I have been willing to do unpleasant tasks that I felt no passion or purpose for, but which I felt were necessary. I have also felt passion and purpose for some goals, but lacked the grit to withstand the pain of putting in the effort to achieve them. Passion and purpose may indeed be motivators of grit, but to say they are part of it causes the term to lose its distinct meaning.
This book should perhaps be called "Persistence", of which grit, passion and purpose are three parts. As it stands, "Grit" is, in effect, defined by grit, passion and purpose. The fact that the term appears to be operating as part of its own definition shows that there is a conflation of concepts at play.
207 of 226 people found this review helpful
By A. Yoshida on 05-15-16
Simple but hard to do
This is an excellent book that pulls together several concepts and their role in perseverance and success. Concepts that are becoming well known are: people can score higher on IQ tests when they have a growth mindset (believing that they can learn more instead of believing that they are born intelligent or not) and people can become experts through deliberate practice. An average person can become better than a "talented" person through many hours of practice and guidance from coaches and teachers who can provide precise feedback on what to work on. "Grit" takes it to the next step - how to stay motivated to spend all those hours practicing and focused on the goal (or as the author would say, be gritty). There is also a 10-question test on the author's website to measure grit. If you answer honestly, it provides a basis for which to measure yourself over time of your perseverance.
The steps are simple but hard to do. Experiment and explore to find an area of interest. Practice to overcome obstacles. The more you accomplish, the more passionate you'll feel and the more committed you'll feel to the purpose. Determination and direction are what will lead you to success.
59 of 67 people found this review helpful