Grit: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of Grit containing key details about the book.

What is Grit About?

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.

Who is the Author of Grit?

Dr Angela Duckworth is a bestselling author. She is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is an expert in non-IQ competencies, including grit and self-control.

How long is Grit?

  • Print length: 277 pages
  • Audiobook: 9 hrs and 22 mins

What genre is Grit?

Nonfiction, Psychology, Self Help

What are key takeaways from Grit?

Takeaway #1: Embrace Growth Mindset

Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck describes the fixed mindset. It’s the belief that your innate qualities, such as intelligence and talent, are fixed and cannot be changed. If people believe these traits can’t change, they won’t attempt to develop them.

The most successful people foster a growth mindset. This is the idea that intelligence is malleable, altered through hard work and perseverance.

But, how do we challenge a fixed mindset? Psychologist Chia-Jung Tsay studied this concept. Tsay presented made-up entrepreneurial candidates to just under 900 investors. The first experiment hinted whether the candidates’ success was due to natural talent or hard work. The second experiment explicitly stated this. The investors were asked to choose who they would back financially. Findings showed that strivers were at a significant disadvantage, even though the investors originally stated that they valued hard work and determination over natural talent.

Takeaway #2: Effort is more important than talent

When Theodor Giesel (famously known as Dr Seuss) wrote his first novel, he was turned down by publishers 27 times. It wasn’t until he ran into a friend, an editor of children’s literature, that his work was published. Sometimes, a lesson in hard work can benefit us for a lifetime.

Talent x Effort = Skill. To achieve your goals, skill becomes a driving factor: Skill x Effort = Achievement. Notice how both equations depend heavily on effort, whilst talent is removable.

Hard workers often overtake the naturally gifted. This is because those with natural talent tend to get most places without having to apply themselves. In other words, they become lazy.

A lack of natural talent doesn’t fix your fate. Wayne Gretzky, a famous Canadian Ice Hockey player, admits that he wasn’t granted great size or speed. But he practised his skills on the ice every day as a child. To this day, he believes the secret of his success is hard work, not talent.

Takeaway #3. Thinking big but starting small

Those striving to build a business don’t become successful overnight. It takes days, months, years of hard work to get there. By focusing on small goals, we create building blocks to achieve our highest aspirations.

But, don’t scrap the ultimate dream. Having something to aspire to is important to keep you motivated. Just remember to keep it in the background in everyday life, not the foreground.

Mohammed Ali focused on the small goals to achieve the big. He would wake up at 4:30AM, and start a daily 6-mile run. At 7AM he would have the same breakfast of eggs, toast, 100% orange juice and water. At 12:30PM he trained. At 4PM he had a massage, and at 5PM he had dinner of chicken, steak, green beans, potatoes and fruit. 10PM was his daily bedtime. Ali followed these strict daily plans, small goals, to achieve his ultimate goal of being the best. Now, nicknamed “the Greatest”, he is considered one of the most successful boxers of all time.

Takeaway #4. Find Meaning, Ditch Unrealistic Expectations

The Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Gallup recently found that 44% of US workers considered themselves in mediocre jobs, and 16% in bad jobs. That’s less than half of US workers happy with their everyday jobs.

Motivation affects grit. An Oxford University study reported that happy workers are 13% more productive. In other words, if you’re not happy in your job, you’ll be less motivated, and you won’t work as hard.

There are two defining qualities of jobs that bring people happiness: Giving to others and Self-interest. This explains why so many people stay in jobs when they’re overqualified and underpaid.

Emiliana Simon-Thomas, medical director of the Greater Good Science Center, found that those who find purpose in their work are generally happier. These people often worked in health and human services. So, giving back is a big part of motivation.

Unrealistic expectations work against motivation. Think back - what did you want to be when you were a child? Did you achieve it? Why do we create these mostly unattainable goals from such a young age?

Selena Snow, a clinical psychologist, stated: “unrealistic expectations are potentially damaging because they set us and others up for failure”.

Imagine this: Your boss has set an unachievable timeframe for a project. Would that boost your motivation? Are you likely to complete this project to the best of your ability? Or cut corners to get it done in time?

Takeaway #5. Embrace Active Learning

What’s the point in working hard at something if you’re not using the right technique to succeed? This is the difference between active and passive learning.

Active learning has become a popular topic in the education field. A Harvard study found that students learned more when teachers followed active-learning strategies compared to passive ones.

Passive learning could be listening to a lecture or completing assigned reading. Although you’re doing something, you’re not really involved.

Active learning involves the student. The teacher may get their students to participate in a science experiment or an active discussion.

Active learning has many benefits:
- Improves critical thinking
- Boosts learner autonomy
- Increases attention

Put simply, active practice trumps passive practice.

Take professional sports. Coaches use data to increase the effectiveness of their exercise programs and build nutritional plans to improve their players’ performance. These analytics are used in all major-league sports. They use active practice; they don’t follow ambiguous goals in the hopes of getting that win. They make it happen themselves.
Using active, deliberate practice: Keeps you on the ball, stops the repetitive loop, Guarantees good results.

Benjamin Franklin used deliberate practice to hone his writing skills. As a teen, Franklin’s writing skills were often criticized by his father. Franklin found pieces of writing by the best authors and wrote down the meaning of each sentence. He rewrote them, and compared. This helped him identify his writing faults.He recognised his vocabulary as his weakness, so solely worked on this. Franklin is now considered an American polymath and one of America’s Founding Fathers. Through applying deliberate practice, he was able to improve himself and reach his goals.

You can become carried away with your visions, forgetting to stay focused on the task at hand. You can take your eye off the ball, and end up failing again and again. Only through reflection and change will you get good results.

Takeaway #6. Pursue creative work, one that you love. It’s never too late to make a change

Sometimes, life gives us chores. No-one really enjoys chores, but we are often feeling obligated to do them.

When it comes to chores, we’re master procrastinators. To sidestep this in your work life, you have to pursue your purpose. As mentioned above, motivation is a determiner of success. Pursue a work that you love, and you’ll often find motivation. As well as giving to others and following self-interests, jobs that explore creativity also tend to bring people more joy in the working world.

A recent survey by Robert Half, an international recruitment agency, found that creative jobs gave over 12,000 US and Canadian people higher levels of work satisfaction compared to people in accounting, finance, administrative, legal and tech sectors.

But what if you’ve started your career, only to find that it makes you miserable? It’s never too late to make a change.
Giorgio Armani started out studying medicine in Milan. He joined the Italian army after university. He left the military in 1953. When he returned to Milan, he changed career path, becoming a store window dresser. He later began selling men’s clothing, and in the 1960s started designing clothes. In 1975, at the age of 41, he founded the Armani brand. He is now one of the most successful fashion designers in the world.

Takeaway #7. Praise Effort, Not Talent

Parents and teachers hold hefty responsibility when it comes to the mindset of children. They help determine whether the child develops a fixed or growth mindset.

Too often, praise is focused on a child’s abilities, rather than their effort. We often say “you’re so smart!” instead of “you’ve worked so hard!”.

Carol Dweck stressed the importance of praising the process. Her research found that children praised for their intelligence lacked motivation. They were less resilient, and less likely to approach challenges.

When children were praised on their hard work, strategies, focus or persistence however, they maintained motivation. They weren’t afraid to face challenges, and believed they could overcome them.

Dweck observed mothers praising their toddlers. Five years later, children who were praised for the process had a growth mindset in the second grade, and were better at math and reading in fourth grade.

Too much praise, however, has a negative impact. It fosters a dependence on praise, creating a lack of motivation when it stops.

Process praise = motivation = success.

Takeaway #8. Growth Through Grit

There are many success stories where celebrities have used grit to overcome adversity. But generally, one person pursuing their own dreams is as far as grit gets.

Japan goes one step further. They teach grit to every child. They call this: Gaman. Gaman is a Japanese term with Buddhist origin. It means enduring the unbearable, having patience, and perseverance. It is enmeshed in the Japanese attitude and social etiquette. In Japan, showing gaman means showing maturity and inner strength.

David Slater, a Professor of Anthropology, describes gaman as the strategies used to deal with external events that we cannot control. Gaman can also be incorporated in our work and everyday lives.

Colonel Sanders was let go from a number of jobs during his career. He first started cooking chicken when he was 40 years old, in a Shell Service Station. He sold his chicken out of his living quarters, as the gas station didn’t have a restaurant.
From 1930 – 1940 he perfected his “Secret Recipe”. But, development of an interstate in the 1950s meant Colonel’s restaurant lost most of its customers, causing him to shut down his business and retire. He swiftly realised he couldn’t live off of his $105 monthly pension, so he drove around, sleeping in his car, until he found a partner. You may have heard of the fast-food chain KFC. He founded it.

What are the chapters in Grit?

Part I: What grit is and why it matters
Part II: Growing grit from the inside out
Part III: Growing grit from the outside in

What are good quotes from Grit?

"Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

"Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another."

"There are no shortcuts to excellence."

"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... 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."

"Doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things"

"I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest."

"When you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them."

"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."

"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. "

"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"

"Greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable."

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

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

"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."

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

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

"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."

" 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."

― Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Is Grit worth reading?

The majority of customer reviews on Amazon and other leading review sites are positive.

* The summary points above have been sourced and summarized from the book, Amazon, and other online publishers. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain the accuracy and completeness of any information, including the quotes, chapters, insights, lessons, and key takeaways.

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an impact-driven entrepreneur, author, and investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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