Grit Trumps Talent For Producing Success [Book Review]

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Angela Duckworth’s book Grit is a treatise on the overblown idea that talent produces success. Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has made a name for herself researching the idea of “grit” or the value of perseverance to predict success. The book is loaded with her studies, interviews with achievers, and personal observations as a parent.

I picked the book up originally for two reasons: First, I like the premise. As a former high school teacher and coach, I’ve always known that talent is not a good predictor of success. I’ll take a team full of hard workers that can persevere through pressure over a team of talented athletes any day. Second, I’ve felt my own professional perseverance waning in the last 18 months and I was hoping for a shot in the arm as I headed into my vision casting for 2017. I wanted to be reminded that talent is good, but grit is great.

The Grit Formula

Duckworth writes that in the equation of success, effort counts twice. It seems that society favors this formula for success: talent = achievement. In Duckworth’s studies, she found that there are actually two equations that predict achievement and it looks more like this:

Talent  X  Effort = Skill  and  Skill  X  Effort = Achievement

I could go on and on about the nuggets in this book but instead I’d just like to mention who should read this book.

  • Parents- I was reminded of how responsible parents are for this trait
  • Teachers – a good teacher can go a long way to encourage perseverance in a student
  • Coaches – ditto from above
  • Grandparents and caregivers of children
  • Entrepreneurs – remember that your talent is only the beginning
  • Writers – I think writers are particularly vulnerable to the trap of judging their success by numbers of books sold and concluding way too early that they are not talented. Read some of the stories of persevering success in this book!
  • People stuck in jobs they don’t like
  • High school career counselors- Every kids doesn’t not know what their passion is by their senior year of high school
  • Did I say parents?

Grit is a good read. The interviews with experts are fascinating. I now have a new respect for Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and especially for his mother. And I have always been a Pete Carroll fan. His passion for grit is inspiring.  Duckworth also has a pretty enlightening TED Talk. Pick up a copy today–you’ll thank me.