Angela Duckworth’s Grit is one of those books that everyone should read. When That American Grind creates it’s mandatory reading list, Grit will be on it.
Effort is what matters most. And you, yes you, already have the necessary attributes needed to grow your skills.
Let’s jump into the quotes.
(Quick note: The page numbers refer to the hardback version of the book)
1. “And what about talent? Nietzsche implored us to consider exemplars to be, above all else, craftsmen: “Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it)… They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of the dazzling whole.”” (Page 40)
It may be a little cliche but learn to love the process.
Life Philosophy and Goals
2. “At the bottom of this hierarchy are our most concrete and specific goals – the tasks we have on our short-term to-do list: I want to get out the door today by eight a.m. … These low-level goals exist merely as means to ends. We want to accomplish them only because they get us something else we want. In contrast, the higher the goal in this hierarchy, the more abstract, general, and important it is. The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself, and the less it’s merely a means to an end.” (Page 62)
3. “Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy,” as Pete Carroll might put it, is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. In contrast, a lack of grit can come from having less coherent goal structures.” (Page 64)
What’s your life philosophy? Do you have one? Are you working towards it?
These are the questions we need to ask ourselves. We all need to look in the mirror more often and start asking ourselves the big questions in life.
4. “Named after Jim Flynn, the New Zealand social scientist who discovered it, the Flynn effect refers to startling gains in IQ scores over the past century. How big are the gains? On the most widely used IQ tests today – the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – gains have averaged more than fifteen points in the last fifty years in the more than thirty countries that have been studied. Put another way, if you scored people a century ago against modern norms, they would have an average IQ score of 70 – borderline for having an intellectual disability. If you scored people today against the norms of a century ago, we would have an average IQ score of 130 – the typical cut score for mentally gifted programs.” (Page 83)
What a time to be alive. As tough as it can be at times we need to step back and take in how far we’ve come as a species. There’s never been a better time to be alive, remember that when things get tough.
You Get Stronger as You Go
5. “Most of us become more conscientious, confident, caring, and calm with life experience. A lot of that change happens between the ages of twenty and forty, but, in fact, there’s no epoch in the human life span where personality stops evolving. Collectively, these data demonstrate what personality psychologists now call “the maturity principle.”
We grow up. Or at least, most of us do.
To some extent, these changes are preprogrammed and biological. Puberty and menopause are things that change our personalities, for example. But on the whole, personality change is more a function of life experience.” (Page 86)
If you’re in your 20s or 30s (or any age for that matter) and don’t have it figured out, that’s ok. There’s no better time than wherever you’re at in life right now to start turning it around. And, on the chance you’re older than ~25, you have the added bonus of not wrestling with your still developing and incredibly impulsively stupid adolsecent brain. Stop stressing over what could have been and start busying yourself with what will be.
6. “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.
Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.
Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.
And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance.” (Page 91)
7. “The four psychological assets of interest, practice, purpose, and hope are not you have it or you don’t commodities. You can learn to discover, develop, and deepen your interests. You can acquire the habit of discipline. You can cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning. And you can teach yourself to hope.” (Page 92)
8. “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 discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” (Page 103)
Don’t sweat how old you are or where you’re at in life. Start where you are with whatever you have and work from there.
Interest and Initial Discovery
9. “… 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… Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.” (Page 104)
10. “Paradoxically, the initial discovery of an interest often goes unnoticed by the discoverer.” (Page 104)
11. “…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.” (Page 104)
The first step towards seeing if something interests you is giving it a shot. Be less concerned with how good you are at it and more concerned about whether or not you’re enjoying the process of learning and improving.
The Unserious Beginner
12. “…even the most accomplished of experts start out as unserious beginners.
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.” (Page 107)
13. “For now, what I hope to convey is that experts and beginners have different motivational needs. At the start of an endeavor, we need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we enjoy. We need small wins. We need applause. Yes, we can handle a tincture of criticism and corrective feedback. Yes, we need to practice. But not too much and not too soon. Rush a beginner and you’ll bludgeon their budding interest. It’s very, very hard to get that back once you do.” (Page 108)
14. “The key, Paul explained, is that novelty for the beginner comes in one form, and the novelty for the expert in another. For the beginner, novelty is anything that hasn’t been encountered before. For the expert, novelty is nuance.” (Page 114)
15. “If you’d like to follow your passion but haven’t yet fostered one, you must begin at the beginning: discovery.
Ask yourself a few simple questions: What do I like to think about? Where does my mind wander? What do I really care about? What matters most to me? How do I enjoy spending my time? And, in contrast, what do I find absolutely unbearable? If you find it hard to answer these questions, try recalling your teen years, the stage of life at which vocational interests commonly sprout.” (Page 114)
If you’re just getting in started in something build your team! Show a supportive friend whenever you hit a big milestone, call your parents (you probably don’t talk to them enough as it is) and get them involved, or find a subreddit related to whatever it is you’re doing, get people excited about whatever it is you’re doing and feed on that excitement.
My editor is not only provides incredible feedback but she’s also very positive and supportive. I believe I’ve mentioned it elsewhere on this blog but that was one of the major differences that helped me stick with blogging this time around.
16. “If you’ve read Ericsson’s original research, you know that ten thousand hours of practice spread over ten years is just a rough average. Some of the musicians he studied reached the high-water mark of expertise before that, and some after. But there’s a good reason why “the ten-thousand-hour rule” and “the ten-year-rule” have gone viral. They give you a visceral sense of the scale of the required investment. Not a few hours, not dozens, not scores, not hundreds. Thousands and thousands of hours of practice over years and years and years.” (Page 120)
17. “The really crucial insight of Ericsson’s research, though, is not that experts log more hours of practice. Rather, it’s that experts practice differently. Unlike most of us, experts are logging thousands upon thousands of hours of what Ericsson calls deliberate practice.” (Page 120)
18. “This is how experts practice:
First, they set a stretch goal, zeroing in on just one narrow aspect of their overall performance. Rather than focus on what they already do well, experts strive to improve specific weaknesses. They intentionally seek out challenges they can’t yet meet.
Then, with undivided attention and great effort, experts strive to reach their stretch goal.
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.
Then experts do it all over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set out to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence becomes unconscious competence.” (Page 121)
19. “Without hesitation, I can tell you the answer: Yes. Even the most complex and creative of human abilities can be broken down into its component skills, each of which can be practiced, practiced, practiced.” (Page 123)
Anders Ericsson’s book Peak will get a post all of its own. The best way to execute the above is to get a good coach who has a system and is serious about your advancement. If that’s not possible then use resources like Anki, workbooks, or other tools that can provide immediate feedback.
20. “Across these diverse occupations, grittier adults reported experiencing more flow, not less. In other words, flow and grit go hand in hand.
Putting together what I learned from this survey, the findings on National Spelling Bee finalists, and a decade long inspection of the relevant research literature, I’ve come to the following conclusion: Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow. There’s no contradiction here, for two reasons. First, deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience. Anders Ericsson is talking about what experts do; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is talking about how experts feel. Second, you don’t have to be doing deliberate practice and experiencing flow at the same time. And, in fact, I think that for most experts, they rarely go together.” (Page 131)
21. “In other words, deliberate practice is for preparation, and flow is for performance.” (Page 132)
If you’re unfamiliar with the Flow State, or “the zone”, it’s beyond the scope of this post. At the bottom of this post will be some links to our other posts on Flow.
22. “The book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey describes a day in the life of one hundred sixty-one artists, scientists, and other creators. If you look for a particular rule, like Always drink coffee, or Never drink coffee, or Only work in your bedroom, or Never work in your bedroom, you won’t find it. But if instead you ask, “What do these creators have in common?” you’ll find the answer right in the title: Daily rituals. In their own particular way, all the experts in this book consistently put in hours and hours of solitary deliberate practice. They follow routines. They’re creatures of habit.” (Page 139)
23. “Eventually, if you keep practicing in the same time and place, what once took conscious thought to initiate becomes automatic. “There is no more miserable human being,” observed William James, than the one for whom “the beginning of every bit of work” must be decided anew each day.” (Page 140)
Excellence is a habit, and every day rent is due.
“To probe the motivations that underlie grit, I recruited sixteen thousand American adults and asked them to complete the Grit Scale. As part of a long supplementary questionnaire, study participants read statements about purpose – for instance, “What I do matters to society” – and indicated the extent to which each applied to them. They did the same for six statements about the importance of pleasure – for instance, “for me, the good life is the pleasurable life.” From these responses, we generated scores ranging from 1 to 5 for their orientations to purpose and pleasure, respectively.
Below, I’ve plotted the data from this large-scale study. As you can see, gritty people aren’t monks, nor are they hedonists. In terms of pleasure-seeking, they’re just like anyone else; pleasure is moderately important no matter how gritty you are. In sharp contrast, you can see that grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life. Higher scores on purpose correlate with higher scores on the Grit Scale.
This is not to say that all grit paragons are saints, but rather, that most gritty people see their ultimate aims as deeply connected to the world beyond themselves.
My claim here is that, for most people, purpose is a tremendously powerful source of motivation. There may be exceptions, but the rarity of these exceptions proves the rule.” (Page 147)
There is something deeply ingrained within all of us to want to live and work towards something larger than ourselves. Find a cause, work to improve it, and become a grittier person.
25. “Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.” (Page 169)
Read it again: “I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better.”
Resolve to make tomorrow better. You can, and you will.
26. “Optimists, Marty soon discovered, are just as likely to encounter bad events as pessimists. Where they diverge is in their explanations: optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of their suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent and pervasive causes are to blame.” (Page 173)
27. “In the same survey, we measured one more thing: happiness. Why? For one thing, there was a small but growing body of scientific evidence that happiness wasn’t just the consequence of performing well at work, it might also be an important cause.” (Page 177)
28. “The data from this study of young teachers, along with Wendy Kopp’s intuitions, interviews with grit paragons, and a half century of psychological research all point to the same, commonsense conclusions: 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.” (Page 178)
Resolve. To. Make. Tomorrow. Better.
This is an incredible book, I can’t recommend it enough. I started with over twice the number of quotes here and that’s without including anything from the Parenting for Grit chapter.
Hopefully these quotes resonate with you as much as they do with me. No matter where you’re at in life, that’s the perfect place to start. Resolve to make tomorrow better in some way shape or form, even if that’s just rereading these quotes to help fill your head with something positive.
Then go out and find something you’re passionate about, break it down into its component pieces, and start improving. If you’re pressed for time and not sure how you can carve out 15 to 20 minutes a day you can find some pointers on making small, life-style conducive changes with our post on 10 Quotes from the Compound Effect.
Until next time,