March 2018 | Posted in Whitley Penn
Whitley Penn

To some, the word Grit brings to mind the classic western movie, “True Grit”. In this American classic John Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn, a U.S. Marshall who was hired by a tenacious teenager to find the man who killed her father.  Cogburn was recruited for this job because he was a man with a reputation for having “true grit”.

Today, “Grit” rings synonymous with “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance” a New York Times Bestseller authored by Angela Duckworth, PhD.  As a young girl she was told “she was no genius” but if you read her manuscript you will find that to be quite the contrary.  Duckworth pronounces that most people regard a genius as someone who can achieve great things without effort, but that a state of genius can also be achieved by investing effort and working toward excellence.

Duckworth exhibits a keen vernacular as she explains the secrets of how doing more defines potential and how highly successful people are resilient and hardworking. It is their passion and perseverance that sets them apart.  She clearly details the difference of how the focus on talent overshadows the impact of effort. In two simple formulas Duckworth explains that when talent is combined with effort, skill becomes productive.

If you wonder how gritty you are, Duckworth includes a Grit Scale and references highly successful “grit paragons” such as Pete Carroll, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.  If you take the grit test and are not as gritty as you thought or would like to be she offers solutions on how one grows grit from the inside out and the outside in.

Duckworth elucidates how interest, practice, purpose and hope grow grit from the inside out. By following your passion, exhibiting deliberate practice to achieve a state of flow, having a calling as opposed to a job or career, and being resilient contribute to your grit score and success in life.

She further expounds that growing grit from the outside in is derived from parenting, extracurricular activities and organizational cultures. She examines the influence that supplementary activities have on children as well as how organizations can emit a culture of grit.  Her analogies are complimented with references to “sisu”, the Finnish Sprit, and organizations such as the United States Military Academy at West Point which transformed a traditional culture of attrition where fear of failure was the motivator to an ethos of development where leaders respect subordinates and lead from the front.

So when the larger than life character John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” did he equate grit with genius? Maybe, maybe not.  However the commonality between the grit he exemplified on and off film and the grit Duckworth professes are wildly similar.  This is a book well worth reading and if you chose to invest the time, it will not disappoint.  Duckworth, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, is praised by many esteemed writers for her optimistic, modern day approach to achievement. She provides a genuine inspiration that we can all be geniuses and exceed our potential if we just have Grit.

Grit –The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Publisher: Scribner, 2016
ISBN 978-1-5011-1110-5
ISBN 978-1-5011-1110-9 (eBook)
$28.00 U.S.

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