Per my promise some days back in the blog about scrappiness that I would write about the book Grit (Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Scribner, 2016), here are my thoughts.
I’ll start with my criticism and get that out of the way: Duckworth takes subject worth 150 pages and writes about it for 300. She is not an economical writer, nor does she eliminate extraneous or unimportant clutter. The writing made me impatient, but I persevered.
Now for the good part: I felt that I saw myself described on every page; reading the text turned into a personal experience for me. Duckworth defines “grit” as “the power of passion and perseverance,” almost precisely what I mean by “scrappiness.” The only change I would make in the definition is to add the idea of fierceness.
One of the main points of the book is that we Americans tend to credit natural ability—talent, intelligence, innate understanding—rather than hard work as the reason for success. As Duckworth makes clear through dozens of examples, determination and unwillingness to accept failure are far more essential ingredients. Success means taking the inborn resources you have and exploiting them to the hilt. It means never accepting failure, despite its recurrence. It means profiting from failed attempts. It means learning and learning and learning, about the nature of the task and goal and improving one’s own abilities. Above all, it means working as hard as you can.
Some quotes in the book that caught my eye: “Greatness is doable.” “To do anything really well, you have to overextend yourself.” And “Improve, Adapt, Overcome.”
As I came to see while reading Duckworth’s work, grit is the underlying quality of all five principal characters in Last of the Annamese.