Book Review: GRIT – Why Passion and Resilience are the secrets to success (Part 1)

GRIT – a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective). According to Angela Duckworth, the author of the book, GRIT is passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way.

In the last month, I’ve been glued to this book day and morning with a keen interest in learning from the studies and experiences by Angela Duckworth. Partly, this was informed by the trends and general talk of grit and resilience on the backdrop of hurdles, hardships and challenges. The question always is how does one deal with insurmountable challenges and become successful at whatever they do. In most interviews of people we consider successful, there is often some level of sustained commitment and investment to a particular cause which later materializes to be an achievement in their lives. In an earlier campaign by Safaricom, largest telecom company in Kenya, they had the GRIT as the drive behind their offering loosely abbreviated as “Greatness Requires Internal Toughness.” According to Angela Duckworth, internal toughness is part of the equation but not the whole. Question would be why would we want to be gritty individuals? Why does grit matter? This is what I intend to delve in for this part 1 of the review.

We all have aspirations and goals in different facets of our lives. Often times we get discouraged or demotivated to continue our pursuit of these goals for we feel the level of effort need to accomplish them maybe too much. In some other instances, it might be associated with our inherent desire to avoid pain or persistent commitment to a particular with no visible outcomes e.g., the same way you’d hear people ask why you’d train for soccer just to keep being benched every season. One may quit while others persist. Those who persist have a better chance of earning a slot in the team and ultimately growing in the field. There’s no way you’ll ever win unless you are part of the game and in being part of the game, you have to commit to train, get better at your skill or craft and ultimately demonstrate your ability in order to realize your goal. Nobody gets paid for showing their skills in training, but in actually performing a task in real life e.g., doctors are not celebrated for dissecting cadavers meticulously but for performing life-saving surgeries explicitly well. Footballers are not hailed for great dribbles and scores in trainings and friendlies but by their performance in tournaments.

GRIT as a the ability to commit to a particular pursuit over an extended period of time is important in helping us horn our skills, gain mastery and ultimately secure an opportunity to demonstrate our capability. I recently got nudged to listen to a poem by Shane Koyczan in which he talks of his struggles with bullies in school, writing poems he never had the confidence to show anyone or even read out loud. These later became the pieces that awakened the poet in him when he had the confidence to come out of his hiding. If he didn’t play his part writing and mastering his art, it’s almost obvious he wouldn’t be the person he is.

I believe that in doing something deliberately, we get the nudge to learn more about it, improve our skill and ultimate become successful. Whichever way we define success, we all want to be great at something and our way to it is through persistent commitment to the cause. Reflecting on the book, she acknowledges that often times when people perform exemplarily well, we attribute this to talent which definitely can’t be downplayed but without practice they wouldn’t be as good. In the grand scheme of things, talent plays a part but efforts plays an even greater role in helping us realize our goals. She proposes an equation which I believe holds true to a grander scale of things;

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

With this in mind, I believe our sure way of achieving our goals and aspirations is through dedicated pursuit through skills development and demonstration of our abilities through action. If you learn and don’t practice, you’ll never know whether you are good at what you’ve learnt.

“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.” – John Wayne

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