What is Grit? It is the secret to the success of the best athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, and lawyers of the world. It is the reason behind the most outstanding performances and world-class skills.
You don’t need to have an inborn talent. No matter who you are, you can have grit.
In this book, you will learn what grit is. You will also learn the effect of talent on success. Additionally, you will understand the importance of not giving up and having a clear goal.
If you want to be the best in your field, if you’re going to find your true calling, if you’re going to be world-class, read this book.
Only 10% of applicants are admitted to the United States Military Academy. They are mostly athletes and team captains in high school. But, just after two months of military training, many of them quit.
The new cadet starts with a program called Beast Barracks. They wake up at 5 AM every day. After that, they undergo a series of physical exercises, weapons training, and a classroom lecture. They only have three breaks, which are for Breakfast, Lunch, and dinner. The cadets go to bed at precisely 10 pm.
This is their routine every day. They do the same thing day in and day out. There are no weekends, no vacations, and no other breaks except for meals. The new cadets are not allowed to have contact with the outside world.
The Beast Barracks train the cadets physically, mentally, and emotionally. That is, indeed, the point of military training to toughen the future soldier.
The US Army wanted to predict who among the new cadets are going to give up and who are going to graduate. They asked for the help of several psychologists to create a test or an indicator that reveals who is more likely to stay in training and what qualities they have.
No psychologists actually succeeded in doing so. Even the most intelligent and most athletic new cadets drop out of the academy. Even the best achievers could not stand the intense training.
What is the quality that some cadets have, which enables them to finish the four-year program? If not intelligence or talent, then what is the secret?
Mike Matthews is one of the trainers in the military academy. He graduated from there. He said that as soon as they’re accepted, the new cadets are challenged every day to do things they haven’t done before. Having spent two weeks in the Barracks, Mike had already felt lonely, tired, and frustrated, just like all of his classmates.
Some of them had already quit, but not Mike. He said that his classmates did not lack ability. They are strong, smart, and agile. But, what really matters in the military academy is to never give up.
The author Angela Duckworth interviewed the most successful people in the field of medicine, business, law, art, and sports. She asked them about what qualities determine success. What makes extraordinary people stand out from the rest?
Angela learned that there are lots of talented people who had abandoned their careers before they became the best. She learned two common qualities that all of the most successful people have.
The first is never giving up after failing. These people are determined to improve their skills. For example, there is a writer who wasn’t really good at the beginning. His stories used to be so melodramatic and clumsy. But, he kept on writing. He got better and better. Later on, the writer won a prestigious award.
The second is never being complacent. These successful people really love what they do. Even if the tasks get frustrating, boring, or painful, they don’t quit. These successful people criticize even their own work. They are not satisfied until they have done the best. They have a clear idea of what they want to be.
So, if we name these two qualities, these are first, perseverance and second, passion. Perseverance is hard work and always getting up again. Passion is determination and direction. There is just one word to define all these good qualities. That is grit, i.e., passion plus perseverance.
Distracted by Talent
Pure talent is not enough to succeed. There are people with talent who became complacent. They do not practice or rehearse; that is why they underperform.
Conversely, there are those who don’t look special at all. They are only average when they first started. Yet, with grit, these people excelled. They succeeded. They did so not because they have natural talent, but because they have passion and perseverance.
Consider the story of David Luong, who used to be Angela’s student. Angela once taught math in a public school in San Francisco. She noticed that those who find maths easy don’t really get high grades in her class. But, the students who try harder and practice more ace the quizzes and tests.
One of these hardworking students is David. He is not a math whiz. David is shy. He is quiet, and he just sits at the back. He rarely recites and volunteers to solve a problem on the board.
Nevertheless, Angela noticed that David always gets a perfect score. Angela saw that he is more focused and determined to learn. After the algebra class, David would politely ask her for more exercises.
Angela saw his potential. She suggested that David should join the Advanced Math program. After one year, Angela asked him about his performance. David said that it was really hard. He rarely gets an A. But, David said that he always asks for the teacher’s help. He figured out what he does wrong. Then, he started practicing solving once again.
When David graduated, he was number one in the Advanced Calculus class. Angela learned that he took up economics and engineering in college. Then, David earned a PhD in mechanical engineering. Now, David is working in the Aerospace Corporation.
Angela is really proud of her student. David used to be a shy boy who gets low grades in math. But, because of passion and perseverance, David went to greater heights. Who would have thought that David will be a rocket scientist someday? He doesn’t have talent, but he surely has grit.
Efforts Count Twice
When people hear about an achiever in sports, they say that the athlete surely has natural talent. They conclude immediately that the person is extraordinary. There is something superhuman about the athlete that ordinary people cannot hope to attain.
But this is just an excuse. We are masking the idea that there is no magic or mystery behind the athlete’s success. The secret is just grit. It’s just hours and hours of practice. It’s just about never giving up and having a clear goal.
What we see is the incredible performances of athletes in the Olympics. But, we don’t see the hardships they experience. We don’t see the everyday training and routine of pushing their limits.
Have you ever heard of a dyslexic who became a great writer? That is the story of John Irving. He is a best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter.
John was a poor performer at school. His grade in English was always C minus. He had to stay in high school for an extra year before graduating. John was severely dyslexic.
He spent three hours just doing his history assignment. He finds it really difficult to spell words. He keeps a list of words that he always misspells. Whenever John tries to read, he does it very slowly. He follows the words with his finger.
Because of his condition, John exerted more effort into reading and writing. What he does is reading the same text over and over again. He eventually got used to it.
John was able to use dyslexia as an advantage. When he writes a novel, he reads the pages again and again. He has patience and perseverance. John says that rewriting is an asset of a writer. In his case, he doesn’t mind going over the first draft repeatedly. He always writes and rewrites.
John has written over 20 novels. Five of them have been adapted into films.
Will Smith, the famous actor, has this to say about natural talent: “I’ve never considered myself as someone who is talented; but, I have a very strict work ethic.”
Will Smith also says that other actors may be better, smarter, and sexier than him. But, they will not win against him because he will never ever give up.
How Gritty Are You
One day, Angela Duckworth gave a lecture at Wharton School. A young entrepreneur approached her after the lecture. He wanted to know more about grit.
The young man said that he owns a start-up company. He has earned thousands of dollars through it. He worked day and night to achieve this goal. He often lacks sleep.
Angela said that she is impressed. But, she explained that grit is more about stamina rather than intensity. She said the man could email her if he worked on the same project after two years.
Yet, the young man replied: “Well, I might not be working with the start-up anymore for the next two years.”
Angela explained that to have grit, you should be pursuing the same interest continuously. It doesn’t mean staying in one company. Rather, it means having one single direction or one single passion to master. It means staying in one industry or career path.
Jumping from one interest to another is not grit. This is because there is no shortcut to excellence. In order to become an expert, in order to have extraordinary skills, in order to become really successful, you have to spend a significant amount of time doing the same thing.
A person who has grit loves his/her career so much that he or she is willing to stay through thick and thin. Grit is not about falling in love with a career. Grit is about staying in love.
How do you know which interest is your life’s passion? Warren Buffet, the business magnate, has a simple solution. It only involves three steps.
First, get a piece of paper, and write down a list of your career goals. Write up to 25 bullet points.
Second, take time to reflect. Choose only five goals, which are your top priorities. Encircle those 5 goals.
Third, study those 20 goals that you didn’t choose. You must not let them distract you in anyway. They will only consume your energy and time. They take you away from the goals that are more important to you.
Angela Duckworth tried this. She realized that 4 out of her 5 main goals are a means to an end. Her ultimate passion is to help kids be the best versions of themselves.
In your career path, you only need to have one single compass. Not 25 and not 5. Energy and time are limited; so, discover your true calling, and do not let anything distract you from it. Keep on improving your skill even if many challenges come your way.
Many successful people give advice to “Follow Your Passion”. This same phrase is always said in graduation speeches: “Do what you love” or “Make your passion your profession.”
Scientists also, support this idea. They found out that people are more satisfied with jobs which align with their personal interest. This is the research conclusion of 100 different studies.
For example, a person who is really sociable will not enjoy a job which requires him to sit in front of a computer all day. That guy would be better off as a sales agent or a teacher.
All 100 studies agree that people who love their jobs are more satisfied with their personal lives. Aside from this, they also excel in their jobs. They perform better because they love what they are doing.
These people are also, more cooperative with their coworkers. In addition, they tend to stay in the job for a long time. Of course, they also experience challenges in their chosen career; but, they stick to it, and they overcome the problem perfectly.
However, studies reveal that all over the world, only 13% of adults are following their passion. Only 13% of adults worldwide love what they do. Why is that?
Perhaps, the problem resides in our society, which tells young people not to follow passions such as singing, dancing, painting, writing, or acting because these are not good professions. If they pursue these passions, they will probably end up as street beggars.
But, we should know better. There are many successful singers, dancers, painters, writers, and artists. They stick with what they love. They improved their skills, and they found a stable source of income.
We should not discourage young people from pursuing their interests. It doesn’t matter if it’s astronomy, programming or photography. Spending most of your time on one interest that you really enjoy will make you an expert. Soon, you will find opportunities which will allow you to succeed and to earn well.
If you haven’t found your passion yet, don’t worry. Not everyone has a Eureka moment when you just discover that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Take for example, Rowdy Gaines who is an Olympic gold medalist in swimming. He said that he loved all kinds of sports when he was a kid. In high school, Rowdy joined the tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, and football teams one after another. He thought that if he tries all sports, he may find out the one he likes more than the rest.
Rowdy tried out for the swimming team. But, he didn’t feel the love at first sight. Right after his swimming try-outs, Rowdy went to the library to read about track and field. He tried out for track and field after a few days.
Marc Vetri, an award-winning chef, also, has a similar story. He went to music school after college. He worked as a part-time waiter in a restaurant at night. There was, also, a time when he played in a band. To support his music, he worked as a cook in the morning.
Marc later realized that he is earning more in the restaurant. He became fond of cooking. He went to Italy and discovered his true calling.
You need at least 10,000 hours of practice done within 10 years in order to become a master in any field. This applies to ballerinas, violinists, basketball players, or any career in the world.
But, if you are just doing the same thing every day for years, you will not succeed. There must be continuous improvement in your skill. If you have reached a certain goal, you should make a new goal and strive to achieve it. After that, make a new one again.
Successful people find their weak points, and they keep working on them. They are never complacent. They always see what can be improved in their performance. That is why they keep getting better.
If you plot this in a graph, those who quit in a career early on lose the skills. Those who just do the same thing every day, don’t improve. But, world-class experts keep improving their skills as time passes. This is the ideal road to success.
Professor Anders Ericsson is a psychologist who studied world-class achievers. One day, a young woman asked for his advice. She said: “Sir, I jog for one hour in the morning every day. But my performance has not improved. I have a dream to compete in the Olympics.”
Professor Ericsson asked the young woman: “Do you have a specific target on your jogging?”
She answered: “To be fit? To be healthy?”
Prof. Ericsson said: “You need to have a target finishing time when you run, or a target distance. You need to have a specific quality that you would like to improve.”
Then, he asked the young woman about what she thinks about while jogging. She replied: “Sometimes I think about the tasks I have to do that day or what I will cook for dinner.”
The professor answered: “You need to keep track of all your progress. Keep a record of your distance, pace, heart rate, and intervals. If you jog the same way as you did yesterday, you will not improve. “
The Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines tries to beat his record every day. If today, he did 10 laps of 100 meters in 1:15 minutes; then, tomorrow, he will finish the 10 laps in 1:14 minutes.
The NBA superstar Kevin Durant likes to practice alone. In these sessions, he is able to focus on his weak points. Durant said that with each practice, he tries to perfect every aspect of his performance.
Atul Gawande, an expert surgeon, said that people think that you need to have great hands to become a successful surgeon. But, the truth is something else. The secret is to practice a difficult procedure every single day.
David Blaine, the famous magician, broke a world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes underwater. In his TED Talk, he said that doing the impossible requires hours and hours of training and practice. It means pushing yourself to the limits every time. For David Blaine, that is what magic is all about.
The most successful people have a purpose that is bigger than them. The purpose is the desire to improve the well-being of others. The success journey starts with an interest. It is finding a job which you enjoy. The next stage is practice and self-discipline. It is sticking up to your career, even if the going gets tough.
The final stage is purpose. It is having a greater purpose in what you do. It is seeing how your calling contributes to the lives of others. You can learn from this parable of bricklayers.
One day, three bricklayers are working under the sun. A stranger passed by, and asked them: “What are you doing?” The first bricklayer answered: “I am laying bricks.” The second one answered: “I am building a church.” The third bricklayer said: “I am building the house of God.”
So, as you can see, for the first bricklayer, what he is doing is a job. For the second, it is a career. But, for the third one, what he does is a calling.
People who see work as a calling are more likely to succeed. They are the ones who are most satisfied with their work. They are, also, the ones who are the happiest in all aspects of their life. For those successful people, what they do makes the world a better place.
What do you have? Do you have a job, a career or a calling? Do you work just to earn money? Do you work to be promoted? Or, do you work to make other people’s lives better? You can learn from this story.
Jane Golden is a mural artist from Philadelphia. When she was 29 years old, she was diagnosed with lupus. The doctor told her time is already limited. Jane was shocked by this news. But, she decided that she will outlive the sickness.
Jane went back to her hometown, and worked in the local anti-graffiti program. In the next 30 years, she transformed it into the biggest public art initiative.
Jane is now turning 60. She is still alive and in good shape. She continues to work day and night, seven days a week. She just loves her work. Jane teaches the people in her community how to do the mural painting.
There are still times when lupus attacks. The pain is excruciating. But Jane never wants to be self-piteous. She is greatly motivated to continue her work. Jane believes that by teaching art, she is helping a lot of people. She says that “Art saves lives.”
Grit is passion plus perseverance. It is about knowing and doing your favorite thing in the world. It is pushing your limits. It is overcoming your weaknesses. It is being the critic of your own self.
Now, you know that talent is the least requirement to become world-class. Now, you know that you need 10,000 hours of practice. You need to have continuous improvement. You need to have a higher purpose.
It is never too late to start. Find that passion and persevere. No matter what you do, don’t lose grit.