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3 Lessons About Persistence That You Can Learn From Grit

Each month, the Tonal community reads one book that will help them crush their goals. This month’s pick is Grit, by Angela Duckworth, PhD. 

An image of the book "Grit" by Angela Duckworth sitting on a Tonal shelf illustrating that "Grit" is the April's Tonal book club pick.

You’ve heard this one before: Consistency is key. But it’s more than that. The secret to success is an unwavering commitment to your goals, or what behavioral science expert Angela Duckworth calls, grit. 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, authored by Duckworth is the April pick for Tonal’s book club, Read Between the Reps. Duckworth, who sought to uncover what fuels building a successful life, defines grit as an ultimate concern for your long-term goals. Grit is not about talent, intelligence, or even opportunity; it is a force that drives you, organizes you, and gives meaning to the things you do. 

“Grit is having stamina,” she said in a 2013 Ted Talk. “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”

In Grit, Duckworth examines research on the motivation and determination of West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee finalists, and teachers working in tough school environments. She also shares learnings from interviewing high achievers and insights from experiments on peak performance. 

Duckworth explains that grit is born both through genes and experience. But it’s also much more than self-control or a propensity to suppress impulses. Grit is built, in part, on deep personal values, genuine interest in the pursuit of a goal, and the ability and willingness to fight through failures and setbacks. Gritty people are more likely to organize their lives and tasks in a way that almost everything points them toward the one thing they hope to achieve. 

Key Takeaways From Grit

  1. Grit is greater than talent: You’ve heard some form of the adage that hard work beats talent. While many people believe that talent is a key predictor of success, Duckworth argues that grit is twice as important. Talent, she explains, is the ability to improve upon a skill quickly. Grit is your willingness to stick to a goal over a long period of time. And that constant, unrelenting effort to build a skill is likely to trump an ability to improve at a task quickly and easily. 
  2. Grit can be learned: In order to be passionate about something, you’ll have to find out what you’re passionate about. Duckworth suggests focusing on four psychological assets: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. She also explains that finding your passion can happen in three stages: discovery, development, and deepening of your interests.
  3. Grit requires deliberate practice: Sticking to it alone is not enough. Remember, first there needs to be a genuine love of the pursuit to succeed at a high level. This may require that you let go of other activities that you either don’t excel or for which you don’t have the same intense passion. Deliberate practice is the kind of practice that engages you in one small and specific aspect of your performance at a time and requires that you try to get a little better than before. You give 100 percent of your attention, gather feedback, and then go back and look to improve again. 

About The Author

Angela Duckworth, PhD., is a behavioral science expert and the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the  Penn-Wharton Behavioral Change for Good Initiative and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Duckworth’s 2013 Ted Talk has seen more than 25 million views. 

About The Book

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance aims to show anyone striving to succeed that the secret to achievement is not talent but a blend of passion and persistence. Grit is about what happens when you focus on your passion, what happens when you falter, and how all of that impacts your success. 

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