Skip to content

Archive for

Review: Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth


This review first ran in the May 24 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth



We don’t whine.

We chose to be positive.

We work hard.

We don’t freak out over ridiculous issues or live in fragile states of emotional catharsis or create crises where none should exist.

These are four of the 12 core values adhered to by the women’s soccer team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The team is led by Anson Dorrance. He’s the winningest coach in the history of women’s soccer with 22 national championships.

Dorrance’s father will tell you that his son is the most confident person with the least amount of talent that you’ll ever meet.

Dorrance takes it as a compliment.

“Talent is common,” says Dorrance, who captained his men’s soccer team in college and was nicknamed Hack and Hustle. “What you invest to develop that talent is the critical final measure of greatness.”

Dorrance has built a culture of grit to develop the full potential of his players. “If you want to create a great culture, you have to have a collection of core values that everyone lives.”

The team’s core values are a 50-50 split between teamwork and grit.

Every season, Dorrance has his players fill out the Grit Scale developed by Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth has done consulting work withthe White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams and Fortune 500 CEOs.

“To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other,” says Duckworth. “To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight.”

So how do you get more grit?

Start by fostering and then following your passion. “Here’s what science has to say,” says Duckworth. “Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development and then a lifetime of deepening.”

Grit is equal parts passion and perseverance. If you love what you do, you’re more likely to stick with it.

That’s key because you need to log thousands of hours of deliberate practice to realize your full potential. Deliberate practice is frustrating, uncomfortable and painful. Few of us are willing to pay the price.

“My guess is that many people are cruising through life doing precisely zero hours of daily deliberate practice,” says Duckworth.

Gritty people also pursue a passion that has a deeper purpose. “Most gritty people see their ultimate aims as deeply connected to the world beyond themselves. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.”

And gritty people have a rise-to-the-occasion hope. They resolve to make tomorrow better than today. “The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.”

Instead of waging a war for talent, Duckworth makes a strong case for hiring the grittiest people you can find and creating a culture that builds grit from the outside in.

“Our potential is one thing,” says Duckworth. “What we do with it is quite another.” So start doing hard things that interest you and stick with it. Grit will make you great.

Free media relations camp for non-profits and community groups June 27


the news

9th annual Media Relations Summer Camp Monday, June 27 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Spectator

The Hamilton Spectator and Mohawk College present the 9th annual Media Relations Summer Camp June 27 for Hamilton and Burlington non-profits and community groups.

The camp is offered free-of-charge as a thank-you to local community builders.

This year’s camp in the Hamilton Spectator auditorium will feature three hands-on workshops with Spectator reporters, editors and public relations professionals:

  • The art of the media interview
  • Be a thought leader – how to write op-eds that get people talking and taking action
  • Crisis communications 101 – what to do when the news is bad

There will also be an opportunity to pitch story ideas to editors and reporters.

Lunch and parking are also free.

Up to 20 non-profits and groups can register, with up to three campers from each organization.

With new workshops, organizations that have attended past camps are welcome to take part. Since launching the camp in 2007, nearly 200 non-profits and community groups have attended the camp. Last year, 100 per cent of campers said they would recommend the camp to others.

To register, go to

For more information, email camp counsellors:

Review: Larry Smith’s No Fear, No Excuses – What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career

no fear

This review first ran in the May 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

No Fear, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career

By Larry Smith



There’s a binder in our basement that proves my wife picked the right career.

The binder is full of stories that my wife wrote back in elementary school.

She was a kid who loved to write and express opinions.

My wife took her passion and built a great career in journalism. While she’s collected a bookcase full of awards, my wife most values the notes and letters from the victims and families who’ve been given a voice through her stories.

So how about you?

Are you passionate about what you do for a living?

Or did you settle for a job that’s merely interesting?

“The grown-up world is where talent goes to die,” says Larry Smith, an adjunct associate professor and career counsellor at the University of Waterloo and author of No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career. Smith’s Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career TED Talk has been watched nearly five million times.

“The rules are clear: do what you are told and you get paid; work to live on the weekend and dread Monday; look forward to retirement and hope you do not end up dreading that as well; expect that pleasure or satisfaction in the work is an uncommon bonus.”

Smith challenges us to break those rules. Follow your passion and create a great career that delivers a lifetime of satisfying work, makes the world a better place, earns you a dependable and adequate income and brings personal freedom.

Passion makes us exceptional. “Passion brings an intensity of focus that effort, discipline and persistence cannot match,” says Smith. “With passion, you have the wind at your back.”

The absence of passion makes us replaceable cogs. We’re reduced to chasing and clinging to  a dwindling number of good jobs while competing against a crowd that has the same education, credentials, experience, skills and resume.

Pursuing your passion takes courage. It’s easier to make excuses.

We don’t want to make a fool of ourselves.

We can’t resist the pay and perks of today’s hot jobs and ignore how fast these jobs turn cold thanks to competition and technology.

We tell ourselves to soldier on and live for weekends and vacations.

We fool ourselves into believing that mastering a skill is more important than pursuing our passion.

We hold out hope that we’ll eventually learn to love our job.

We don’t want to disappoint our family and their white collar dreams.

We sacrifice our passion to be a great parent and partner and pretend that it’s impossible to also have a great career.

But Smith says our biggest fear should be failing to achieve the highest use of our talent.

Not sure what you’re most passionate about? Smith offers proven strategies for sorting through your interests, finding your passion and then custom-building a great career.

Along with freshly minted grads and mid-career professionals, Smith’s book should be required reading for parents. Every kid has a talent. What we tell our kids influences whether they pursue their passion or bury it.

“When your child is using his talent to its fullest, he is most likely to be both happy and successful,” says Smith.  Telling our kids to quit dreaming, be practical and have a back-up plan that pays the bills is lousy advice.

“Since we are protective of our children, why would we send them on a blood-sucking and soul-destroying path?”

We don’t have a binder of stories written by our daughter. Instead, we have photos of our daughter dancing. She’s been dancing for more than a decade. She doesn’t dance to win competitions and bring home giant trophies. She dances because it brings her joy.

For the last two years, our teenager has spent her entire Saturdays volunteering with her dance teacher. She’s never complained and we’ve never once had to drag out of bed .

Maybe our daughter will want to turn her passion into a career. If that’s her dream, my wife will speak from experience and tell her to go for it without fear or excuses.

That career and life advice will be the best gift we give our daughter.

@jayrobb has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and serves as director of Communications for Mohawk College.