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.

Review: Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

gritThis review first ran in the Oct. 26 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary

By Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Crown Business


Do your kids a favour.

Stop telling them they’re special.

Your pride and joy won’t always be the smartest kids in the room and they’ll eventually slam into a problem they can’t solve on autopilot. Will they rise to the challenge or run away?

Start doing this instead. Praise your kids for their hard work and hustle. Notice when they’re grinding it out and going the extra mile. Encourage your kids to be the ones who are never outworked.

And put away the bubble wrap. Quit shielding your kids from disappointment, rejection and failure. Your kids, and their future employers, will thank you.

A little failure goes a long way to building grit and grit’s the best gift we can give our kids, say Brooklyn-born authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval and co-founders of an award-winning ad agency. “Emerging research suggests that there is far more to success in life than a country club pedigree or natural ability and sheer talent. Passion and perseverance matter more than talent or intelligence when it comes to being successful. Taking the measure of a person’s grit is a more accurate barometer of how successful he or she will be than any report card or resume.”

So what’s grit? Kaplan Thaler and Koval say it’s about sweat and character rather than swagger and charisma.

“Grit is the hard-fought struggle, a willingness to take risks, a strong sense of determination, working relentlessly toward a goal, taking challenges in stride, and having the passion and perseverance to accomplish difficult things, even if you are wallowing in the most difficult circumstances.”

You get grit by being courageous, resilient, tenacious and a self-starter. Most of us stand around saying something should be done. The gritty few step up and get it done without fanfare.

Grit’s a scarce commodity in our confidence-boosting Age of Self-Esteem. Every kid gets a trophy while all the grown-ups meet or exceed expectations on their annual performance reviews.  We visualize being a success without focusing on the years of slogging, sacrifices and setbacks required to get to the top of our game.

The good news is that grit can be learned and it’s age agnostic.

Kaplan Thaler and Koval offer up dozens of grit builders.  Be willing to go the extra 30 minutes every day. “You’d be surprised at the edge you can develop by applying yourself for an extra half hour on something – a goal, a skill, a job. A half hour each day adds up to 180 hours of extra practice a year.”

Quit following your dreams and instead set a specific goal, come up with a game plan and start moving the yardsticks with small wins. “While the dreamers are still sleeping, the doers are taking victory laps, because they had the sense to wake up and get to work. They put themselves in a grit state of mind.”

For added inspiration, Kaplan Thaler and Koval profile ordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things thanks to grit. They show what you can achieve through the virtue of hard work and resilience.

“Grit is the great equalizer in life, because anyone, at any time, whatever their background or resources, can lay claim to it. It’s been proven time and again that those individuals who relentlessly and passionately summon their inner fortitude when things get tough and scary; who tirelessly turn defeat into victory thanks to their resilience; who turn roadblocks into initiatives; and hold on with the fierce tenacity of a mother tiger to her cubs, are the true winners in life.”