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Grit book summary

Grit book cover

An interesting exploration into grit, the role it plays in the long term success of an individual and how it can be developed internally and from external sources.

The book is split into 3 parts:

  1. What grit is and why it matters;
  2. Growing grit from the inside out;
  3. Growing grit from the outside in.

Part 1 - What grit is and why it matters

How to measure grit

  • Grit score (devised by the author) is determined by a questionnaire testing passion and perseverance.
  • Perseverance is how resilient and hardworking you are. How determined are you?
  • Passion is having a direction, and knowing in a deep way what you want.
  • Grit scale successfully predicted performance in long, arduous, difficult processes like military training and spelling bees.
  • There is no correlation between IQ and grit. Having potential is one thing - what we do with it is another.

An overemphasis on natural talent

  • Darwin believed zeal and hard work matter more than intelligence.
  • Harvard psychologist William James argued that most people's levels fall well within their limits and we constantly perform below our optimum, with only a few of us pushing the boundaries. Why do we assume then that it is out talent, rather than effort that decides where we'll be in the long run?
  • We suffer from naturalness bias - a preference for those we believe have natural talent, rather than having to strive for the same thing.
  • By being so pre-occupied with talent, we risk sending the message that other factors like grit do not have the importance that they actually have.

Effort has a multiplier effect

  • Superlative performance comprises dozen of small skills and activities that are done consistently and correctly (habitualised) and fitted together to make a whole that produces excellence. Each individual feat is doable.
  • We prefer excellence fully-formed, and want genius to be a mysterious or magical thing. This gives us an excuse, because we can't then compare ourselves against it and there is no need to compete.
  • Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.
    • Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort.
    • Achievement happens when you use your acquired skills.
    • Note that effort factors in twice. It makes your skills productive.

How gritty are you?

  • Grit is more about stamina than intensity. Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.
  • Use passion as a compass to guide you on a long, meandering path to where you eventually want to be.
  • Envision your goals in a hierarchy. Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a long time.
  • The grittiest people's mid and low level goals are in some way related to top level goals. One top level professional goal is ideal. The more aligned and coordinated our mid and lower level goals, the better.
  • Time and energy are limited. Being successful is also about deciding what not to do. Do the Warren Buffett 3 step approach to prioritising.
  • Giving up on lower level goals is necessary, especially if they are replaced with a more feasible goal, or one that is more fun or efficient to achieve your higher level goals.
  • High (but not highest) intelligence and greatest persistence is better than highest intelligence and less persistence.

Growing your grit

  • Grit and talent are influenced by genes and experience. There is no single gene responsible for grit.
  • Small environmental effects have a multiplier effect because social culture means it enriches the life for everyone leading to a virtuous cycle.
  • Grit is not entirely fixed - you can grow it.
  • 4 psychological assets of gritty people:
    • Interest - intrinsically enjoying the topic
    • Practice - continually getting better
    • Purpose - conviction that your work matters
    • Hope - keeping on going even when things are difficult

Part 2 - Growing grit from the inside out


  • Finding what you love in life is likely to take time and experimentation.
  • Don't be unrealistic in your expectations about your career going into it. No career is perfect and it takes time to get into it.
  • Passion for your work starts with discovery, then development, then a lifetime of deepening.
  • Interests are not developed intrinsically, but by interactions with the outside world.
  • Initial triggering of an interest must be retriggered again and again.
  • When starting, we need to play and enjoy first. We need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we like. Don't jump into focusing on practice and improvement too soon.


  • Kaizen is the Japanese concept for continuous improvement. A positive state of mind for looking forward and wanting to grow.
  • Anders Ericsson: 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over roughly 10 years is needed to become an expert.
  • Deliberate practice is supremely effortful. You're working on the edge of your skills with complete concentration. It's exhausting.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi theory of flow state perhaps fits in with deliberate practice like this: deliberate practice is for preparation and flow is for performance.
    • Years of challenge-exceeding-skill practice leading to challenge-meeting-skill flow explains why elite performance looks effortless. It's because it is.
  • To make the most of deliberate practice:
    • Know the science. Have a clearly defined stretch goal. Be in full concentration and effort. Have immediate and informative feedback. Use repetition with reflection and refinement.
    • Make it a habit. Routines make it easier to start doing something hard.
    • Change the way you experience it. Failing is not a bad thing. Grafting hard is a good thing.


  • Interest is one source of passion. Purpose is another. Purpose is the intention to contribute to the well-being of others. The idea is that what we do matters to others.
  • Extraordinary people go through 3 phases of development:
    • Early years - interest
    • Middle years - development and practice
    • Later years - purpose and meaning
  • Aristotle said there are at least 2 ways of pursuing happiness:
    • Eudemonic - in harmony with one's daemon (or good inner spirit)
    • Hedonic - inherently self-centered experiences
  • Both have evolutionary purposes. Hedonic pastimes tend to increase our chances of survival (food, sex). Man's search for meaning is due to the need to connect with society because society feeds and protects us.
  • However, the relative weight we give to one vs. the other can vary. Most gritty people see their ultimate actions as deeply connect to the wider world. Purpose is a great source of motivation for them.
  • Any occupation can be seen as a job, career or calling. How you see your work is more important that your job title.
  • Leaders and employees who have personal and pro-social interests in mind do better in the long run than those who are 100% selfishly motivated.
  • To start cultivating a sense of purpose:
    • Reflect on how the work you're already doing can make a positive contribution to society.
    • Think about how in small and meaningful ways you can change your work to be more in line with your core values.
    • Find inspiration in a purposeful role model. Who do you want to be in 15 years? What will you find important? Who inspires you to be a better person?


  • Gritty people have the expectation that their own efforts can improve their future.
  • Optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of suffering vs. pessimists who assume permanent and pervasive causes.
  • Growth mindset - believing deep down that people really can change, that intelligence can grow and that you can change.
  • Fixed mindset - believing that your capacity to learn skills (your talent) can't be trained.
  • Our mindset tends to come from our personal history of successes and failures and how the people around us (particularly in positions of authority) have responded.
  • Most people have an inner fixed mindset pessimist alongside an inner growth minded optimist. This is important because we have to train ourselves to change not just what we say, but also our body language, behaviour and subtle thoughts.
  • What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - yes, but really only in situations where by your own effort, you can control the outcome.
  • A growth mindset -> optimistic ways of explaining adversity -> perseverance -> seeking out of new challenges -> makes you stronger.
  • The brain has the capacity to change through struggling to master new challenges (neuroplasticity).

Part 3 - Growing grit from the outside in

Gritty culture

  • If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture to join. Use the basic human drive for conformity to fit in with other gritty people.
  • Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan has managed to create a gritty culture. The "How we do business" JP Morgan manual includes:
    • Have a fierce resolve in everything you do
    • Demonstrate determination, resilience and tenacity
    • Do not let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses
    • Use mistakes and problems as opportunities to get better, not reasons to quit.
  • Compete comes from Latin and means "strive together". It is not about triumphing over others.
  • To promote excellence in individuals and teams, you need deep, rich support and relentless challenge to improve.
  • Always compete. Be all you can be, whatever that is for you. Reach for your best.

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