Do You Have “It” or Grit? Lessons from Angela Duckworth’s Book

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Do you have “It”? That’s something a teacher or coach might ask — the implication being that God-given talents are necessary to make it to Carnegie Hall, Yankee Stadium or Broadway. After reading “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth, a more apt question might be, “Do you have Grit”?

Ever since Ben Franklin said “You can do anything you set your mind to,” parents around the world started using that line with their children. Duckworth provides the framework for how to do it. She explains that it’s not just setting your mind to something, it’s doing so with strong intention, a clear focus and the will to never give up.

Grit Can Be Learned

We put too high an emphasis on natural talents and IQ, things that we’re given at birth. If you’re low on both, is your potential capped? Not at all. Duckworth teaches us that grit can lead to tremendous success, and that grit can be learned. Unlike IQ, grit is malleable.

I love this definition of grit from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, which Duckworth shared in the book. Speaking about great competitors, Carroll says:

“The mindset that they’re always going to succeed, that they’ve got something to prove. They’re resilient, they’re not going to let setbacks hold them back. They’re not going to be deterred, you know, by challenges and hurdles and things.”

I asked some friends and colleagues for their thoughts on “Grit.” Here’s what they had to say.

Julius Solaris

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Julius Solaris

Julius Solaris (@tojulius) is editor of EventMB, the number one website worldwide for event professionals, covering topics such as event planning, social media for events, event technology, event trends, event inspiration.

What is your Grit Score?

3.8 (Note: to determine your score, visit this grit score calculator).

What’s your single biggest takeaway from the book?

More than a takeaway, a confirmation. I’ve always believed in a non-linear path to success. I’ve always believed that talent is not everything.

The beginning of the book is iconic to me. I’ve lived most of my young life in an environment where you succeed for nepotism or if you become a doctor or a lawyer. I’ve always thought that I could hack myself into succeeding without following what others thought was the right way. The amount of research in the book confirms I am not a crazy person after all.

How are you applying lessons from the book?

The book hasn’t inspired me to change. It described my career path and personal achievements.

Lots of people don’t understand how can you make a living out of a blog. Grit is a big part of it. I see bloggers quitting every day. As soon as things become tough they give up. When they realize they can’t become millionaires overnight, they move to Snapchat ;-).

I’ve also lost large amount of weight in my life and gained it back. The setback of losing a battle hasn’t stopped me from fighting my health war, even when I hit rock bottom. I revived this feeling in the book many times.

I truly think that those that succeed in life share the tenacity of not giving up, against adversity and adversaries.

John Pollard

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John Pollard

John (@jcpollard) is Senior Director of Marketing at Nordic Consulting Partners, Inc.

With industry experience in high tech, advertising, healthcare, and education, he has designed, built, marketed, and sold for some of the largest companies on the planet — corporations like SAP, JPMorgan Chase, and American Airlines.

What are your takeaways from the book?

The first thing I appreciated about Grit was how she defined “passion.” I had become a little cynical about the standard way passion is used in our culture — especially after reading Cal Newport’s work on the topic in his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” where he said that “following your passion is bad advice.”

Duckworth redefines passion as a compass that guides you on that “long and winding road.” She, like Newport, shows that arriving at “passion” is going to take time, exploration, and a whole lot of work. Now that’s a more realistic definition.

Secondly, I really appreciated how she described getting at one’s main goal or life philosophy. While I disagree with her premise that you can’t or shouldn’t intertwine your personal and professional goals, the idea of creating a hierarchy of sub-goals that all lead up to and align with the main goal was interesting and enlightening to me.

Attach to that main goal “purpose,” which she defined as “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others” and you have some pretty powerful concepts. If you apply these same concepts to your brand’s corporate strategy, you’ll have a better chance at a highly engaged workforce. Not only that, but your brand is probably going to set itself apart from the sea of vanilla that is so common in corporate America.

Hailley Griffis

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Hailley Griffis

Hailley (@hailleymari) is passionate about communications in the form of public relations, social media marketing and personal branding.

She’s on the marketing team at Buffer and loves strategizing and implementing communications plans for product launches and announcements.

What is your Grit Score?

3.8.

What’s your single biggest takeaway from the book?

The mindset shift to live life like a marathon and not like a sprint has really stuck with me.

How are you applying lessons from the book?

I’m focusing on only one project or goal at a time so that I can really stick with it and avoid distractions.

Note: On a recent episode of Buffer’s “The Science of Social Media” podcast, Hailley spoke about the need for social media marketers to have grit. Here’s how she described it:

“The idea that you might not get immediate results and you’re going to have to keep working at it, so not being discouraged — but rather, gaining momentum from that and continuing to try until you do find something that works.”

Listen to the podcast on Buffer’s show notes page.

Naomi Tucker

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Naomi Tucker

Naomi Tucker (@naotuck) is Sr. Strategic Account Manager at Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.

She blogs at Plan It On a Post-It.

She’s also the organizer of the Appleton Area Moms on the Go Meetup. Naomi and I share a love for Meetups. Read more about that shared passion.

What is your Grit Score?

4.0.

What’s your single biggest takeaway from the book?

That perseverance is powerful. If you stick to your pursuit, whatever it is, it will be rewarding to you. I love how Angela Duckworth points out that aptitude does not guarantee achievement. How much a person knows in an area, and how talented they are, doesn’t always equal a successful outcome.

Those with more grit can outshine those said to have more “talent.” In the end, I really learned to not give up early on my dreams. They are reachable. I learned to wake up each morning, and keep going, to persevere.

How are you applying lessons from the book?

I wear many hats in my work life and my personal one. With that said, I have many goals and dreams that if left to what happens in my day-to-day life, could lay adrift. I’ve always continued to pursue those goals and dreams even if time continues to space them out with other obligations that I have. I think the book helps me give more passion to my goals and dreams and reminds me that by pursuing them, eventually I’ll win.

Dennis Shiao (that’s me!)

I manage content marketing at DNN Software. Here’s how I spend a typical day at work.

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My Grit Score.

What is your Grit Score?

4.0.

What’s your single biggest takeaway from the book?

That passion alone won’t get you to your goals. I used to think that passion + strong vision could be employed to help people reach their dreams. “Grit” taught me that there’s a subtle adjustment to the formula, which is passion + perseverance. I need to precisely define what I’m passionate about, set a long range goal, then never give up.

How are you applying lessons from the book?

“Grit” has provided me with the inspiration to keep forging ahead, knowing that I’ll attain my goals if I stick to the process. It helps me appreciate the journey. Kind of like a “we’re in this to win it” mentality. In addition, I am applying lessons from Chapter 10 (“Parenting for Grit”) in my parenting.

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