Book Notes – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance


Book Notes written by Ryan Pijai

Quick Summary:

Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She has advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs. She has also given a TED Talk on Grit that can be found here.

What is Grit?

Grit has two components: Passion and Perseverance.

Passion is not about intensity. It is about consistency over time. It is less like fireworks, and more like a compass. How long have you stuck with high-level goals? What is your life philosophy? Low-level and mid-level goals can change, but your top-level goals should remain the same.

  • Write down a list of twenty-five career goals.
  • Do some soul-searching and circle the five highest-priority goals.
  • Take a good hard look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle. These you avoid at all costs. They’re what distract you.

Passion is the ability to work toward distant objectives/goals. It is the tendency not to abandon tasks merely for changeability.

Perseverance is the quiet determination to stick to a course once decided upon and not abandoning it just because it is difficult.

Effort Counts Twice

People like to believe there are geniuses out there who have natural talent and do not need to practice. We convince ourselves of this so we can let ourselves off the hook for not being good at something. But greatness comes more from effort than ability.

Here are two equations that explain how you go from talent to achievement:

  • Talent * Effort = Skill
  • Skill * Effort = Achievement 

Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them. Effort is counted twice. Effort builds skills. At the same time effort makes skill productive.

How to improve Grit

There are 4 areas to focus on to improve Grit.

  • Interest: Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.
  • Practice: You have to have the daily discipline to try to do things better.
  • Purpose: What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters to others.
  • Hope: Hope is the belief that you have the power to make things better.


It takes time to find something you can become passionate about. Passion does not happen overnight. Early interests are fragile, and if you don’t spend time playfully exploring and repeatedly exposing yourself to an interest, it will die out before it becomes a passion.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out what might become a passion of yours:

  • What do I like to think about?
  • Where does my mind wander?
  • What do I really care about?
  • What matters most to me?
  • How do I enjoy spending my time?
  • What do I find absolutely unbearable?


Gritty people have a persistent desire to do better. But it’s a positive state of mind, not a negative one. It’s not looking backward with dissatisfaction. It’s looking forward and wanting to grow.

It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something. That’s 3 hours a day for about 10 years.

Basic requirements of deliberate practice:

  • Clearly defined stretch goals.
  • Full concentration and effort.
  • Immediate and informative feedback.
  • Repetition with reflection and refinement.

Make deliberate practice a habit every day. Routines make it easier to do something hard.


Purpose is the intention to contribute to the well-being of others. Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life.

“Whether you’re a janitor or the CEO, you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”

Tips for cultivating purpose:

  • Reflect on how the work you’re already doing can make a positive contribution to society.
  • Think about how, in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values.
  • Find inspiration in a purposeful role model.


The type of hope that gritty people have rests on the expectation that their own efforts can improve their future. I “resolve to make tomorrow better” rather than I “have a feeling tomorrow” will be better.

Learned helplessness can cause us to become depressed and not even try anymore. Learned optimism can do the opposite. You should have a “Growth Mindset.” Believe, deep down, that people, including yourself, really can change.

Life is about challenging yourself and learning to do what you couldn’t do before. Executives who ultimately excel are ones that keep surprising you with how much they’re growing.

If you experience adversity that you overcome on your own, you develop a different way of dealing with adversity later on. Just telling somebody they can overcome adversity isn’t enough. For the rewiring to happen, they have to experience mastery at the same time as adversity.

Achievement without adversity results in you becoming a “Fragile Perfect.” Your first failure will devastate you.

Parenting for Grit

Be supportive AND demanding.

Supportive – Warm:
  • I can count on my parents to help me out if I have a problem.
  • My parents spend time just talking to me.
  • My parents and I do things that are fun together.
Supportive – Respectful:
  • My parents believe I have a right to my own point of view.
  • My parents respect my privacy.
  • My parents give me a lot of freedom.
  • My parents really expect me to follow family rules.
  • My parents point out ways I could do better.
  • My parents expect me to do my best even when it’s hard.

Extracurriculars are important for developing Grit in children. School’s hard, but for many kids it’s not intrinsically interesting. Playing with friends is interesting, but it’s not hard. But extracurriculars? They can be both. Exposing children to something that is hard and also interesting helps to develop Grit.

Staying with something for more than a year and getting better at it also improves Grit.

A Culture of Grit

If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.

In the long run, culture has the power to shape our identity. Identity influences every aspect of our character, but it has special relevance to grit. Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make—to get up one more time; to stick it out—are a matter of identity more than anything else.


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