Derek Sivers

Grit - by Angela Duckworth

Grit - by Angela Duckworth

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Grit is her word for persistence, focus, endurance, and constant improvement. Great thoughts on this point. If interested in it, also read the books here about deliberate practice.

my notes


There was no expectation of ever catching up to their ambitions. In their own eyes, they were never good enough. They were the opposite of complacent. They were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of interest and importance. The chase was gratifying.

They knew what they wanted. They had determination and direction.

The most dazzling human achievements are the aggregate of countless ordinary individual elements. Dozens of small skills or activities carefully drilled into habit, then fitted together. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produce excellence.

When we can’t easily see how experience and training got someone to excellence, we label that person a “natural.”

No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become. That is its advantage, for wherever one can see the act of becoming, one grows somewhat cool.

Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking. To call someone ‘divine’ means: ‘here there is no need to compete.’

Stop reading so much and go think.

A theory is an explanation. A theory takes a blizzard of facts and observations and explains what is going on. By necessity, a theory is incomplete. It oversimplifies. But it helps us understand.

John Irving’s dyslexia: in doing something over and over again, something that was never natural becomes almost second nature. “Rewriting is what I do best as a writer. I spend more time revising a novel or screenplay than I take to write the first draft. It’s become an advantage. It doesn’t hurt anyone as a writer to have to go over something again and again.”

Will Smith: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period.

Running hard was not just a function of aerobic capacity and muscle strength but also the extent to which a subject is willing to push himself or has a tendency to quit before the punishment becomes too severe.

Getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit.

How hard we push ourselves in a given workout matters, but the bigger impediment to progress is that sometimes we stop working out altogether.

Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.

Skipping around from one kind of pursuit to another: grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it. Not just falling in love - staying in love.

The word passion is often used to describe intense emotions.

High achievers often talk about commitment of a different kind. Consistency over time.

Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.

Tom Seaver: Pitching determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I’m awake. It determines how I spend my life when I’m not pitching: pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand. I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down.

Care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way.

Pointing in the same direction: Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time.

Any successful person has to decide what to do in part by deciding what not to do.

Warren Buffett: Circle your five highest-priority goals. Then look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle. These you avoid at all costs. They’re what distract you; they eat away time and energy, taking your eye from the goals that matter more.

Dogged perseverance toward a top-level goal requires, paradoxically perhaps, some flexibility at lower levels in the goal hierarchy.

What definitively set apart the eminent from the rest of humanity were a cluster of four indicators:

Degree to which he works with distant objects in view (as opposed to living from hand to mouth).
Active preparation for later life.
Working toward a definite goal.
Tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability.
Not seeking something fresh because of novelty.
Not “looking for a change.”

Degree of strength of will or perseverance.
Quiet determination to stick to a course once decided upon.
Tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles.
Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.

Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity.

Being a “promising beginner” is fun, but being an actual expert is infinitely more gratifying.

People drop out of things for different reasons. “I’m bored.” “The effort isn’t worth it.” “This isn’t important to me.” “I can’t do this, so I might as well give up.”

Don’t swap compasses.

What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.

Interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain

Paul Silvia is a leading authority on the emotion of interest.

For the beginner, novelty is anything that hasn’t been encountered before. For the expert, novelty is nuance.

Teach kids to finish what they begin. Whatever they signed up for, they have to see it through to the end.

“You’ve got to go to all the practices. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m tired of this.’ Once you commit, you discipline yourself to do it. There’s going to be times you don’t want to go, but you’ve got to go.”

So much of sticking with things is believing you can do it.

Parents who are both demanding and supportive. The technical term is “authoritative parenting”. There is much evidence for the benefits of supportive and demanding parenting.

If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself how likely it is that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you.

Teachers who are demanding - whose students say of them, “My teacher accepts nothing less than our best effort,” and “Students in this class behave the way my teacher wants them to” - produce measurable year-to-year gains in the academic skills of their students.

Teachers who are supportive and respectful - whose students say, “My teacher seems to know if something is bothering me,” and “My teacher wants us to share our thoughts” - enhance students’ happiness, voluntary effort in class, and college aspirations.

The ballet studio, the recital hall, the dojo, the basketball court, the gridiron - these are the playing fields of grit. First, there’s an adult in charge - ideally, a supportive and demanding one - who is not the parent. Second, these pursuits are designed to cultivate interest, practice, purpose, and hope. As soon as your child is old enough, you find something they might enjoy doing outside of class and sign them up. Engage in at least one extracurricular activity of their choice.

I found myself enthusiastically praising my children no matter what they did. And this is one of the reasons extracurricular activities offer superior playing fields for grit - coaches and teachers are tasked with bringing forth grit in children who are not their own.

Require that they stick with at least one activity for more than a year.

They’re especially beneficial when we do them for more than a year. In fact, lessons learned while working to improve from one season to the next come up repeatedly in my interviews with paragons of grit.

Kids who spend more than a year in extracurriculars are significantly more likely to graduate from college and, as young adults, to volunteer in their communities.

Follow-through in high school extracurriculars predicted graduating from college with academic honors better than any variable. Likewise, follow-through was the single best predictor of holding an appointed or elected leadership position in young adulthood.

Following through on our commitments while we grow up both requires grit and, at the same time, builds it.

Personalities do, in fact, change after childhood.

Everyone - including Mom and Dad - has to do a hard thing. A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice.

The second part of the Hard Thing Rule: You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other “natural” stopping point has arrived. You must, at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you begin.

You can’t quit on a bad day.

In high school, a fourth requirement will be added: each kid must commit to at least one activity, either something new or the piano and viola they’ve already started, for at least two years.

A typical Finn is an obstinate sort of fellow who believes in getting the better of bad fortune by proving that he can stand worse.

Thinking of yourself as someone who is able to overcome tremendous adversity often leads to behavior that confirms that self-conception.