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Grit: Review

I must confess I read this book a few months ago but have finally made the time to write a review about it.

If you have not read the book, you can watch a TED talk here. Angela Duckworth shares her research concluding that in the long run, people who persist through the easy and tough times are the ones that get ahead. Similar to the nature v. nurture, or hereditary v. environment, this book is definitely an argument in favor of nurture and environment. All things (or most things) can be mastered given enough persistent effort.

That paragraph above defines the entire book, and I came away a little disappointed. I read the introduction (as is customary) and it made every succeeding section seem dull and unsurprising. Her starting point raises a good question, why do we screen for the most talented in elite level institutions/programs if dropout rates are consistent with what you’d find elsewhere? Case in point: West Point. The screening process narrows candidates to a mere fraction of the original pool of applicants. Yet, for those that make it into the program, about half (I can’t remember the exact percentage) drop out. The rest of the book answers that why.

I found this book comforting, as I do not see myself inherently good at anything. My dad grew up with numbers (he is an accountant) and as we grew up he’d give us math problems and continually share shortcuts for multiplying 3 digit or more numbers. We would be forced to study, read, and the like to do anything. I never really grew up being excited about one thing in particular, I would enjoy engaging in many different activities, but I did not become competent in them until I practiced. To read this book and not feel envious of people with natural talent (I never really was envious) was encouraging. It definitely is a hopeful book.

Duckworth’s career has taken very interesting turns, from high paying cushy jobs to teaching in middle level schools. I respect her research for that and I did enjoy some of this book. But I would say if you read the introduction, you’ve read the entire book. Everything else provides examples or delves into the minutae of grit and its various implementations.