Happy Saturday and welcome to a mini book review of “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.
Who succeeds and who doesn’t. Angela argues it’s not the most capable, the smartest, most athletic, most connected, that accomplish their goals, but the ones who don’t give up. She calls this grit.
What makes some people gritty and others not? Upbringing has a lot to do with it. One commonality is people who participated in an extracurricular activity and had people in their lives who did not let them quit when it got hard. It did not matter if this was an athletic, musical, or academic endeavor, doing something hard and not quitting is essential. Having people around who say, “You can’t quit,” or “You can do this,” or even more importantly, “I expect you to do better,” helps build gritty people.
Some people are gritty by nature. They operate with the imperative they have something to prove. Maybe it’s to themselves, may it’s to others, but they will not allow themselves to be proven wrong. They must succeed.
If you can be gritty by nature, or gritty by nurture, I start thinking about two ideas. How can I become more gritty? How can I raise gritty kids?
I love Angela’s practice of “hard things.” Everyone in her family has to pick a hard thing they pursue. Everyone gets to choose their hard thing, and they can’t quit when it gets hard. They have to stick it out until a natural end point like the end of a season or a year. If they choose to quit the hard thing at a logical endpoint, they have to replace it immediately with something else. The reason is Angela’s research points to grit developing through the practice of pushing through difficulty.
Angela also makes the point that underprivileged kids, especially from poor communities, have the fewest opportunities to learn grit through nurture than their privileged peers. They lack access to sports, music, the arts, and extracurricular activities because their communities and schools lack the funds to provide these programs. The same goes for children from broken families where there are not adults in their lives who both encourage them and hold them accountable to persevere through conflict and difficulty, and it breaks my heart. It also makes me inspired by what an organization called Goshen Valley Boys Ranch does for foster kids in Cherokee County.
I am so fortunate to have parents who got this right. A father who set high standards and taught me to “Always do your best!” A mother who believed I could do anything and always filled me with encouragement. Parents who both demanded high effort, who encouraged and celebrated achievements, who comforted me when I failed, and who never let me quit anything ever. Thank you!