Books: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

This book falls under the whole "common sense" umbrella in that it mostly spells out things that, given a little thought, seem like common sense. Still, I appreciate that it prompted me to reflect on my own experiences from childhood onward. I like books that cause introspection because in order to change oneself, one first has to be self-aware and understand what and how to change.

Truth is, I don't much like the word "grit." I don't know why; maybe being female, it's a word I shy from using to describe myself. Not that I'm particularly gritty; after taking the little test, I'd say I fall square in the middle at "Somewhat Gritty." It's more that I pick my battles, but I've found (as Duckworth's research also did) that I've gotten more gritty as I've gotten older. Mostly I have to show grit when advocating or caring for others, but I've also learned when and how to do it when there's something I really want. A "top-level goal," as Duckworth puts it.

So here's what the book covers: A definition of grit and how it ends up, in the long run, being a better indicator of success and overall life satisfaction than intelligence or inherent talent; things that contribute to grit (internal and external), and how these can be leveraged to make one grittier.

As someone marked as both intelligent and talented from a young age, I definitely saw myself in this book, by which I mean I saw how, as I got older and faced increasing challenges, I struggled more. Things had always come easy, and I did not know how to deal with failure. Duckworth points out that learning how to fail is key in becoming gritty, and from experience I agree.

"Deliberate practice" versus "flow" is another interesting topic here. It makes sense that doing the same thing the same way over and over yields few, if any, results. Deliberate practice means consistently challenging and making progress. Flow, however, is that moment when it becomes effortless. This, again, is something I experienced in theatre. There came a lot of deliberate practice in the form of memorizing lines and rehearsing. But after that came flow, ideally on performance nights. In my mind flow is the result of deliberate practice; it's something you reach. In tarot, it would be the World card, which means it's time to go back to being the Fool and start another cycle of practicing on the next thing.

In writing terms, deliberate practice are the days I write even when it feels like I can't. Flow is when the dam opens and the writing comes easy. I think writing would always be difficult, though, if I didn't go through the tough days. I would never experience flow.

I could go on and on. Duckworth's chapter on hope and fixed versus growth mindsets again showed me how I'd changed. As a child I was told I was smart and talented and that was all I needed to be. Now I know better. Those attributes are great, but not if they atrophy. A friend once marveled at my IQ, and I told her, "It's what you do with it that matters." People who think they know enough and have all the answers are the scariest people in the world. And you don't have to be brilliant to be gritty. But it takes a certain amount of grit to be brilliant in any way that makes a difference.

And that's more or less Duckworth's point. She explains why grit matters, gives insight into what contributes to grit, and in doing so also points out ways to become grittier. The book is engagingly written, filled with anecdotes and interviews so that one doesn't feel snowed in by data. Definitely an interesting angle on how and why some people succeed. Gave me a lot to think about, which I enjoy doing.

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