This book was recommended to me by a Fund Manager of a VC fund that I had done due-diligence for, called Grit Lab VC. One of the 2 Fund managers had been working in the VC field for more than 25 years and has worked with some companies that were or are now titans in the industry, such as Nokia and Sun Microsystems. This Manager told me that times and times again, the thing that she has recognised as having the biggest impact on making entrepreneurs successful is grit: the power of not giving up, of pushing through walls when everything seems like is not working and you will fail.
As I see myself as a person that’s very much driven by passion and determination, I have fell in love with this book. Angela, the author, describes in this book how, after years of research, she has come to the conclusion that passion and grit are an indicator for future success, even more than IQ or even talent. She wrote the book around describing what grit is, how humans can develop it in themselves and in their colleagues in order to achieve more milestones.
To start with, I’ve finally understood the definition of grit from the book: Angela defines it as letting your passion for that specific thing you want to accomplish to drive you and allow it to give you the power to push through the things that seem impossible to accomplish or that you don’t necessarily like doing. The author mentions that her research showed that talent and intelligence are not a predictable factor of success, in fact she mentions that talent can be a blocker for performance – since people tend to put in less effort when they know they are talented in some aspect. Researching how people serving in the military, salesmen and even high-school graduates perform, she puts emphasis on the fact that only grit is the most trustworthy indicator of whether military people will be able to finalise their intense trainings, salesmen will be able to over perform in their job and reach their sales targets and whether high school graduates will finalise their studies.
Angela’s research has shown that there are mainly 4 things behind grit: interest: being attached with the work you do, purpose: having a strong feeling that the thing you are building or the work you are doing is in the benefit of others; hope: believing that you will figure things out and that you will achieve the milestones you have proposed to yourself to; and practice: being focused on becoming better at what you do;
The second key learning that I have got from this book is that loving what you do is not sufficient: you have to commit every day to what you have to do. Angela advises that one should break the big, audacious goals into everyday smaller tasks so that they are easier to achieve, to prevent becoming demotivated and in the end, to pave the way everyday towards bigger milestones. It is something that I had starting to apply after reading this book: I set myself big goals at the beginning of each year or each week, and then break that goal into every day tasks: it is unbelievable how one can increase their productivity and achieve a higher success rate.
The third learning point from this book is to be true to myself and commit to what I am good at. The author repeatedly mentions that even though grit is biological (although it can also be developed with time), what you work on is having a direct impact on the “level of grit”: for example, you should choose to work on something that you know you are excelling at, makes you perform at your peak capacity and you love doing. This has proven to be true in my experience: the determination I have to be successful is a lot higher in my current business since I love entrepreneurship, marketplaces and start-ups, compared to how I would have performed if I would have worked in an NGO.
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“Grit, the power of passion and perseverance” also makes a strong point on how we can instil this type of thinking in children. The author believes that parents should always teach their children to work hard rather than simply rely on talent. Nonetheless, children will absorb information like a sponge no matter is good or bad and school especially is rewarding the latter instead of the former. Angela mentions an experiment ran in the 90s by 2 American teachers that have started grading their pupils based on their level of work and involvement rather than natural talent. The results on this are that the grades of the students grew higher than the nation’s average and it was a strong proof for the students that hard work does matter and improvement is possible.
I believe this last point can be easily translated into how good leaders should act: they should appreciate the hard work and willingness to improve of their colleagues even when the output is not always as expected. It is this type of behaviour that makes people develop grit over time and helps them work harder and better.
One surprising fact that I have learned from this book is that grit is a lot influenced by growth mindset: a growth mindset produces an optimistic self talk within oneself and the latter makes your persevere in front of adversity.
My key takeaways from this book are the following:
- Grit can be biological: as most genes, you can inherit it or not from your parents, depending if they have cultivated it during their lifetime. It also depends a lot of one’s childhood and if the parents rewarded hard-work over talent;
- One should only take on long projects only if he or she is passionate about it; otherwise grit will be missing and it has a great influence over the success of the project;
- Grit can be contagious: if one can join groups in which the members are always striving for success and work hard, the chances to emulate this sort of behaviour are very high.
One thing I implement is that in my business, I try to focus as much as possible on the things that I enjoy doing and I know I also excel at. Otherwise, whenever I switch, I lose focus, I become demotivated and it takes me a lot longer to finalise the tasks. With this in mind, I chose a co-founder that has complementary skills with min and I will keep this in mind when we’ll need to expand the team and start hiring.
Overall, I found this book a bit repetitive and at times, common sense – such as the fact that hard work and grit are a more important factor in success rather than talent and skills. Most of the concepts are also present in Carol Dweck’s book “Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset”. However, for me was interesting to dissect this topic and learn about what stands behind it. I also enjoyed that the book touched on more topics rather on the benefits of grit alone. If I were to recommend this book, I would probably recommend the self-help section. Even so, this book goes well with a “self discovery book” since if one realises that he or she is working in a field for which the passion doesn’t really exist, there is not much you can with the book starting from this point.