Grit (Angela Duckworth) Summary – Inspiration Bites

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What is the best indicator of success? Is it talent, natural ability, or intelligence? Perhaps a combination of all of the above? According to Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, these things are overrated.

Grit Book Summary

Instead, she argues that you need “grit” to succeed. Grit is essentially a type of dogged determination, tenacity or that certain something required to carry on despite failure and setbacks.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance details almost a decade of Duckworth’s research into what it takes to succeed. In this Grit summary we’ll take a look at some of the main ideas from the book.


Grit Summary: Which is More Important? Talent vs Effort

When most people are asked which is more important when it comes to success: talent or effort, most will answer effort. However, studies have shown that people don’t really believe that.

As part of a study conducted in 2011, respondents were asked this exact question when it came to musical abilities. When the question was asked in a straightforward way – “which is more important – natural talent or effort”, the majority answered that effort was.

However, when participants of the same study were asked to listen to two pieces of music, one musician who had natural talent and the other who had work hard for years on their skill, they choose the musician they were told was naturally talented.

As it happened, both pieces of music were played by the exact same musician.

Using Others’ Talent as an Excuse

So why do most of us believe that talent is more important than effort? Well perhaps it’s because we use it as an excuse. If we can attribute another person’s massive success to their natural talent, rather than their immense effort, then we can potentially use this as an excuse for ourselves. “Well they’re naturally talented… how could I possibly compete with that?… Even if I put in 10x the effort, I’ll never be as good as they are!

Blinded by Talent?

Interestingly, for many people, being told that they have a natural ability or talent can actually become a factor which leads to the stagnation of their ability. For example, I was told I was exceptional at drawing from a young age. And I was. At age 14 I was able to draw hyper-realistic pencil drawings.

However, because I knew I had a natural ability to draw, I failed to work at and improve my skills. As a result, today I am no better at drawing than I was when I was 14. In fact, my talents may have actually regressed.

This is a common occurrence for many people.

Talent alone is not enough. You need grit. So how do you become “gritty”?

Let’s take a look at what Angela Duckwork, Grit author, calls the four ingredients of grit.

The Four Ingredients of Grit – Summary

Develop Passion

For most people, the unfortunate reality is that their job is not aligned with their passions. So how did we end up like this, and how can we find out what our passions are?

Duckworth says that passion is something that is developed over a long time. In order to find your passion, you must be prepared to try different things to see what you really love doing.

“…interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t…Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.”

― Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Deliberate Practice

Duckworth advises readers to practice and continuously improve their skills.

Rather than just practice in an unstructured manner, it’s important to focus on deliberate practice. Deliberate practice involves focusing on a target, measuring improvement systematically, constantly evaluating yourself or getting useful feedback.

We wrote an article all about deliberate practice which you can read here.


Gritty people are more likely to persevere through hard times and set backs. Why? Because, according to Duckworth, they believe they are working toward a purpose that is bigger than them.

“I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”

― Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Have a Growth Mindset

In order to develop grit, you have to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is an idea that was popularised by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset.

Essentially, if you have a growth mindset, you believe you have the potential to get better at something. This is the opposite of a fixed mindset.

How “gritty” are you?

Find out what your grit score is over on author of Grit Angela Duckworth’s website.

If you enjoyed this Grit book summary, check out some of our other summaries of the best self-development and business books here.