I have a colleague who went to West Point. I already had a great deal of respect for her and it was increased after I read Grit by Angela Duckworth. The book opens with a description of “beast barracks”, the first six weeks of a new cadet’s life. It sounds grueling. It seems that West Point had engaged Angela to discover why the dropout rate was so high in the first six weeks. Out of 1200 recruits, representing the finest academic and athletic men and women that the country has to offer, between 60 and 70 drop out during beast barracks. The answer to why people stay, as Angela points out in the book, is Grit.
Grit as defined by Webster’s dictionary is courage and resolve; strength of character. It isn’t a talent, or something you are born with. Many of us have it bubbling below the surface waiting for the one event that brings it out. It is something that can be learned at any time in life and Grit is the perfect book to teach you how to get it. The book has three parts: What Grit is and Why it Matters, Growing Grit from the Inside Out and Growing Grit from the Outside In. She makes the case for why no one should use lack of skills as an excuse for not reaching their goals. Anyone can do it. You must find your passion and stick with it no matter how difficult it is or becomes.
I was introduced to Angela on the podcast she does with Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame called “No Stupid Questions”. It is a podcast I enjoy and devour on a weekly basis. She has an interesting backstory as she was a McKinsey management consultant and a math and science teacher in New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco. She has a long series of accolades, and started the “Character Lab”, a nonprofit that works to help children thrive. She got her doctorate at Penn, and her sponsor was Marty Seligman, world renowned for his positive psychology movement.
I tend to listen to books, and the audiobook is read by the author, a real plus. I already appreciated her voice from the podcast. The research in the book is sound, and the conclusions are thoughtfully presented. Her academic achievement might have made the book a snore-fest, but her real world experience and her method of delivery makes it a page turner. Take the time to read this book. It is one of the best books I have read in the last 5 years.