In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth lays out a compelling argument for changing the way we predict success, both for ourselves and for our businesses. Duckworth defines grit as a combination of drive and loyalty and highlights many professional examples of professional success won through determination and hard work rather than natural talent.
At first glance, it seems pretty self-explanatory. After all, isn’t hard work and dedication the core value of entrepreneurship? The very qualities we celebrate as small business owners? And yet, as Duckworth shows, it is talent that, over and over, we celebrate. Athletes, musicians, students and job candidates are all discussed and selected in terms of aptitude and potential. Students are selected for accelerated classes and programs based on aptitude and IQ tests. Job candidates at huge companies are sorted based on SAT scores and asked increasingly difficult logic problems during interviews. But none of these barriers to entry tests the traits that show grit, which Duckworth proves is a much more accurate predictor of success in achieving given goals.
How does Grit work?
Instead of talent leading to achievement, grit is a combination of passion and perseverance.
“There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time – longer than most people imagine. And then, you know, you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people.”
In other words:
“It’s doing what you love, but not just falling love – staying in love.”
Nature vs. Nurture
According to Duckworth, grit isn’t a talent of its own. Not something inherited, but a combination of traits developed over time, given the right environment. In fact, when plotted by age, grit is significantly higher for those in their seventies than for those in their mid-twenties. But before jumping to the obvious “kids these days” conclusions, consider the idea that grit is something gained over a lifetime, a trait aligned with maturity. In that light, grittiness isn’t a generational trait that is missing in Gen X or Millenials, but something gained through a lifetime of experience teaching an individual that talent will only get you so far.
Applications for Your Business
If grit is an indicator of success, then it stands to reason that your “A” players need grit to help their talent shine. How do you search for and develop grit in your employees? Help individuals generate defined goal hierarchies. Not just short, medium, and long-term goals, but an understanding of their over-arching career goal and how the short and medium goals can lead toward a single long-term career goal. When evaluating employees, consider evaluations that measure employees not against each other but against each employee’s goals. The grittiest among them will not only make progress, but still be progressing on the same path over time. And when interviewing, ask for examples of achieving long-held goals or overcoming a series of obstacles instead of a single one.
The main benefit of reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is the self-analysis as a business owner. By definition, entrepreneurs must be gritty to achieve long-term success. Duckworth’s self-assessments and tips about recognizing and increasing grittiness in our own lives will help us achieve our long-term goals for our businesses.
This book review is part of a longer series highlighting recently released business books. To review the entire list and read along with FNG, LLC, click here.