August 23, 2016

Book Reflection: Grit by Angela Duckworth

I finished reading this book over the weekend and I'm happy to be finally writing a new blog post after a month long hiatus.

Grit by Angel Duckworth
The first time I heard the concept of Grit was during the Xavier School Parent's Orientation last year. We were shown the TED video of Angela Duckworth and we were told that, as parents, we all need to teach our kids a little grit.

I was immediately interested in the topic and was happy to see that the book was available locally. This book actually jumped my reading list queue! I just had to read it as soon as possible.

Some of my key takeaways:

Talent is NOT everything. Talent can only get you so far. In many studies conducted, talent doesn't necessarily equate to success. We have this misconception that the most successful people got to the top because of pure natural talent. What many people don't see is the countless hours put in, behind the scenes, to help these champions get to the top. This is where grit comes into play. These successful people appear to have an extra gear that keeps pushing them forward, past the pain and failure, and towards their goal. When many people may have quit because things got too hard, these gritty people pushed forward and got more from their talents just because they wanted to.

Learning and improving doesn't stop. Intelligence is not cast in stone. For example, we can improve our IQ if we teach ourselves how. We can get smarter over time. This means that we should toss this common excuse out the window. We should never accept when we are told that we are "not good enough". We all have the capacity to learn, grow and improve ourselves. Whatever the challenge is, we need to teach ourselves to push harder and to push further.

Surround ourselves with the right people. It is in our nature to copy the people around us and try to fit in. If we surround ourselves with people who quit at the first sign of hardship, we will never get very far. However, if we surround ourselves with people who will hold us to a higher standard, it is our nature to try and meet that standard. Who likes to let people down right? Not me. So for parents and managers, hold your kids and your team to a higher standard. Let them grow and learn from their mistakes and make sure to provide a supportive environment that encourages them to explore and improve.

Look for your higher purpose. It becomes easier to push through the though times if you are passionate about what you do. You don't have to be changing the world. Providing for your family is a noble and powerful purpose that push many people forward every single day. Without this extra motivation, it is too easy to just drop out and give up. Take the time to look for what you are passionate about. Trust me, it will make you feel a lot better about what you do.

I always tell my kids that nothing worth having or worth doing is ever easy. This book is all about this. The book gives us powerful case studies of people who have pushed beyond the human limit -- for example the book talks about U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky who recent set a world record in the 800m freestyle in the Rio Olympics by setting a time that was 11 seconds faster than the silver medalist. In her first race as a six year old, she barely swam the length of the pool. But when she got out of the pool, she was smiling. She liked that it was so hard. Today she is one of the most successful swimmers in the world and she is just 19 years old!

But more than just providing inspiring stories, this book also gives us practical tips on how we can cultivate grit in our own selves and in others. We all need these tips because life is hard for many of us. We need to remind ourselves that success never comes easy. We will all fail. And it's okay to fail. What matters is not how many times we fail, but how many times we get back up and try again.

Life is not a sprint. Life is a marathon. It's not where we start, or how fast we get somewhere but it's about how much we learn, how much we grow and how many lives we eventually touch.

I leave you with my favorite quote from Samuel Beckett: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.