Review: Grit

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Reviewed By Prof. Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law

Angela Duckworth, Grit (2016)

Dr. Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her book Grit came out last year, and it is spectacular.

The concept of grit includes a combination of passion and perseverance.  Gritty people have both determination and direction. The notion of grit is correlated with ideas of industriousness, creativity, hope, and conscientiousness.  And that character trait, Dr. Duckworth argues, is responsible for high levels of achievement, even more so than sheer talent, ability, or intellect.  To be clear, Dr. Duckworth doesn’t ignore the existence and importance of talent, but she asserts that “a focus on talent distracts us from something that is at least as important, and that is effort.”

In the first part of the book, Dr. Duckworth makes the case that grit matters.  She discusses various research and psychological studies, and she shares interviews with people from all walks of life including West Point cadets and professional athletes and school teachers and business moguls.  She also includes a ten-question self-assessment to measure how gritty you are (see her website: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/) to measure how gritty you are.  Dr. Duckworth then discusses how to grow your own grit, i.e., how to develop and nurture passion and perseverance in yourself.

But it’s the last part of the book that was most intriguing to me as an educator (and frankly, as a parent)—how to help cultivate grit in other people.  She talks about parenting for grit and about how to create a culture of grit.  It is this portion of the book that I will be rereading before the start of every semester to contemplate how I can encourage passion and perseverance in my students.

In addition to being substantively fascinating, the book was wonderful to read.  It was a powerful book for me as a person, as a parent, and as a professor in charge of encouraging high levels of achievement in my students.  This is the kind of book I will give as a gift for every graduation to which I am invited.  I will likely make my own son read it when he finishes high school and starts out on whatever path is next.  I would like every incoming law student to read it.  You most definitely should as well.

If you’d like a taste of Dr. Duckworth’s research and theory, you can listen to her six-minute TED talk on the topic:

https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance

Or a 45-minute Freakonomics podcast: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/grit/

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