Here at Sunflower Counseling, in Montana, we like to read!  Books that make us think and inspire us.  

This week’s book review is “Grit”, by Angela Duckworth. 4 stars out of 4. 

Will Smith sums up the philosophy of grit perfectly. “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented,” he said. “Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.  The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things. You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.”

So the people who have grit are studying their craft hours and hours a day.

“80 percent is just showing up.” 

This is worth tattooing on your arm.

And when you do show up do deliberate practice. Great people are not some mystery. Don’t mythologize those people. If you think they’re magical or born with some super gift then all you’re really doing is letting yourself off the hook.  These people are doing great things by being active in one direction. They “acquire” greatness through hard work and effort.  And we don’t care about words like “talent” and “genius” here because it doesn’t mean anything in comparison.

This book is about being a craftsman. This is the craftsman who allows themselves time for it.  These people take more pleasure in “making the little secondary things” more than the dazzling whole.  “I’m putting together a table, I’m going to enjoy making the legs more than seeing it all together.”

Because being an expert is about NUANCE.  Knowing the nuances!

And how do you get here?  We’ll say it again.  Just show up and put in the effort.

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

So effort functions into the equation TWICE!  And that’s why it’s the most important.  You just put in the effort.  That’s all.  Just show up.  The major advantage of grit is simply more time on task.  And your focus is on that one thing for hours a day! It’s what you think about before you go to bed and obsess over.

And once you know what you’re doing and you’re putting in this effort, you want to do deliberate practice.  What does this mean?

“Professor, I’ve been jogging everyday but I’m not improving.”

“That’s interesting,” the professor says. “May I ask do you have a specific goal for your training?”

“Uhh…to be healthy. Does that count?  To look good in my jeans?”

“Ah yes. But when you go for a run, do you have a target in terms of the pace you’d like to keep? Or a distance goal?  In other words, is there a specific aspect of your running you’re trying to improve?”

“Um, no. I guess not.” 

“Do you have a journal to keep track of your runs and to make your stretch goals? Do you have a coach?  That’s why you’re not improving. You’re not going to improve unless you are doing deliberate practice.”



This is how experts practice. First you find your Achilles heel – the specific aspect of your work that needs solving.  Then you set a stretch goal to get there.  Then with undivided attention and great effort experts strive to reach their stretch goal.  And 70 percent of this is doing it by yourself.  Then you start all over with a new stretch goal.” And that’s why you need a coach or a teacher for feedback.

This deliberate practice is for preparation and getting in that flow state is for performance.  You need both!  And your sense of purpose will help you get there.

This definition of purpose that Angela gives really nails it on the head: I have never heard this good of a definition of purpose: here’s what she says:

Purpose means “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.”

The gritty people who are the MOST are “dramatically motivated more than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life.”

That doesn’t mean you don’t want things for your own pleasure BUT if we’re talking about purpose and motivation, these are the people who are succeeding.  (p. 148 grit scale).

And there are so many other points that we didn’t even touch in this book – you have to read this book.  But let me add one more thing from this book which was from Dan Chambliss, who talks about swimmers.

He says, “…The most important thing, the real way to become a great swimmer is to join a great team.”  That’s because if you’re in a culture – if you’re in a crowd of people doing things in a certain way, then follow along.  If everybody’s getting up at 4 in the morning it’s no big deal. It becomes a habit.

“So it seems to me,” Dan concluded, “that there’s a hard way to get grit and an easy way. The hard way is to do it by yourself. The easy way is to use conformity – the basic human drive to fit in – because if you’re around a lot of people who are gritty, you’re going to act grittier.”

Make sure to buy “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.