Must Reads for Safari Parents: Grit by Angela Duckworth

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

grit cover

How do some people persevere at challenging tasks? Why can’t everyone? Can my kids learn this type of quality, the type that creates people who won’t crumple like a bad poker hand when faced with the first challenging thing they come across? (Algebra, I’m looking at you!)

This book has the answer to those questions. Duckworth immediately puts the reader at ease by telling us that her father was constantly saying, “You know, you’re no genius”. Many kids in this situation would develop a strong inferiority complex, but not the author. Instead of focusing on whether she was a genius or not, she just knuckled down and got to work, assuming (correctly) that hard work would get her wherever she needed to go.

Call it ‘follow through’, ‘sticking with it, ’pluck’, ‘endurance’ or ‘grit’, the ability to endure challenges in sports, hobbies, classes, jobs or any pursuit without throwing in the towel at the first hint of adversity is what separates the successful (and the happy, surprisingly) from the rest of us.

Duckworth defines grit, tells you how to determine how much grit you have, and then explains how you can ‘grow grit’. Yes, even if you’re a person who puts down a project at the first hint of difficulty, you, too, can change that. She gives us stories of gritty people and shows how the qualities they’ve developed help them get to the top of their field, whether it’s a twelve year old reaching the final round in the Scripps National Spelling Bee or a professional football player winning the Super Bowl.

How to use this book as a parent:

Duckworth actually has a chapter here titled ‘Parenting for Grit’ about how she surmises this quality can be fostered in your kids (although she’s very up front about the lack of research done on the subject so far.

There are two real lessons here that every parent in this Type A world of achievement needs to hear. The first is that you don’t need to be born with talent to achieve greatness. So if your child is like 99% of the population (or more, I don’t feel like looking up the statistic) she or he is not actually a genius, no matter how convinced you are that such is the case. That was the bad news. The good news is that they have just as much chance at succeeding at something as that genius kid who is a genius.

The second lesson is that hard work and grittiness is going to be impossible if you don’t care about what you’re doing or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If you want your child to be a soccer star, and if your child shows a natural talent at soccer, and if the soccer scholarship to a decent college is on the line, it doesn’t matter one bit if your kid just isn’t passionate about soccer. They will throw in the towel somewhere (wouldn’t you rather they do that BEFORE they get to an expensive college where they will lose the scholarship once they drop soccer?). Aligning all that effort to what your child is passionate about is key to their success and their happiness, so making your little Shakespeare nut get a computer programming degree just because you want them to have a financially stable life is going to backfire somewhere.

There are plenty of studies included that prove finding your passion – and using grit to really challenge yourself – makes you a much happier person.

On the whole, the book is a nice shot in the arm to make you as a parent, or your teenager believe that they can achieve what they want with the tools they were born with – and a little grit.

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