Grit and Passion: Learn to Work Hard at What You Love

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Grit" by Angela Duckworth. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How are grit and passion connected? Why is passion necessary to have grit?

Having grit and passion and passion are similar—to need both to succeed. Passion needs to be developed and worked on consistently in order for you to have grit.

Read more about having grit and passion below.

Grit and Passion: How to Develop Your Interests

Part of the problem is an unrealistic expectation around how interests are discovered. People expect to find something that just clicks and fall head-over-heels in love with “their passion,” just as in romance. 

This doesn’t happen in most cases. Instead, passion needs to be developed. It starts with discovery, followed by development, then a lifetime of deepening. You shouldn’t expect your passion to materialize suddenly one day – if you believe this, then you’ll flit from interest to interest, never giving one the shot it deserves to develop into grit and passion.

A few guidelines around finding interests:

  • You shouldn’t expect to discover your interest early in life or right out of college – many people find their life’s work after trying lots of different things. 
  • Interests rely on trying things and receiving more information. You shouldn’t expect to arrive at your passion solely by introspection. You can’t simply will yourself to like things. 
  • Ironically, it’s harder to feel when you’re interested. When you’re excited, you’re distracted by your task and thus not focusing on your level of interest. But if you’re bored, you’re painfully aware of your boredom.

Next, interest deepens after engaging with an activity over time. Through repeated exposures to your interest, you discover fascinating subtleties and facets that you would never find if you didn’t stick with it. (Shortform note: This may be related to the Dunning-Kruger effect – when you know nothing, you think you know everything, which makes the task seem boring.) Eventually, your desire for mastery and continuous improvement becomes the driving force to continue engaging with the interest. 

Interests and Parenting

Interests thrive when encouraging supporters, like parents and coaches, provide positive feedback and ongoing stimulation to nurture the interest.

For parents, Duckworth argues that childhood is too early to detect interests. People only start to gravitate to general interests in middle school age. Also, forcing a passion doesn’t work. Allow open play to discover and retrigger interests, before enforcing discipline. This will develop intrinsic motivation. [Consider this like starting a fire with an ember – blow it gently to get hotter and light the kindling, don’t smother it.]

Grit and Passion: Learn to Work Hard at What You Love

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  • How your grit can predict your success
  • The 4 components that make up grit
  • Why focusing on talent means you overlook true potential

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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