Initially oblivious to the cold air sneaking in under the door, it was inescapable once the door was opened. Wind chill was dropping the temperature by as much as 5 or 6 degrees, give or take.

So I stayed in doors and read a book called Grit, and relished the contradiction.

Another book, or two

A recent trip to Canberra required the obligatory stop at the Co-op Bookshop at the ANU, but it wasn’t there. Fond memories dashed on the rocks of corporatism. A huge Harry Hartog now occupies the space where the uni newsagent used to be.

Perhaps the Co-op didn’t survive the flood that filled up the basement of the nearby Chifley Library.

I still have my membership card … a little worse for wear. And most of the books I bought there … tucked away in storage boxes. Fond memories.

Anyway, any bookshop is an opportunity. In I went, and out I came with Grit and Concrete. I kid you not.

Passion and perserverance

I’m enjoying Grit, but it’s not as depressingly fascinating as Outliers. Both seek to explain why things are the way they are. Grit, however, offers a brighter ray of sunshine (on this bleak winter’s day). Yet, I preferred Outliers because it was more sociology than psychology. Grit says we can all be grittier if that’s what we want, and I’ve reached the section where I find out how.

I’d seen the author, Angela Duckworth, in a TED Talk a few months ago and, afterwards, wrote myself a note that hangs sideways on the wall behind me:

Hanging a note sideways forces the brain to work harder. It wasn’t planned that way; I’ve since noticed that the brain works harder when I look at this note.

The kernel at the centre of Grit?

There are two simple equations that seem like common sense once we think about them. Firstly, talent x effort = skill. In this equation, talent is how quickly you can turn effort into a skill.

Secondly, skill x effort = achievement. When even more effort is applied to skill, we start to see something special happening.

The key point, Angela points out, is the doubling of effort. It’s in both equations.

Find an example

Generally, I let life present it’s options (which were sometimes opportunities and other times nothing more than choices), and then I’d select the most appealing.

But in my forties I decided to go to university. It was an opportunity, and then passion and perseverance took over. Quitting was never an option, no matter how broke or tired or overwhelmed. Nothing else was more appealing. I’ve known for decades that I love learning but only then realised just how much.

Learning is important, but it is a sad fact that we don’t get paid to learn. Grit needs to be applied to another area of life to ensure nourishment, safety and independence.

I’ve found my personal example, which means I can now apply similar passion and perseverance to other areas of life. I know its possible.

How gritty are you? Seriously, Angela keeps asking it in the book.

And Concrete?

I don’t know yet. It will be more exercise for the brain because it has no paragraphs, and I’m not sure yet how to read it.

I’ll let you know what happens.


Duckworth, Angela 2017 Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success. Published by Vermillion.

Gladwell, Malcolm 2008 Outliers: The story of success Published by Little, Brown and Company.


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