Tony DeMeo

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

This is one book that I would consider a must read for every coach regardless of the sport or of any organization. I was familiar with Angela Duckworth’s work long before this book was released. I was very familiar with her “Grit Test” & even used it during my meetings with my players. In the 80s I became a huge fan of Angela’s mentor Martin Seligman and his book Learned Optimism, which I would also recommend, and then became a follower of Dr. Duckworth.

The basic premise of the book is that “Grit” is more important than intellect, SAT & ACT scores, aptitude tests or IQ tests. Grit was a greater predictor of success.

Duckworth studied the attrition at West Point where only the best & brightest were recruited yet there was a high % of attrition. Why? How could they be wrong so often? Why were the best & the brightest leaving the core at such a high percentage? The answer: Grit. They did not have the Grit to overcome the pressure of West Point. Angela Duckworth’s Grit Test was the single best predictor of which cadet was going to make it. It even was the greatest predictor of who was going to survive the training of The Green Berets. The Green Beret training one of the most demanding regimens in the world and to survive took one extremely valuable asset. No not athletic ability, no not intellect, it was Grit.

This is a great lesson for coaches. Coaches are easily distracted by “talent” Many coaches are enamored with 40 yard dash time or Bench Press poundage or height, weight etc. etc. etc. Grit gets ignored. As a player I never had a great 40 yard dash time or great size. My college coach said I may have been small but I made up for it by being small! But I managed to do OK. My experience really made me aware, as a coach, of the value of Grit, though I didn’t know that term then. I knew there was something that propelled a guy beyond his “talent”

I have since had many players who played for me that no one recruited; that were too small, too slow, too something BUT could play football. How? Grit. I never recruited a Quarterback that I did not see in a losing game. I wanted to see what kind of a leader he was when things weren’t going his way. Did he pout or did he go down swinging? If you pout you’re out, I don’t care how great an arm you have. I wanted a guy who had “no give up” in his body. Those are the guys you want leading your team in crunch time.

Dr. Martin Seligman was a great proponent of Positive Psychology. He put out the formula: Skill X Effort = Achievement. This was the idea that was the foundation of The Four Aces Program I put together. I wanted a way to measure & reward “intelligent effort”. I knew that the more effort each individual player gave then the greater the team effort would be and the more likely we would perform as well as we were capable of as a team.

Grit must be sustained, excellence takes time. That’s why I wanted to measure effort so we could see progress. This was the basis of four college football turnarounds. If you could measure effort, you could monitor it and if you could monitor it, you manage it.

Practice is Sacred

Another part of this book I loved was Dr. Duckworth’s take on the importance of practice. Sorry Alan Iverson, practice is important. Grit is not just the quantity of time put in it’s the quality of time. Dr. Duckworth taps into the work of Anders Erickson who was the original proponent of the 10,000 Hour Rule. Erickson’s theory is that it takes 10,000 hours to get to mastery. It takes “Deliberate Practice” not just going through the motions. This also re-affirmed my belief that “Practice is Sacred” & why I planned out practice to the minute. The book provides a list of 5 Ways the Experts Practice:

1. They set a stretch goal

2. They zero in on just one narrow aspect of performance

3. They seek feedback, they want to know what they did wrong so they could fix it.

4. They do it over & over again until they get to mastery

5. After mastering one aspect they go after another.

The conclusion: Deliberate Practice is the fastest way to improve, it isn’t easy but it works. One of my mantras is “Hard Work Works”

There are so many examples of the success of Grit. Here are 3 guys who didn’t start out great but with Grit became superstars:

1. Michael Jordan was cut from his High School Basketball team.

2. Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick by the Patriots

3. Derek Jeter made 110 errors in his first 2 years as a minor league shortstop

I can’t say enough about this book. I recommend it anyone in any leadership or teaching capacity. This will re-affirm many of the things you are probably doing but it will give you a better way to

communicate those thoughts. If you would like any additional information on our Four Aces Program it is available on my website The Four Aces

Tony DeMeo