Book of the Month Review: “Getting Grit” by Caroline Adams Miller
When considering a book of the month to coincide with Leadercast’s theme for February, Drive, this book was a no-brainer: Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose by Caroline Adams Miller. For 2020, I set a personal goal of reading more books, and my superior (a strong female and wonderful example of grit) challenged me to pursue that goal by reading and reviewing this month’s book for our audience of leaders. As a manager, and as a mom of young children, this book spoke to me in my own professional development but also in the way I’m raising my little ones. Every mom wants to raise successful children, but is my parenting style discouraging the development of grit as the book describes? Do I praise my children’s accomplishments too much or improperly? I appreciate that I was able to get a double meaning from this book: one for how to raise gritty children and the other for how to develop my own grit.
In the book, Caroline shares how people “can be tenacious and hardworking but not have a passion that translates into a deeply valued goal.” The author meticulously explains not only why it is vital to set small and large goals, but also explains why the practice of goal-setting is integral to an individual’s success. I’ve been very fortunate in my life that, while I never had a clear vision of what exactly I wanted to be when I grew up, I have had a happy and successful professional career thus far. I’ve never felt that what I do on a daily basis is a waste of time or a stepping stone impeding me from reaching my true potential. Throughout college, I did not have a specific career or goal in mind, so I simply completed a liberal arts degree and accepted the first job offered to me. I guess I was waiting for someone to tell me what I’m good at or what I should be. I was able to determine throughout the nine years at my first job that caring for clients and managing relationships is my strength, and I have continued to grow and hone those skills. Because I developed my own personal brand of grit in being able to develop patience and communication skills after interacting with all types of individuals, I earned promotions, and company and industry awards. All of this was done without a specific goal in mind. In retrospect, I am curious to know if I could have raised even higher at that organization if I’d known more about grit and set specific goals for myself.
Caroline talks a lot about the millennial generation, of which I am a member but barely, so I don’t typically identify with most millennial stereotypes. She discusses how harmful the assumed characteristics of that age group are to developing grit. Millennials are described as being entitled, easily wounded by criticism, fragile and the “participation trophy” generation, and I can’t help but think about how I’m raising my children (whose generation hasn’t even been named yet). One specific point Caroline makes that resonated with me is that children are growing up with their innate intelligence being overly praised with responses like, “You’re so smart,” for simple activities like solving a puzzle or reciting the ABCs. In reality, these are things young children should be able to do without issue. I would certainly say I’m guilty of overpraising my 3-year-old. It’s a normal parental instinct to praise your child when they do something well, but will it translate into a lack of grit later in life?
When considering Caroline’s points about children, I’m reminded how impressionable they are. I have grown concerned that my lack of drive or grit surrounding the fact that I haven’t ever had a clear career goal in mind may not set a good example for my children. My husband is a public middle school teacher, a certainly honorable profession, but one that does not offer a lot of room for advancement. Therefore, when it comes to setting the example to our children of raising in the ranks in a career, the bulk of that responsibility rests on my shoulders. Not only do I need to embody the qualities of grit, but I also need to make sure it’s true, authentic grit.
Reading this book has certainly encouraged me to reevaluate my professional goals and set more clear, actionable ones. I know that my passion is and will remain in providing a world-class, white-glove experience to all Leadercast clients, and I will continue to let my grit shine through as I progress within this amazing organization.
I’ve been extremely blessed in life to have worked under amazing female professionals who are wonderful examples of grit. One of the best ways to encourage those in your professional circle to develop their own grit is to display yours on a daily basis. Set clear goals and don’t be afraid to share those with others. Not only will it provide you accountability, but it will encourage others to follow your lead. When my children are old enough to understand the idea of a goal, I will nurture that by helping them develop their passions in education and extracurricular activities. I’ve already discussed with my husband about getting our son enrolled in martial arts when he is old enough, which ideally will provide him clear goals and focus. I will continue a daily practice with my children of expressing gratitude (we end each day examining and discussing what happened to us for which we are grateful).
Now that I have clear tactics from reading this book, I can consciously encourage the development of grit in my little ones and in the workplace. I believe Getting Grit is a great starting point in encouraging people of all ages who do not have a clear path in mind for their careers.
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