Getting Grit - Caroline Adams Miller

Getting Grit - Caroline Adams Miller

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

Getting Grit

“In this book, I share research and ideas about how we can boost the character strengths and behaviors that we see in gritty people." 

"I’ve even come up with a term that I use to describe the type of grit I think elicits the greatest results: ‘authentic grit.’ I define this as ‘the passionate pursuit of hard goals that awes and inspires others to become better people, flourish emotionally, take positive risks, and live their best lives.’"

"My overarching goal in this book is to demonstrate that building authentic grit isn’t just possible but that it’s our duty to do so if we want to live in a world that upholds standards of excellence and shuns quitting." 

"We need resilience, optimism, and determination to overcome setbacks that threaten our flourishing and peace, and we need to arm the next generation—the first in U.S. history predicted not to have the same standard of living as their parents—with the science of happiness and the tools to persevere toward their best and most meaningful lives."

"I believe we can begin to imagine and create a world that makes us proud and that uplifts us to be bolder, more tenacious, and more inspirational. When we learn how to set the right goals and see them through to the finish line, become comfortable with discomfort, and use setbacks as springboards, we can live with passion, purpose, and perseverance. It will be the reality that more of us live and share with others so that we can all become better versions of ourselves.”

The passionate pursuit of hard goals that inspires others to become better!

That's Authentic Grit and what we're talking about today. 

Caroline says that authentic grit isn't just possible but it's our duty to do so.

I tend to agree.  It's a great ideal to uphold and it's what we admire in our heros as well.

Grit more important than ever?

The world (now more than ever) demands grit if you're going to do great things.

Sticking to a long term goal, overcoming obstacles and doing so in an increasingly competitive environment are the name of the game..

But with more distraction and escapes than ever many of us are losing the skill of Grit. 

Caroline Miller our guide today has studied with some of the best in positive psychology.

Angela Duckworth who literally wrote the book on Grit (check it out on the channel). 

Martin Seligman who is really the godfather of the whole movement and wrote Flourish (check it out on the channel).

Caroline has put some of the amazing concepts in these books into a very practical guide to "getting grit" and I know you'll enjoy and benefit.

3 Keys

“[Duckworth] found that the people who had distinguished themselves in overcoming multiple challenges over many years to sustain the pursuit of something that was important to them had several critical qualities in common, namely:"


  • They were lit up from within by a cause or an activity that electrified and energized them, sometimes from a young age.
  • They weren’t guided by what others wanted; instead, they were single-mindedly focused on something that crowded out other interests, gave their lives meaning, and filled them with a sense of purpose.


  • They weren’t just resilient in the short run.
  • They had a bounce-back quality that existed throughout years of emotional droughts, physical and financial setbacks, and discouragements that would cause many people to give up.

Long-term goals. 

  • They attached a goal to their passion that might have seemed unrealistic to some, but that became their immovable North Star. 
  • In some cases, this led to world- renown or Olympic fame, but for others, the results were quieter, from regaining the ability to walk after a crippling injury, to maintaining the hope of being exonerated after wrongful incarceration, to remaining clean and sober in the hardest of circumstances.

These are the three keys to cultivating classic grit!

Originally studied and written about by Angela Duckwork (check out that book for more). 

  • Caroline is going to go further in this book, speaking about the specific kind of Grit we want to build.  (More on that later).
  • Not all Grit is created equal, but all Grit does involve these three characteristics. 

Lets look at your Grit:


Are you lit up by a cause or activity?

If not you might want to check out these books on purpose!

The Happiness of Pursuit

Lead The Field

The Path of Least Resistance

TLDR: There are a lot of ways to find your purpose.  But first, you need to search. 


Do you persist even through failure?  Or do you give up at the first sign of defeat?

If not I recommend you read some Stoic philosophy!

Epictetus or How to Be Free

Marcus Aurelius or How to Think Like a Roman Emperor 

Long term goals

Do you feel guided by your long term goals as if they are a north star? 

If not check out some of the best goal settings books!


The Compound Effect

Be Unstoppable

The Bell

“In 2014, at the University of Texas at Austin commencement:" 

"Admiral William McRaven brought the house down with his inspirational eighteen-minute talk, ‘Ten Ways to Change the World.’ In it, he described the ordeals of SEAL trainees, including punishing runs in freezing cold weather, navigating underwater in pitch-black conditions, and being forced to do extra calisthenics after multi-hour endurance sessions."

"Admiral McRaven said if you want to change the world, you have to ‘sing when you are up to your neck in mud,’ ‘go down obstacles head first,’ and ‘punch the shark in the snout’ when you are underwater, alone, and scared. He finished his speech with the last of his ten change-the-world points, noting that everyone in the SEAL training wants to quit at some point because they don’t believe they have what it takes to persevere:"

"Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell, a brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see." 

"All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at five o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.’”

Ringing the bell would be easy..

Giving up on your idea, goal or passion is the short term easy route!

  • No more long days of work, no more failure and no more uncertainty. 
  • But long term.. When you look back, would you regret ringing the bell?
  • Grit isn't about not feeling the hardships others do..  It's about feeling them, and KNOWING that continuing anyway is the best route.

Admiral McRavens 10 Lessons: 

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

“You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.”

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

“SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.”

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

“Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.”

“For failing the uniform inspection, the student [in Basic SEAL training] had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a ‘sugar cookie.’ You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day — cold, wet and sandy.”

“There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. . . Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.”

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

“Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events — long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics — something designed to test your mettle." 

"Every event had standards — times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list, and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to a ‘circus.’ A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.”

“Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.”

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

“There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.”

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

 “At the darkest moment of the mission is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.”

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

“If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope." 

"The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope.”

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

“In SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit—is ring the bell." 

"Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”

Authentic Grit

“To qualify for the label of authentic grit, it’s not enough to be resilient, persistent, and passionate."  

"I believe that gritty behavior is a positive force only when it awes and inspires others to want to become better people and imagine greater possibilities for themselves."

"People who display it make us wonder: ‘What if I went after hard things, too? What if I devoted my energy and time to cultivating my passions? What if?”

Authentic Grit brings out the best in other people.

Authentic Grit makes the world a better place!

Something we should all aspire to do is hold ourselves to a gritty ideal and share that with others..

Think of some of our hero's or 'ideal sages' they went through hardships and persevered and that's why we love them.  

  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Epictetus
  • David Goggins


  • The definition of Authentic Grit.
  • “the passionate pursuit of hard goals that awes and inspires others to become better people, flourish emotionally, take positive risks, and live their best lives.”


“It all starts with a dream."  

"People who come to me for help have a dream to go beyond their normal boundaries to do something that is significant and fulfilling, something they will regret not pursuing if they never make the attempt."

"These are sometimes people whom others would describe as successful, who don’t necessarily have to change anything to have a comfortable existence for the rest of their lives, but who have a hunger to dig deeper and go further with a cherished goal—sometimes a hidden one."

"My first question is simple and to the point: ‘What is the best possible outcome of our working together?’ Just using the words ‘best’ and ‘possible’ awakens someone’s senses to the idea that anything can happen, and that whatever that thing is, it can be magnificent."

"This is when people usually get right to the point and express some large, difficult goal: ‘I want to become an inspirational leader who helps other people find their purpose and bring it to work in a new way,’ ‘I want to stop waiting to be happy and start doing things that will make life more fulfilling,’ ‘I want to change my approach to work so that I can spend more time with my family and friends,’ or ‘I want to become an entrepreneur and control my own future.’”

What is the best possible outcome?

This is a great question to help you zero in on your dream (or passion).

  • Remember from before, the three keys to cultivating Grit.
  • Passion
  • Perseverance 
  • Long Term Goals

Personally I have stolen this question.

  • It's what I ask every coaching client I meet for the first time!
  • "What's the best possible outcome of us working together?"

This one question lights people up and gets them to open their mind the the possibilities.  

Getting away from base questions like "How do I read more books" or "How do I apply what I read" and into true, deep purpose.

Here is how you can steal it as well!

  • First: ask yourself what is the best possible outcome of my life?
  • Second: ask yourself what's the best possible outcome for this year?
  • Third: ask yourself what's the best possible outcome for today?

Happy First

“I felt like I’d entered an alternate universe when I read a lengthy research paper by three of positive psychology’s top luminaries—Ed Diener, Laura King, and Sonja Lyubomirksy—called ‘The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect.’" 

"It was the fall of 2005 when I was in the MAPP program at Penn, and I was reading more and more research that helped me to understand exactly what it takes to flourish and succeed in life. This paper, though, was a doozy, and it upended all of my previous thinking."

"In one of the most profound, slam-dunk findings I’ve ever read, these three researchers had parsed and reviewed hundreds of studies on success in life to discover the exact opposite of what I and many others had mistakenly believed was true: we don’t become happy after we succeed at something, but rather we succeed at something because we are happy first."

"Their comprehensive overview of longitudinal, qualitative, correlational, and causal studies on success in friendship, health, finance, work, and all other aspects of life helped me understand why achieving certain external goals when I was younger never made me happy for long, and had instead left me emptier than before."

"The grades, the awards, the schools, the scores, and the right weight never brought me the lasting satisfaction I had thought they would, and now I could see why. If I’d had access to these findings during the worst of my bulimic behavior, maybe I would have taken a different approach to my diet and health, and wouldn’t have done so much damage to myself.”

Want to succeed?  Grit is important and it starts with happiness!

Why?  Well it's playing the long game.

  • When we want to succeed at something truly great, accomplish our vision or hit our goals.
  • We're going to need to commit to the long term. 
  • When we're playing the long game the light at the end of the tunnel is only motivating for so long.

This is one reason why people give up on their goals so quickly.

  • They are very motivated by the light at the end of the tunnel, but after a while of discomfort unhappiness or lack it's not easy to keep going for the potential prize at the end.
  • The good news here?  There is a way out.  It's happiness in the moment.

Instead we need to find a way to be happy in the moment.

  • The good news?  Carolines mentors on this topic have books! (And Mind Map Videos). 
  • Flourish - Martin Seligman
  • The Myths of Happiness - Sonja Lyubomirksy

Struggle Well

"Positive psychology’s Chris Peterson was fond of saying that thriving people are good at ‘struggling well.’"  

"As we all know, life is full of challenges, particularly if we choose to set grand goals, but what separates people who don’t have grit from people who do is often this issue of working hard and overcoming difficulties without losing focus, equanimity, or passion—that is, struggling well."

"So, if you want to cultivate grit but you don’t have a constructive relationship with discomfort, failure, and delayed gratification, it’s imperative to find ways to make your peace with these conditions."

"One of the most intriguing findings in Angela Duckworth’s research on grit is that high-grit people hate hard work as much as those who don’t have grit." 

"High-grit people simply accept hard work as the price they must pay to get where they want to go, and so they find ways to do it. As the late boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali put it, ‘I hated every minute of training but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

Ready to thrive?  Learn to struggle well.

What does struggle well mean?

  • There are going to be challenges and obstacles on the road to accomplishing your dreams.  
  • Struggling well is meeting those challenges and obstacles without losing your focus and passion.

How do we learn to struggle well?

  • Step One: Set your big goals. 
  • Step Two: Set out on accomplishing them. 
  • Step Three: Find a way to make the obstacles worth it in the moment.  
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