The Psychology of Money Book Review

The Psychology of Money Book Review

The Psychology of Money Book Review

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Buy this book. That is all I need to say about this book, but I think you are here for a little more.

The Psychology of Money is by far the best money books I have read in the last 20+ years, and I read many books about money. 

Morgan Housel’s book, along with Mind Over Money, really helped to highlight how much of what we do with our money is not rational. But unlike Mind Over Money, which focuses on how our money script dictates our actions, the Psychology of Money focuses on how our actions can still be reasonable even if they are not rational. As someone who advocates for kids and young adults to build healthy money habits, I can’t think of a better resource.

Rational vs. Reasonable

 

The Psychology of Money highlights that we often know what we are supposed to do with our money yet don’t always do it. The book starts by highlighting how short a time we have had as a species to master money management skills. Housel notes that 401ks are a reasonably new invention. And being a new invention, it should not be surprising that we are still figuring out how best to utilize it. He continues by showing that the goal when managing your money is not to be perfect but to set yourself up for success, even when you are bound to make financial missteps along the way.

What I enjoyed the most in this book was the views on Wealth and “Enough.” 

I have used his quote on wealth in talk after talk because it is so perfect.

Wealth is hidden. It’s income not spent. Wealth is an option not yet taken to buy something later. Its value lies in offering you choices, flexibility, and growth to one day purchase more stuff than you could right now.

A man holding cash

Morgan Housel – The Psychology of Money

 

The Psychology of Money’s views on “enough” is equally helpful. Housel articulates the concept I’ve heard described as lifestyle creep. Lifestyle creep describes how we increase our purchases and lifestyle to use up the “extra” money we bring in when we earn more. If we can live on less than we make and use the extra earnings to reach financial independence, we will be in a much better position. Housel uses the analogy of moving the goalpost. You set out to achieve and have something, but once you have it, you want more. “If only I could earn $100,000,” but when you accomplish that goal, you feel like you need to earn $200,000 to be happy, and on and on.

Housel also described how buying more often makes us feel like we now need to buy more things to support what we just bought. Take a house as an example. The home is purchased, great. Now you need to furnish it. Then you need to buy products and services to maintain it, and the expenses grow and grow. But the same could be said for something small like a hat that now requires a new outfit to match the hat’s style, and now you need some accessories and a place to go to show off your unique style. And on and on. 

Thoughts on The Psychology of Money

 

Having read several books on personal finance, I must say this book’s approach was refreshing. Housel’s behavior economist view of money was able to make clever and actionable observations on how most people manage their finances. Many of us hear what we should do, yet we don’t do it. Why? If we are rational beings, we should do what is most logical. But we are not Data or Spock from Star Trek. We are people. We don’t do what is rational. I mentioned that exact fact in my review of The Color of Money.  

Housel helps us take what is reasonable and put that into systems that will work for us in the long run vs. trying to do what is rational since we know the latter is not sustainable. It is a realistic view of human behavior with practical applications.

The Psychology of Money Book Cover

The Psychology of Money Book Review: Conclusion

 

As someone who often talks about giving yourself grace and letting go of shame and anxiety when it comes to money, this book shows how you do not need to do everything right all the time. You just have to do the right thing most of the time to make a difference.

The Psychology of Money’s postscript could have been a standalone 10-page eBook, and I think the book would have still been worth every penny.  

I could go on and on about how Housel packs so many insightful views into this book, from risk-taking to our thoughts on being wealthy vs. showing people we have wealth to being reasonable vs. rational. But I would do no justice to his views or his writing. So, as I said, just buy this book.

The Color of Money Book Review

The Color of Money book cover

The Color of Money Book Review

This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read full policy here.

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap addresses the fallacy that black banks are the solution to the racial wealth gap. With intricate detail, this book outlines how a banking system that can only rely on money from inner cities (ghettos) but does not have the support of the rest of the banking system and society cannot grow wealth in the way most mainstream banks can.

The Racial Wealth Gap Definition

 

In the United States, the racial wealth gap is the difference in median wealth between white households and households of color. According to the Brookings Institute, the median wealth of white households in 2017 was $171,000, while the median wealth of black households was just $17,150. That is a tenfold difference.

This disparity is primarily due to structural factors such as racism and discrimination in housing, education, and employment. The racial wealth gap has profound implications for economic mobility and opportunity in the United States. Closing the gap would improve the lives of millions of people of color and boost our economy as a whole.

Black family having a celebration

The False Hope Of Black Banks

 

It traces how black banks and businesses suffered for years because people were not rational actors. The study of economics assumes that people are logical and only act in their best interest. But as we know and The Color of Money clearly shows, there is no rational behavior regarding bias and racism. Once that is acknowledged, we can see why the notion that black banks could save the black community has a massive flaw.

As outlined in the book, the historical view of banking is that black people lacked adequate access to banking services and capital. To access these necessities, many thought they should get them through black banks. And while it is true access was denied to many black people, it is also true that they could not get meaningful access via black banks either. 

Since many black banks were funded by lower incomes and were less able to invest their deposits in appreciating assets like homes outside of the ghetto, black banks could not multiply wealth like other banks. The Color of Money does an outstanding job detailing the many challenges black banks had to grow wealth for the banks and the communities they served.

Access to banks, especially ones that cannot grow wealth, is insufficient to solve black communities’ lack of access to capital. Unfortunately, discrimination has been the norm when it comes to banking. Even when it is not explicit, we have seen that banks do not see all clients as equal. So it is easy to see why there was hope that if black people had access to black banks, this would solve the problem. But of course, it does not. It cannot. That concept is similar to saying that black people need to solve racism or women need to solve misogyny. The minority cannot solve these problems without the majority.  

Black banks cannot solve the racial wealth gap.

Dollar bills

Thoughts on The Color of Money

 

This book is pronominal. It is a beautiful union of history, politics, economics, and policy. Sometimes challenging to read at times, but not because of the writing. In fact, I found the content very easy to consume. Hearing about the policies that have continually set people of Color back is the challenge. From redlining to the GI bill that excluded black veterans to the introduction of the minimum wage that again left many black domestic and farm laborers behind. 

The book is well-researched and finds a way to refine decades of policy and history into a complete sequence of events that have led us to the current wealth gap. What could have been a massive text is a very digestible book.

Baradaran’s outline of how wealth is created and compounded is clear, concise, and eloquent. Similarly, I thought the rationale used to explain how a black bank that was not allowed to operate like a mainstream bank could not survive and definitely could not be the source of capital that the black community desperately needs to thrive.

The Color of Money Book Review: Conclusion

If you like to go super deep and maybe a little wonky on the history of black banking and economic policy, The Color of Money is for you. If you want to read about how those policies have affected the black population in America or get a sense of how we got to where we are regarding the racial wealth gap, get this book. 

The Color of Money takes a broad approach to comprehending the many causes of the racial wealth gap and lays it all out so that it is hard to argue the finding. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know why black banks won’t save us, how we got to this point, and where we go from here.

The Richest Man in Babylon, The Best Financial Literacy Book Of All Time

The Richest Man in Babylon Book Cover

The Richest Man in Babylon, The Best Financial Literacy Book Of All Time

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As you would expect, the best financial book of all time will constantly be on financial top ten reading lists. But to be best, it must be on almost everyone’s list. This book is and has been for nearly 100 years. 

Its popularity, longevity and simplicity make a clear case for this book being the best of the best.

If you are looking for another “top 10” list, you are in the wrong place. Instead, this article is here to pay tribute to the best financial literacy book of all time.

What Is the Best Financial Book of All Time?

 

The Richest Man in Babylon, published in 1926 by George S. Clason, is the best financial book of all time. It has consistently been suggested reading for anyone who wants to get a handle on their finances.  

The book has been translated into over twenty languages and has sold millions of copies. It was published almost 100 years ago, yet it is still used in high school classrooms today to teach the next generation how to manage their money. 

There are a lot of books on financial literacy, I’ve even written one, but there is no book on financial literacy that even comes close to The Richest Man in Babylon.

A man reading a book

Why This Is the Best Financial Literacy Book of All Time

 

You can scour the internet, go to your local library or bookstore or ask most folks in personal finance the answer to what is the best financial literacy book of all time, and the answer will always be the same. 

Here are just a few of the reasons The Richest Man in Babylon is consistently named on financial literacy reading lists.

  • The financial literacy concepts are made easy to understand
  • The trials and tribulations are relatable even to a contemporary audience
  • The book is written as a series of short stories, making the material very accessible and engaging
  • The principles outlined in the book are timeless 

The results will be the same whether you apply this book’s lessons in the 1920s or the 2020s. You will learn to live within your means, understand why that is so critical, and know how to make your money work for you to achieve your financial goals.

While this book is dated, the principles within have stood the test of time.

What Are the Origins of This Book?

 

George Clason was originally a map maker, who wisely noticed that most people who work and earn a living often have nothing to show for all their hard work. To help remedy this, he started to publish and sell pamphlets to banks about being thrifty and achieving mastery over your money.  

To make the financial literacy content fresh and novel, he set the stories in his pamphlets in Ancient Babylon. He made each one a separate short story or parable, teaching financial lessons.

Eventually, Clason put all the pamphlets into The Richest Man in Babylon.

Different banks

How to Use The Richest Man In Babylon

It seems ridiculous to say, but first, you must read it. It is not a long or complicated book, so it should be something most people can work through in a few weeks to a month. But reading it alone will not help you get a handle on your finances.
 

Next, you need to apply the first principle of paying yourself first. Again this may seem simple, but it is the first step in mastering your money. Like The Richest Man in Babylon, you will need to master this step and the subsequent steps of living within your means, having your money work for you, and protecting your wealth to ensure you can live comfortably.

The last step is to revisit the book periodically. After a while, the characters will become like old friends. Re-reading the book will motivate you to keep living within your means and also help remind you of where you need to re-assess your personal finance decisions. 

For example, once you have saved for long enough to build an emergency fund, you will need to ensure you have a sound investment strategy for the long haul. Once you have maximized your earning potential, you may want to check to ensure you and your assets are appropriately insured. Use the book as a guide to re-evaluate your financial plan and make any tweaks you may need as you progress along your financial journey.

Room for Improvement

 

While there is little doubt this book’s principles have stood the test of time, that doesn’t mean this book is perfect. First, you have to remember Clason published The Richest Man in Babylon in 1926. Which means it was written for a very patriarchal society. 

Thankfully we have come a long way since then. But this book’s text is frozen in the 1920s with all the masculine-focused speech that comes with that period.  

Another fault some have with the book is the author’s use of flourishes such as “thinkest” and “doeth” to think and do. 

But if you can get past those drawbacks and look past the interesting usage of words, you will be rewarded with a financial literacy education that is fun and engaging.

A woman reading a book

The Richest Man in Babylon Review

 

It is hard to give The Richest Man in Babylon an unbiased review since it was and continues to be such a monumental book for me and many others, but I will do my best.

The book loosely covers the story of Arkad the Richest Man in Babylon as he first learns how to become a wealthy man and later teaches his lessons to friends and family. Each chapter, except for the first two, which need to be read together, are written in fictional Babylonian parables that teach modern-day financial literacy lessons using fictional characters’ financial journeys.

Some of the parables cover the same topic. But given the reinforcing nature of the stories, the repetition does not take away from the book’s enjoyment. The wall of Babylon, chapter 7, is the only parable that falls a bit short in effectively getting across its financial lesson. And it can be difficult at times to get over the author’s literary style, but once you get past his use of -est and -eth at the end of some verbwords the book can be fun to read. A few challenges for the modern reader may be using all male characters and the concept of slavery when speaking about money and people. 

Despite the book’s drawbacks, the principles are universal and provided without judgment. It would be hard not to recommend this book to anyone who wanted to get an introduction to the basics of personal finance.

The Richest Man in Babylon Chapter Summary

Spoiler Alert: If you want to enjoy this book to its fullest, you may want to skip this section. But if you have read the book and want a quick refresh of what each chapter is about, here is a brief The Richest man in Babylon chapter summary.

An open book on top of a table
A Historical Sketch of Babylon: Sets the stage for the book, outlining how wealthy the city of Babylon was in ancient times.
 

Chapter I The One Who Desired Gold: Starts with two friends who are commiserating about working hard, but have little to show for their efforts. They decide to seek out help to learn how to become wealthy.

Chapter II The Richest Man in Babylon: We are introduced to Arkad, the richest man in Babylon. He tells his story of how he became rich.

Chapter III Seven Cures for a Lean Purse: The King summons Arkad to teach the people of Babylon to grow their wealth.

Chapter IV How to Attract Good Luck: Arkad debates with students about luck and its place in managing your finances.

Chapter V The Five Laws of Gold: Arkad’s son sets out to become wealthy like his father using the laws of gold.

Chapter VI The Gold Lender of Babylon: A gold lender advises someone who has recently come into money on how to keep and grow what they have.

Chapter VII The Walls of Babylon: A soldier reassures the people of Babylon they are safe.

Chapter VIII The Camel Trader of Babylon: A Camel Trader relays a story of how they worked their way out of debt.

Chapter IX The Clay Tablets from Babylon: A story of two professors writing to each other to demonstrate how the ancient parables can be effective in modern times.

Chapter X The Luckiest Person in Babylon: A merchant explains how hard work is the key to his success.

Questions about The Richest Man in Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon FAQ

Who Wrote the Richest Man in Babylon?

George S. Clason

What Is The Richest Man in Babylon about?

Fictional Babylonian parables about personal finance

Who Was the Richest Man in Babylon?

In the fictional book, Arkad is the richest man in Babylon

When Was The Richest Man in Babylon written?

The book was published in 1926, but the stories were originally written as pamphlets and sold to banks.

Is The Richest Man in Babylon a True Story?

No, the book is a fictional story collection based on an ancient city.

How Many Pages Is The Richest Man in Babylon?

There are many book reproductions with different trim sizes, but the page count is between 90 and 130.

Is The Richest Man in Babylon a Good Book?

The Richest Man in Babylon is arguably the best book on financial literacy ever written.

Is The Richest Man in Babylon Written in Simple English?

Not by today’s standards, the author used a style to create an “ancient” feel that is not simple English.

Is This the Only Book You Need on Financial Literacy?

 

While living the principles of this book will surely put you leaps and bounds ahead of most folks, reading this book alone will only do so much. So even though I will say, hands down, this is one of the best books you can read for financial literacy, it is always good to get a broad perspective. 

It will give you most of the basics of financial literacy and a sense of financial wellness and stability. But when you start to invest, you will need to do your research. Moreover, some strategies exist now that did not when Clason wrote this book. Strategies that can help put you even further ahead. For example, while this book may have been the first to say “Pay yourself first,” it is only recently that we can do so using automatic transfers from one bank account to another. Similarly, spreadsheets and budgeting apps were definitely not mentioned in the book.

So start with The Richest Man in Babylon, but don’t stop there. The more you read and educate yourself on financial literacy principles and tools, the more you will be able to maximize your money, build wealth and reach your financial goals.

Final Thoughts

 

The Richest Man in Babylon is the best book on financial literacy. It has changed the lives of the people who read it for generations. Reading it can give you the keys to living within your means and saving and investing for the future. The principles in this book are timeless. The stories are universal. If you give it a read it will likely always be one of your favorite books on financial literacy.

The Best Book by Brenè Brown Is Also a Financial Literacy Hidden Gem

Daring Greatly Book Cover

The Best Book by Brenè Brown Is Also a Financial Literacy Hidden Gem

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By now, almost everyone knows who Brenè Brown is. She is the award-winning psychologist and podcaster with viral TED talks and a Netflix special. But before she was known for those accomplishments, Brown was a best-selling author. She has consistently put out great titles on shame, guilt, vulnerability, and the power of empathy and connection. But the best book by Brenè Brown, in my opinion, is Daring Greatly.

In Daring Greatly, Brown focuses on shame and vulnerability. And in doing so, I believe Brown unwittingly has also created an excellent financial literacy resource. As a financial literacy advocate, I’m glad Daring Greatly is one of the most popular books by Brené Brown.

My Daring Greatly Book Review

 

Daring Greatly Book Summary

The goal of Daring Greatly is to define what keeps us from living what Brown calls a “wholehearted life.” The book starts by perfectly articulating the cultural norms that have pushed away from the feeling of vulnerability. Next, the book shows that it is only in the moments of vulnerability that we can have true joy, happiness, and growth. Brown then explains the relationship between shame and vulnerability and how we all have shame, “the intensely painful feeling of or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” What makes this the best book by Brené Brown is that she then gives you so many tools to help you combat shame. Brown provides resources to clearly explain the different ways people avoid being vulnerable, what she calls the “Vulnerability Armory,” and what practices you need to overcome them. 

She closes out the book by talking about how disengagement from our various communities is also a way that we put up shields to keep from feeling vulnerable. And lastly, she has an entire section dedicated to parenting and how to raise children who “dare greatly.” In other words, children understand and manage shame healthily and productively. While also embracing the vulnerable to live a “wholehearted life.”

She ends the paperback version of the book by providing a worksheet to help you walk through each concept she raises.

 

A family having a good time

My Analysis of Daring Greatly

This book is phenomenal. Who dedicates a whole book to shame and vulnerability? Luckily for us, Brown did. Brené Brown sheds light on those two topics so we can live more fulfilling lives. This book was particularly meaningful to me since I once felt so much shame about my debts. 

Brown lays it out perfectly, giving you the rationale for why you should be reading about shame and vulnerability right from the start. She demonstrates that if you want to live your best life, you must master how you deal with shame and vulnerability. In addition, Brown makes the book so much more personal by giving direct quotes from everyday people. It isn’t hard to see yourself in her examples since she is so robust in what she covers.

Brown masterfully gives you a complete set of tools to recognize what may be holding you back and how to address them.

I do wish she would have spent more time talking about addressing shame and money specifically, but since Brown did not write the book to be just about money, I cannot blame her for that. With that said, it is not hard to make the connection to money, work, career, and achievement in this book. So it will be up to the reader to see the link and address those thoughts and feelings.

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to live a life of financial wellness, as it will help you overcome many of the roadblocks that might be keeping you from making financial decisions that are in the best interest of you and your family.

Example of Daring Greatly’s Foreboding Joy in My Life

 

Before reading the book, I would never have considered that if you want to experience joy, you need to be vulnerable, you need to accept that happiness is fleeting, and that to have pleasure, you need to live with pain. I have a hard time with that. Those little disaster readiness plans I make in my head, “what if the car drives off this bridge, with the kids inside” that take me out of the moment of joy on a family road trip, is how I’ve dealt with the feeling of vulnerability.

Brown describes that as Foreboding Joy, and it hit me hard. Not long after reading that section, I experienced it viscerally while vacationing in Florida. My son and I took a walk on the beach on our first night there, and there is no other way to describe his feeling except pure joy. He was smiling, laughing, jumping, and running on the beach and in the waves.

As I watched my son, I had this feeling take hold, “What happens if he gets pulled out by the sea?” He was in the shallows, the waves were small, and I was not that far from him. But still, fear took over. I told him, “don’t go too far,” and ruined everything, his joy vanished, and he started to worry. I traded our happiness for fear.

A parent holding a toddler's hand

How I’ve Used Daring Greatly to Parent

 

My big takeaway from the parenting section is that there is a big difference between saying “you lied” versus “you are a liar.” The former was a choice; the latter is a condemnation of the person. Where is the redemption when a child is called a liar? Especially if they believe they are a liar. They have been labeled something less than. But if I say they lied, they can choose to do something different in the future and redeem themselves. A lie causes guilt. Being seen as a liar causes shame. Shame causes pain and makes the child feel less worthy of love and belonging.

Why I Need this to be the Most Popular Book by Brené Brown

 

Being Vulnerable, Shame, and Financial Literacy

To get comfortable with your money, you must be honest with yourself. There is likely a personal reason you are not doing what you think you should be doing with your money. Whether it is spending too much, or feeling like spending is evil, to get comfortable and truly comfortable with your money and how you use it, you must first have a good relationship with yourself.

Having a better relationship with your money may require having an uncomfortable conversation with your partner or yourself. It was only after reading this book that I could take the shame and anxiety that I felt about my debt problems and deal with them in a healthy way. Only after reading this book did I feel like I had the strength to start creating resources to help people who may have been in my shoes.

In my book Your Kid’s Their Money, I say I wrote the book to help the reader let go of shame and self-doubt. But to let go, you first need to acknowledge it. And Dearly Greatly give you the tools to do the hard work of looking inside and accepting yourself. If you have money problems, it will only be when you are willing to be vulnerable, acknowledge you have a problem and seek and let people help you that you will be able to grow and be a better version of yourself.

Enough is Enough

There are many lessons in Daring Greatly that directly relate to being financially literate. One of the primary rules of personal finances is to live off of less than you make, a simple statement but a hard rule to live. One of the reasons it is so hard to live by is that we are constantly comparing what we have to those around us. Worse, we tie our self-worth to what we own, how much we can collect, and what the outside world thinks of us. 

That type of thinking can have us do foolish things like overspending to meet some unobtainable goal set by forces and people we have no control over. The way to combat this feeling is to recognize what is enough.

Brené Brown lays this out perfectly by saying: “You are enough.” “You have enough.” and “Showing up, taking risks, and letting yourself be seen is enough.” In other words, you can let go of some of your shame because what you are is enough. You can stop trying to “keep up with the Jones” because it isn’t necessary. And what you do and create deserves to be seen.

This messaging, unfortunately, is not the norm, but it needs to be. Once you can feel comfortable with yourself, you will also be able to start making financial decisions that are in the best interest of you and your family. And it is only when you make wise and informed decisions with your money that you can reach your financial goals and feel a sense of financial wellness.

Practicing Gratitude

I’ve written a lot about how practicing gratitude is fundamental to financial literacy. A gratitude practice can help hedge against the need to have more. Being grateful has been proven to increase happiness in your life. I can’t think of a better reason than being happier. 

I also love how she highlights that self-compassion and gratitude are not one-time things. They need to be practiced to gain the full benefit.

Parents having a picnic with their child

Conclusion

Giving folks the road map to let go of shame and self-doubt is why I think Daring Greatly is Brenè Brown’s best book. It is also why I think it is a financial literacy resource that has been missed on many financial literacy best book lists.  

This book has so much to glean; her conclusions on belonging alone are worth the price tag. If you want to develop a better relationship with yourself, the people around you, and your money, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Daring Greatly. The lesson inside will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Book Review – Grit

What was the last thing you or your kids quit? Cooking lessons, dance classes, soccer, or piano. How many times have you heard “I don’t want to ____”. Fill in the blank… practice, do my homework or anything that requires a little fortitude…

It happens to me all the time. My kids have the worst attitude when it comes to doing something hard. “I can’t do it” “It’s too hard” or the dreaded “I’ll never be able to get it”. Now, granted my kids are young and many of the things they do are new and are hard. But I still hate that attitude.

I’m not always the hardest working person, but I have always had the attitude that I don’t quit. I will have to pull a hamstring before I stop running a race. In fact, many years ago, I was dreadfully out of shape, and my then girlfriend convinced me to complete a 5k run with her. I’ve always hated running, and at the time, the idea of running 5k was the equivalent of asking me to run a marathon naked. But she persisted, and I relented.

I still remember the look on her face as I approached the ‘finish line’. She was terrified. Why? Because there was no longer a finish line. The race had finished so long ago that all the race signs had been packed away. She was sure something must have happened to me because she couldn’t find me. But I was still chugging along, living up to my high-school basketball nickname ‘Grimace’.

I’ve since become a decent runner, but my point is that I would rather finish way past dead last, then give up. And that has always been my attitude about hard things. My challenge has been moderately hard things. The things I know I can do, but I also know would require a sustained effort over months or years. That is when I throw in the towel. All of this is to say Grit is something that has been on my mind for some time.

If Yoda were to write a book, this would be it.

Why can I put in the effort today, but find it difficult to sustain that effort over a month, or a few years? How do I get my kids to be and stay ‘Gritty’? Luckily for me, I now have some strategies to try, thanks to Angela Duckworth and her book Grit.

I received a copy of this book a few years ago after attending a lecture she gave at UofT. She has been a reoccurring guest on the Freakonomics podcast and is a thought a leader in Behavioral Economics, a branch of Economics that I’ve been fascinated with for some time. Since I’ve heard her speak, I was in no rush to read her book. I’m thankful that I finally sat down to read it because it provided a lot of insights on the topic of being gritty.

Talent vs Effort

I’ve read in several places that it is better to encourage and praise our children’s efforts and not their talent; and Grit reinforced this point. It went into great depth about how many people say they believe effort trumps talent but unconsciously think the reverse. Duckworth’s section on mindset reinforces the need to focus on effort vs talent. She demonstrates that with a growth mindset, we are more able to accept that with effort, you can gain skills, and achieve more. I’ve been lucky to have always had a growth mindset, but it is informative to realize that there are some out there who do not, and how that can affect not just their ability to learn, but their willingness to do so as well.

Practice

You may have heard of the 10,000-hour rule from Gladwell or others. The rule states that if you practice for 10,000 hours or more, you will be successful. I’ve known for some time that this ‘rule’ is more of a guidepost. However, if you consider how much effort is required for success and you start to dig deeper into what type of effort is necessary to achieve it, then that rule makes a bit more sense.  Duckworth makes a case for effort throughout her book and goes further to explain what kind of effort is needed.

If you consider ‘effort’ to be practice, then effort alone is not sufficient for success. Duckworth defined the type of practice that is necessary as deliberate practice. She describes ‘deliberate practice’ as

  1. A stretch goal
  2. Concentrated effort
  3. Immediate and informative feedback
  4. Repeat with refinement

Take my running, for example. It was only because I continued to run after that first 5k with the deliberate goal of increasing my speed, that I was able to get down to a more respectable time. But if I were to have had a coach to provide feedback, and continued to dedicate time to the sport, my speed would have doubtlessly increased in orders of magnitude more than it did.

Parenting

Duckworth is clear to say that a lot of the research on grittiness in children and parenting styles is still not conclusive, but given her work, to date, she does make a lot of recommendations based on what has been observed. If you have read a parenting book in the last few years, you would have likely also landed on ‘authoritative parenting’. This is what she calls wise parenting, not to be confused with ‘authoritarian’. Wise parenting is both supportive and demanding. That is, they give their children the emotional and physical support that they need, but also require their children to finish their homework, participate in the recital even though it is scary, or complete the soccer season even though they may not be that good at the sport. It is an effort to get the child to do “hard things” without quitting.

She also strongly recommends extracurricular as a path to build grit since it does give children a chance to practice hard things that can offer both challenge and fun, which few other opportunities do.

There are so many tips in this book that I want to tell you about. Duckworth’s family challenge to do one ‘hard thing’, her research on how children who participate and stick to their extracurricular in high school have higher levels of success after school.

It was an easy read, and I thought it was packed full of useful information. I know I will be applying a lot of the advice provided to help mould my kids, but even more immediately to help me continue to grow and be more gritty.  If you want a preview of Duckworth, check out her TED talk.  Oh and my 5k is down to a respectable 30 minutes or less now.

Book Review – Daring Greatly

A “friend” of mine reluctantly recommended Daring Greatly to me a few months ago. Let me unpack that sentence because there is a lot of contexts in there that you need to know. First, I say “friend” because this person just disclosed to me that she is a Grant Hill fan. I hate Duke University and want nothing to do with them, so this is why our friendship status is on tenuous ground right now (kidding not kidding).

More importantly, why a friend would be reluctant to recommend a book goes right to the heart of the book itself. Some of you may be familiar with Brene Brown, she is a best seller, has a few viral TED talks, and just came out with a special on Netflix. But until my friend introduced her book to me, I had no idea who she was or what she does. Brown’s specialty is shame and vulnerability. I know right, who dedicates their life’s work to shame and vulnerability? Luckily for us, she was able to shed a lot of light on those two topics, so that we can live a more fulfilling life.

Shame and Gender Norms

I enjoyed this book. It was very tangible. The book’s goal is to define what is keeping us from living what Brown calls a “wholehearted life”. The book could stand on its own for the sections that define shame and shame triggers based on gender norms. There’s no question that I’ve been triggered into shame by ridiculous gender norms, that also cause pain because they are silly and impossible to achieve. Here are two from the book: Women need to “be perfect but not make a fuss about it…” and men “must not be weak”.

Disaster vs Joy

Before reading the book, I would never have considered that to be happy; you need to make yourself vulnerable. I have done my fair share of reading, and if I were to subscribe to any dogma, it would be Buddhism, because it speaks to me in its attempt to accept both joy and pain as equal in the human experience.

That said, I still never made the connection to the fact that if you want to experience joy, you need to be vulnerable, you need to accept that the happiness is fleeting, and that to have “pleasure” you need to live with pain. I have a hard time with that. Those little disaster readiness plans I make in my head, “what if the car drives off this bridge, with the kids inside” that take me out of the moment of joy on a family road trip, is how I’ve dealt with the feeling of vulnerability.

Brown describes that as Foreboding Joy, and it hit me hard. Not long after that section, I experienced it in a very visceral way. We recently vacationed in Florida. My son and I took a walk to the beach on our first night there, and there is no other way to describe what he was feeling except pure joy. He was smiling, laughing, jumping and running on the beach and in the waves.

As I was watching my son, I had this feeling take hold, “What happens, if he gets pulled out the sea?”. He was in the shallows, the waves were small, and I was not that far from him. But still, fear took over.   I told him, ruined everything, “don’t go too far”. His joy vanished, and he started to worry. I traded in our happiness for fear.

Parenting

There is a trove of great advice in this book, like what to do when you are “foreboding joy”. With all the different angles that Brown takes, I believe it would speak to almost everyone who hasn’t looked at how they approach vulnerability. There is even a section dedicated to parenting.

My big take away from the parenting section is, there is a big difference saying “You lied” vs “You are a lier”. The former was a choice; the latter is a condemnation on the person. When I call a child a lier, and they believe me, where is the redemption? They have been labelled something less than. But if I say they lied, they can choose to do something different in the future; they can redeem themselves. A lie causes guilt. Being seen as a lier causes shame. Shame causes pain and sets up the child to feel less worthy of love and belonging.

There is so much to gleam from this book; her conclusions on belonging alone could fill up another post. I strongly recommended you read this one if you are trying to become a better you and live a more fulfilling life. When you read it, let me know in the comments what resonated with you.

Oh and, Duke Sucks!