Sunday Morning Reading – Grit, Curiosity and Character

I’m currently reading How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. If you have young kids, it’s a must read. How Children Succeed challenges the notion that cognitive abilities and test scores are the key to success and postulates that it’s actually grit, curiosity and character that makes our kids successful. 

The book is filled with killer stories and research laying out what it takes to be successful in society,particularly in school and what the children who succeed are doing.

I have 3 daughters and it has me re-thinking many of my approaches to parenting and what I chose to emphasize. It also got me thinking about sales people and what it is about those sales people who succeed at a higher level. I think grit, creativity and character are huge differentiators between the average and the best sales people.


I’ve talked about this one before and believe it’s one of the 3 most critical skills of sales people. The ability to attack problems differently, to uncover opportunities no one else sees, to leverage resources in a unique way continually proves to be a key differentiator in sales people. Those who follow the pack, never seem to out perform those who find their own way.


I love this one. Tenacity, stubbornness, no quit, drive, determination, sticktuitiveness, call it what you will. The ability persevere, push, roll up your sleeves, get dirty and get it done is the key to getting things completed and those who are gritty enough to keep going until they arrive win.  I’m not surprised to see grit as one of the traits to success for kids. Unfortunately, it’s not taught in school.


I loved this one. Sales gets a bad rap. But not all sales people are sleazy purveyors of bullshit trying to close the deal. The best are problem solvers who put their clients first. They are quick to tell a customer if they don’t need something, even if it means losing the sale. They are the ones who will recommend a competitive product if it’s what the customer needs. The sales people with the character to do what’s right develop trust with their customers and that trust turns into revenue overtime.

I work with a lot of clients. They hire and look for talent similar to what we expect from our kids. They look for the cognitive capabilities, the pedigree, the years of experience and even employment with targeted companies. Rarely do I see creativity, character or grit in the job description or the decision criteria. Just as with our kids, there are certain skills and traits that underpin success and they aren’t always what we think they are.

How Children Succeed is a great book. Whether you have children or not, it provides a must see view into how the lives of future generations are formed and what it is we need to focus on to make them as successful as possible.

For more, this video interview with the author Paul Tough is a great break down of the book and it’s thesis.