May 24


Grit Means Focused Determination

UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth is known for bringing the traits and value of grit to the forefront of awareness through her research, publications, and presentations.

I was fortunate to learn firsthand from one of her energetic lectures prior to the publication of Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success and spoke with her afterward.


Here are the top 10 things you need to know about grit to grow your business and achieve success on your terms. As you read through the list items below, think of how you relate to each, then consider how your management team and top performers exhibit the traits described.

  1. Grit is the combination, in roughly equal parts, of passion and perseverance. Success in the long term, begins with enjoying what you do.
  2. The key to maximizing your chances of success is to emphasize grit over innate talent alone. “If we overemphasize talent,” she urges, “we underemphasize everything else.”
  3. In the nature vs. nurture controversy, the author sides with nurture. This stance puts the locus of control (and responsibility for unlocking that potential) back to the individual.
  4. Duckworth cringes at the mention of “participation trophies.” They reinforce values that are not helpful to the participants, after all.
  5. In one of the subject’s landmark studies, Duckworth found grit to be a better indicator of West Point cadet success during the first and hardest year than academic records, SATs, IQ, or other  standard means of evaluating readiness and predicting success. Being able to stay on task until the task was done simply mattered more.
  6. It is possible to enhance your “grit factor” by deliberate practice. This has been known in high level athletic competition since Romans first wrestled Greeks, of course.
  7. One of her favorite sayings is that, “Life is more of a marathon than a sprint.
  8. For parents to instill more grit in their children, as unappealing as that sounds out of context, Dr. Duckworth recommends being, “very, very demanding and also very, very supportive.” The support comes in the form of emotional support, not material rewards. Of course, this applies to your staff, as well – just remember that your children don’t have a choice to be in a relationship with you, while your staff does have a choice and that you should explain the culture during the hiring process, not during the orientation.
  9. In her Forbes article titled, “The 5 Traits of Grit – How many do you have?,” Margaret M. Perlis sums up grit’s components as: courage, perseverance, achievement orientation, resilience, and a decided inclination for excellence over perfection.
  10. In a New York Times interview, Angela said that she wasn’t thrilled with the original title the TED folks gave her presentation, “Grit – the Key to Success.” She asserted, “Instead, I would say that grit is essential to success, but it’s not the only thing.” As you can see in the revised title below, Angela Duckworth raised the matter with TED organizers… who either saw the advantage of the proposed revision immediately, or relented from the wellspring of passion and perseverance behind the requests.

Dr. Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Watch her TED talk, which has been viewed over 8 million times, to hear her describe the essence of grit.


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