How Gritty Are You?

At age 27, Angela Lee Duckworth left her extremely demanding job in management consulting for an even more demanding job – teaching 7th grade math in the New York City public schools.

In this new endeavor, she discovered an odd disconnect between her brightest students and their performance in the classroom.

IQ was not the only difference between my best and worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. Some of my smartest kids weren’t doing so well.

After witnessing this same phenomenon in class after class, she was gripped by the idea that if IQ wasn’t the singular factor in gauging an individual’s success, there must be something else involved.

After several years of teaching, I concluded that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective.

So Duckworth left the classroom to get a masters degree in psychology and began studying people in such broad arenas as West Point Military Academy, corporate sales jobs, and teachers and students in inner-city schools. The goal? To find out what main element or elements were more prevalent in those who were successful.

One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success, and it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ.
It was Grit.

Though not a scientific term by any stretch, grit was the term Duckworth used to describe the key element that was unique across all the individuals she studied who were able to achieve success.

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.

And now she gets peppered with questions about how people can become gritty? How can we instill grit into our children?

She honestly admits that we don’t have those answers yet, but there is some good news.

Talent doesn’t make you gritty. There are many talented individuals who simply don’t follow through on their commitments. In our studies, Grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

So let’s quit believing we’re not smart enough or don’t have enough talent to do that thing we really want to do. Be gritty enough to keep going after others have given up.

The Key to Success – Angela Lee Duckworth

Fox Tip: What long-term goals are you pursuing day in and day out?


  1. klamping

    What’s interesting about this is if you view “grit” the same as a physical attribute. Can you become “grittier” in the same way that you can become more muscular or get in better shape? Or is grit a physical constant, similar to how you can’t just “grow taller”.

    My bet is on the former, although in order to improve your grittiness you either need an initial bit of grit to begin with or someone to loan you their grit.

    • Refactoring Fox

      I would agree it’s the former. I think grit can be learned and grown. Some people may be born with a more innate amount of grit than others, but it’s not off limits to anyone. We should all practice being more gritty than we think we truly are.

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