GRIT: The Secret to Success

Jann Freed Leading, Learning, Sage-ing Comments

This post is written for anyone who wants “in” on the secret to success.  If you have ever wondered:  Why the people at the very top of your field are at the top?  What do you think makes them special?  How did they likely get there?  What is the secret to success?  If so, then this post is for you.  If you learn something, please share it.

So you are having a cup of coffee and pondering:  What is the secret of success?  Why do some people rise to the top of their profession and/or achieve their dreams?

Recently, we went on vacation and I read a book in which I underlined almost every sentence!  Have you read or heard about GRIT:  Why Passion and Resilience are the Secrets to Success by Angela Duckworth (revised version is subtitled:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance).  I was so moved by the book that I immediately ordered a copy for each of my three young professional sons.  If you want a shortcut, I recommend you watch Duckworth’s TED Talk and/or listen to the many interviews she has conducted about this topic such as at Google. 

As I read the book, I concluded everyone (parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, grandparents) can benefit from understanding her message which is based on extensive research.  The premise of the book is this:

Regardless of the profession, the highly successful had a determination that was reflected in being unusually resilient and hardworking.  In addition, they knew what they wanted.  The combination of determination and direction is also a blend of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special.  Duckworth calls this grit.  In fact, she developed a simple Grit Scale to measure perseverance and passion–the extent to which we approach life with grit.

In the past few months, I blogged about resilience so this topic has been on my mind.  I was also reading this book during the weeks of the Olympics and over and over again there were examples of people demonstrating grit.  While I was glued to the television, I was more interested in the human interest stories than some of the actual sports.  But we witnessed grit in action:  passion, perseverance, resilience, and determination (hard work).  Duckworth says that we can’t ignore talent, but talent is overrated.  She says:

“Talent is no guarantee of grit … Our potential is one thing.  What we do with it is quite another.”

Duckworth continues to say:  “As much as talent counts, efforts count twice.” 

She came up with this formula:

talent x effort = skill

skill x effort = achievement

“What each person achieves depends on just two things:  talent and effort.  Talent–how fast we improve in skill–absolutely matters.  But effort factors into the calculation twice, not onceEffort build skill.  At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” 

The book helped me understand myself better, what I can use in coaching/teaching others, and what I might have done differently raising children.  And if I am so fortunate to have grandchildren someday, how I might help them become more resilient by finding their passion.

In my next few posts, I am going to continue to share what I learned about grit.  Interestingly, many of her themes reinforce Simon Sinek’s messages about finding your why and discovering your purpose.

  • How well do you approach life with grit?
  • What are the examples in your life of demonstrating passion, perseverance, resilience, and determination (hard work)?
  • Do you want to learn more about grit?

Stay tuned.