What is Grit? It’s the key ingredient to success.

By September 9, 2015Teaching
What is Grit? [ted id=1733]

According to the above TED Talk by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, passion, perseverance, and stamina outweigh IQ as a predictor of success.

My observations of grit

My years of teaching at the University of South Florida align with this observation. While I only see students for one semester of their educational careers, it is often easy to spot the ones that “get it” and “will make it.” Now, I’m not saying that only a few of the students each semester “will make it”. Most, if not all will go on to have great careers in advertising and marketing. But, only a few show a long-term vision driven by necessary passion and perseverance to achieve sustained success during their career. These two factors combined with stamina are the most import in the beginning phase of careers – when the velocity for the rest of your career is set.

In other words, you need to have the end in mind no matter what you are doing. This is especially true in an educational environment.

Back to psychologist Dr. Duckworth, who says that the best predictor of success in a person’s life, including when it comes to goals in education is “Grit.”

So, what is Grit?

Of course, the key question is “What is grit?Duckworth explains that grit is a better indicator of personal  success than IQ, family income and other factors.

Angela’s research showed that it takes approximately ten years to become proficient at a discipline. People are not just born great designers, salespeople or marketers. It requires constant effort in a specific direction to build the knowledge and skills to become great at a task, skill or market. Focus is a key phrase here. It’s important to focus on a goal in order to create positive momentum in your performance.

In a nutshell Grit is:

  • Passion
  • Perseverance
  • Stamina

Read on to learn more about each of these.

Passion is the most important ingredient

A former manager of mine had the philosophy that passion outweighs anything else when it comes to hiring employees. He based this on the belief that passion is the one trait that cannot be taught.

Thus, it’s no accident that passion is one of the three key ingredients of grit.

Perseverance is hard

The next factor is perseverance. Another way to say perseverance is delayed gratification. Doing something despite a delay in achieving success is hard. But, as we all know it’s (almost) always worth it.

For more on perseverance and how it predicts success in life see the Stanford marshmallow experiment.

Winning takes stamina

Stamina means different things to different people. Basically it’s the ability to sustain physical and mental efforts for a prolonged period.

To some people it means staying late at work on a regular basis. To others it means focusing and working at a high level for the entire time in the office. A colleague once called this “brain sweat”. To paraphrase him: “We get paid so much to sit an air conditioned office because we use brain sweat all day. We are good at what we do. Would you rather be sweating out in the heat?”

Are you “gritty”?

By now you must be wondering if you have grit. While we all hope that we have the grit necessary to succeed, the only way to find out for yourself is by taking the grit test here.


People who can set long-term goals and then stick to them have an advantage when it comes to success in school and life.