Grit As a Predictor of Success

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with a great many talented individuals – both colleagues and clients. And some of them leave me in awe of how they think, feel and act. They are special – very competent, successful and they have something extra. When I reflect upon what is this something “extra”, I realize that it is not about deep technical skills, visionary thinking, perceptual acuity, magical oratory skills etc.

One thing stands out for me – Grit.

All of these exceptional people I know are driven by a sense of purpose and they have the grit, the endurance to follow through and move towards achieving their purpose – even in the face of massive setbacks. I chanced upon the work of Angela Lee Duckworth (video link). She has conducted research with schools, corporations and military to understand what factors predict success. And here is what her research showed:

“In all those very different contexts, 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.”

“What I do know is that talent doesn’t make you gritty. Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”

So, what have I learnt from gritty people I know? I think all these individuals had a fine balance between the following:

  • Sense of control: Firm belief in their ability to influence situations; belief in “turf expansion” rather than “turf protection”
  • Sense of expectations: Expecting success in uncertain situations and motivating others
  • Sense of challenge: Seeing the most challenging situations as the biggest opportunity to make a mark, rather than seeking comfort in stability and familiarity

What have you learnt from your network? What have gritty people taught you?

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