“I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.” – Arnold Palmer

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about grit and how it’s an essential ingredient for success. For me, grit is the fortitude and perseverance to work through the challenges and handle the bumps in the road with grace and focus. It is about having a passion for what you do that lets you push the negativity aside and move full steam ahead. It is about being resilientand viewing challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I have been fortunate enough to work with teammates who have grit in spades and have been consistently my highest performing and go-to colleagues. These folks are passionate, dedicated and possess a “never say die” attitude. Like me, a few didn’t even perform at the top of their class academically, but it’s their “grit” that has pushed them to the front of the line.

Thinking about grit, I was drawn to a Ted Talkby Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist and author of the bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth, both former teacher and management consultant, has spent years studying how grit and self-determination are predictors of success – academically and professionally.

In her talk, she recounts studying the performance of cadets at West Point, participants in the National Spelling Bee, inner-city teachers and students and sales professionals in private companies to understand in each context who was going to succeed and why. She concludes that the one consistent attribute that the most successful cadets, spellers, teachers, students, and salespeople had in common was grit. Duckworth too defines grit as the passion and perseveranceto succeed—but not just in the short term. As she explains it is about having a vision for the future, setting long term goals and doing everything within your power to succeed. Gritty folks run “life like a marathon and not a sprint.”

Duckworth ends her talk with the claim that she does not to have the answers when it comes to how to make people, particularly kids, grittier. But she does ascribe, in part, to the idea of “growth mindset.” This is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed but that your capacity can increase based on your effort.

Watching Duckworth’s talk got me thinking how can one’s capacity for grittiness increase? Developing what skills will allow us to be grittier? Here’s are some things to consider:

  • Follow through on your commitments. Make a genuine effort to do what you have promised in the timeframe in which you have promised to do it.
  • Take time to reflect on setbacks and take inventory as to how you can make changes for the future
  • Set and measure both short and long-term goals.
  • Find purpose in your work and align it with the values you hold. If what you do speaks to who you are as a person and what you believe in the world, you are much more likely to do whatever it takes to achieve success.
  • Be both positive and objective. It is only then that you will be able to see obstacles as opportunities and move forward after a setback.

At the end of the day and as Duckworth’s research suggests, it’s not how smart you are or the wealth of talents you possess that will allow you to achieve personal and professional success. It’s grit. It is how hard you work, your ability to see past failure and move on and your willingness to keep going despite the challenges in your path, that will get you where you want to go.

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