How Important is Grit?

How Important is Grit?


Angela Duckworth is a former teacher and psychologist. She has studied West Point Cadets, teachers, students, spelling B contestants and salespeople. Her main research question is, “Who is successful here and why?” She discovered that success had little to do with a person’s IQ, looks or personality. Her finding is that “grit” is the factor that determines the level of success.

She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals; grit is having stamina; grit is sticking with your future, day in day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years and working hard to make that future a reality; grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint.”  Please watch her 6 minute video presentation below:

Author’s Perspective #1 – grit is just one aspect of character: How can you disagree with what she is saying? We can squabble about what you call it, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to understand that those who are more determined, set goals, believe in themselves and prepare better are more likely to be successful. One of my favorite quotes in the world is from J.C. Penny:

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal, and I will give you a man who will make history. Give me a man without a goal and I will give you a stock clerk.” 

I would like to expand on her definition of success. I argue that those who are successful in their careers possess perseverance, courage and personal responsibility; those who are successful with relationships possess empathy, loyalty and honesty; those who are successful in life possess integrity, appreciation and a positive attitude.  I believe that these traits make up a person’s character.  The more of these traits you have as a part of your make up, the stronger your character.  I would not just focus on one trait, I would focus on increasing many traits so you can be successful in many facets of your life.

Author’s Perspective #2 – can you improve grit?  Ms. Duckworth asks the same question that I ask? Can you improve your grit? Can you improve your character? The answer is yes.  We believe that if you immerse yourself in these traits – read about, write about, and think about these traits on at least a semi-daily basis, your character will improve. This is why we have 10 lesson plans to teach each trait in the Character Development & Leadership Curriculum:

(1) quotes by famous people to inspire,

(2) ethical dilemmas to understand options, consequences and decision-making,

(3) lectures to provide further information and advance your thinking,

(4) character movies to emotionally connect with individuals and circumstances,

(5) role model readings to understand how others have exemplified these traits,

(6) current event blogs to demonstrate that character and leadership matters today and everyday,

(7) leadership principles to apply these traits to leadership positions,

(8) guest speakers to still the belief that you can do it to,

(9) basic skills to provide concrete, behavioral ways to apply these concepts

(10) writing assignments to provide you with opportunities to wrestle with the big picture questions – foundation, life philosophy and personal stances.

If students immerse themselves in this process over and over with different traits, their overall character will improve.  If enough students do this over and over, it changes the climate of the school.  If schools do this over and over, it changes communities. Sounds like grit to me, how about you?

Your Turn: Please place your comments below, (2) like and share our Facebook page (character development & leadership) or (3) tweet to @CDandLeadership using #grit)

(1) How important do you think grit is in your life? How much grit do you have? (take the survey to find out at

(2) Do you think you are improving your grit, your integrity, your perseverance – your character as a result of this course? How will it help you become successful in your own life?


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