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Grit for the Win

“Gritty people” succeed at work (and win at life)

“No whining. No complaining. No excuses.” – Dr. Angela Duckworth

Dr. Angela Duckworth believes that GRIT wins before talent, every time. She defines grit is having passion and perseverance for long term goals, and literally wrote the book on it: GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Her research, which solidifies the long-standing notion that “hard work pays off,” was through studying the work habits and mindsets of professional sales people, elite military training graduates, and Scripps spelling bee winners. These groups face regular rejection or loss, yet the successful ones persevere – and succeed.

Effort counts twice

We tend to praise talent over effort, but Duckworth’s research shows that effort is exponentially more important than how talented you are.  In fact, it counts twice. Here’s her formula

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

Grit is the one characteristic that emerges as a reliable predictor of who succeeds and who doesn’t.  Simply put, if you make the effort your achievement will be higher. The sales person who faces rejection after rejection but learns, refines and gets back out there, builds the relationship and eventually gets the customer to “yes,” will be more successful in the long run. 

“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is another.” – Dr. Angela Duckworth

Sustaining GRIT:  Staying motivated for the long haul

Duckworth says, grit is a combination of two things (and one without the other is meaningless):

  1. A large vision, a big dream—something great that’s meaningful to you and that can inspire you for a long time (it could be a professional goal or life goal).
  2. Small, achievable, daily goals to help you get wins, make progress, and stay motivated toward your vision.

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” Dr. Angela Duckworth

Got grit? Want more?

Good news! You can get grit, and you can grow more. Unlike talent, skill, and intellect—grit is character, and whether you’ve got it or not isn’t a sealed deal contingent on DNA and how relevant your degree is in the workplace. People with grit have discovered work that they love and which is purposeful. They strive every day to improve. And they persevere through the disappointment of a lost sale (or a downturn in the entire market) or major setback. Get some, grow some, and be the secret of your own success.

“We get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Dr. Angela Duckworth


4 Ways to Build Grit

  1. Interest: Develop a fascination

Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do. Gritty people find meaning in what they do—they are fascinated, curious and they practically shout out, “I love what I do.”

  1. Practice: Daily improvement

Next, comes practice—the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. Sentiment is “whatever it takes, I want to improve.”

  1. Purpose: My work matters

Purpose is the third element: Interest is one source of passion, the intention to contribute to the well-being of others, is another. Purpose is conviction that “my work is important to both me and others.”

  1. Hope: Growth mindset

And finally, hope. Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectations that our own efforts can improve our future. We are in the driver’s seat. It is having a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.  The sentiment for hope is, “setbacks don’t discourage me for long. I get back on my feet.”


Catherine Ducharme is Director of Client Services with Smart, IMG_7273-1.jpgSavvy + Associates’ Smart Savvy Academy. We find high-calibre marketing, communications, creative and sales professionals with proven track records and in-demand skills for companies who need them, across the Pacific Northwest and in Toronto. We also provide leadership and training development programs for workplace programs, corporate retreats and individual growth opportunities. Contact Catherine to discuss your organization's training needs.

Catherine Ducharme

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