Grit: The 4 Letter Word For Success


What is the single most important quality for success?

Turns out the answer may be a simple four-letter word called GRIT.

Dr. Angela Duckworth studied first year candidates at West Point Academy to see if qualities needed for school success could be determined prior to admission. Acceptance to West Point is vigorous; you need excellent grades, leadership skills and a congressional recommendation. 10,000 candidates apply for the honor and only 4,000 get recommendations. It can be argued that one has already proven grit before class begins. However despite a rigorous acceptance policy, a certain percentage drop out every year.

Duckworth was hired to quantify character traits by candidates with successful West Point completion. Her research showed it wasn’t IQ, social support, economic status, talent or life experiences—all attributes usually a seen as success markers. But it was students who scored high on the “grit” scale.

What Is Grit?

Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Duckworth also adds, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.


In a classic movie, “True Grit”, (1969) A 14 year old girl hires John Wayne ‘s character, Rooster Cogburn, to go after her father’s killer. She hires the aging US Marshall because she believes he has “true grit.” Wayne says, “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”  (Spoiler alert ****He does get his man and avenge the wrongful murder.)

The Finnish people say sisu, which loosely translated means, “reach into your gut and figure out a way to do it.”


Even if we aren’t Finnish, we can teach the attitude of sisu. Lindsay, a young mother reported,

“After circling the parking lot at least five times looking for a parking spot, I muttered, ‘I give up’…. to which a little voice piped up from the backseat, ‘Mom! Gibsons never GIVE UP!’


The Gibson Family had incorporated a family culture of grit.

Gritty people dig deep and stick with tasks year after year. They have the passion and determination to work at their goals like a marathon and not a sprint.  They have courage, resilience and character.

How Do You Build Grit?

Grit is the rate with which you increase your talent with effort. It requires a growth mind-set. We have to be willing to fail and start over again with lessons learned.

Grit requires:

  • Deliberate practice
  • Intentional problem solving
  • Feedback
  • Measuring
  • Evaluation

As the Kaizen business model for quality emphasizes continuous improvement, the Grit process requires constantly asking, “What can I refine here?” You have to be open to criticism and willing to work at daily improvement. You can’t get hung up on perfection but work consistently for excellence.

Gritty people love what they do; they don’t feel controlled or compelled to do it. They have the “I’ll show you response.” Grit is like a muscle that grows with effort. You can improve your grit quotient and you can teach through example.

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/

“Like” my Facebook page:

Thanks to Lindsey Gibson for sharing her parking lot story and allowing me permission to share it!

Additional Sources:

5 Characteristics of Grit:

Angela Duckworth Ted talk

Also helpful is the research on marshmallows and children.  Read more here:

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