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Building grit

What determines how much you accomplish: your talent, intelligence, education, or how much passion and perseverance you have to achieve your goals? All of these factors play a role in what you achieve in work and life, but, according to Angela Duckworth’s research, the latter – or a quality that she terms “grit” – plays the greatest role of all.

We all want to commit to somethingto achieve something that is expressed both through the action itself and over timeBut often we come up against a self-built wall: we don’t have an idea, we don’t have the meanswe don’t have the time, and, right now, we have low visibility. Duckworth counters all that with a very simple convictioneffort counts for twice as much as talent. And the level of effort you put into a task depends on what she describes as grit“having the passion to accomplish a particular top-level goal and the perseverance to follow through.” 


If Duckworth’s psychology of success arguably at points lacks nuance, she still provides a compelling argument against our well-documented, though unconscious, and seemingly irrational human preference for natural talent over effort. In other words, she provides an inspiring, practical reminder that: “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.” 


Determination, the cornerstone of commitment 

According to Duckworth, the world’s most extraordinarily high-achieving individuals all share a trait that she calls grit, or the “passion and perseverance” to strive relentlessly day in and day out, often in the face of great difficulty and failure, to achieve a goal. “In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.” 

So what does this mean for youStart from the idea that grit is a character trait like any otherthat it can be nurtured and developed as long as you understand its four key elementsinterest, practice, purpose, and hope. 


#1 Interest: identify what excites you and foster a passion 

What motivates you to get up in the morning isn’t always clear, and it can change over time. When I first started interviewing grit paragons, I assumed they’d all have stories about the singular moment when, suddenly, they’d discovered their God-given passions,” writes Duckworth.   

In fact, however, she found that “grit paragons” rarely came by their passions in a mysterious, passive way. On the contrary, they all describe working actively and intensely for years to identify and develop them, by, for example, finding mentors.  

Excerpt from Business Digest N°310, October 2020

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She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.