Grit: the Key for long-term Success?

When scientist look for the difference between (largely) successful versus not so successful people (across a multitude of different situations), the most important predictor so far has been overall intelligence. But there are – potentially – more important things than being the brightest kid in the room.

In 2007, Angela Duckworth and her colleagues first described a non-cognitive character trait by the name of “Grit”. Grit is described as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. It is supposed to have an orthogonal relationship to general intelligence – meaning they are by and large independent aspects of our personality. One can be intelligent but not gritty, gritty but not intelligent, both at the same time – or neither intelligent nor gritty.

What makes gritty people successful?

Grit is hypothesized as a stable characteristic. A person high in Grit does not seek immediate (positive) feedback. He/she is able to maintain his/her enthusiasm for a specific goal over very long periods of time despite experiencing adversity. In this context, long-term typically means “many years”, e.g. the time it takes to finish a doctoral thesis, become a grandmaster of chess or the like. The person´s commitment towards long-term objectives is the principal element that provides the determination essential to overcome challenges and set-backs.

Abraham Lincoln may be a good example of a gritty personality. He lost his first job at the age of 23 as well as his first election campaign.  At 27, he lost his second election campaign and had a nervous breakdown. Two of his sons died while still in their infancy. He lost at a race for Congress at 34, and once more in his 39th year. At 47, he failed to become the Vice President of the USA. Then, at the age of 52, he finally managed to become one of the most popular Presidents of all time.

If you want to find out how gritty you are – you´ll find short test here.

6 thoughts on “Grit: the Key for long-term Success?

  1. Hi, Nico! I, like Jeremy, am a recent MAPP graduate too (and wrote my thesis under the supervision of Angela Duckworth… which is how I ended up on your site). Good luck with the program! You are in for an amazing, unforgettable ride, my friend. Let me know if I can ever be of help : )

    Warm wishes,
    Emilia Lahti (Finland)


    • Hi Emilia, thanks for stopping by. That´s a funny thing: when you start a blog, you´re kind of wondering “Will anybody ever read this?” – and now you are already the second Mappster that has found me. I´m flying over to Penn for the first time next week. Maybe I can get some of my fellows students to write guest postings for Mappalicious – that would be really great. Please keep in touch… Best, Nico


  2. Hi Nico,

    Your blog post got me thinking about ‘grit’…and in contention I came up with these ideas and arguments…Would love to hear you comment on them…Sharing humbly as below…

    “I have been toying with some of the positive psychology concepts (part of my search for concepts that are worth explaining ‘what keeps us going despite adversities and brings out the best we can, at that point of time and space?’) and I stumbled upon the concept of ‘grit’ and an interesting blog ( Since, I found this word ‘grit’ emerge in my mind like a relentless yoyo! So I will borrow a description of ‘grit’ by the researcher Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania,and then through reflection argue on the key concepts proffered in the above mentioned blog…
    Duckworth in her 2007 article wrote, “Grit is described as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” On this key concept the blogger Dr. Rose elaborates (see his blog) that some people are gritty and some may not be gritty at all (that is separate from intelligence and may be present or absent irrespective of having or not having intelligence). First I would argue that I cannot imagine some sort of emotional intelligence not being at play when persevering long-term life goals notwithstanding misfortunes; I come from the cognitive school of understanding human actions in which we must consciously or unconsciously perceive our life situations, make meaning and decide and ‘will’ to persevere! Grit is an action tendency, argued to be an emotion-cognitive attribute..therefore not free of one’s sensibilities, I contend, and that are influenced by one’s way of interpreting life situations. Second, and as important as the first point, I believe all human-beings have the potential for ‘grit’ ; some may have developed that innate ability – either, temperamentally they have been ‘gritty’ from the wake of life, or through life’s developmental stages and associated untoward experiences they have had a spiritual growth on ‘grit; or they may well have modelled significant personalities – ‘real-life’ or from ‘reading’ biographies and autobiographies of successful personalities, like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, to name a few. Finally, grit has to be supported by other virtues, like patience, tolerance, resilience, optimism a hope, would my reader agree? I contend,it is not an attribute that can function on its own!


    • I think you´re right. Grit does not function all by itself. E.g., it has to be supported by a sufficient amount of intelligence in order to unfold its effect. But – statistically speaking – it has shown to explain a certain amount of surplus variance in accounting for a person´s success. So if you measure a person’s success as the dependent variable, and you take e.g. intelligence and grit as predictors – this model will typically better predict the outcome compared to a model that is based on only one of the independent variables.

      As for development: I´m sure it is possible to develop grit over time – but then again, it will also have a highly hereditary component, since it is strongly correlated with the BIG 5 dimension “Conscientiousness”, which is also highly hereditary.


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