Grit is Sexy

definition of grit, Men's Health 2014

I was listening to a podcast the other day where an executive talked about how a big component of his success was “grit.” And since that moment, I’ve probably seen the word “grit” 30+ times.

Definitions of grit are vague. The Webster Dictionary defines it as “mental toughness” (which instantly makes me think of every NFL commentator ever). Angela Lee Duckworth, in her TED Talk about grit, describes it as “passion and perseverance for long term goals.” For many people, grit seems to fall into the I-know-it-when-I-see-it category.

But research is showing us that grit is a real thing, and as Laurence Roy Stains points out in Men’s Health, we should want more of it. Not surprisingly given his audience, Stains uses Wes Welker as the embodiment of grit. Early in his career, Welker barely earned a college football scholarship by the skin of his teeth, and after college, he went undrafted. Today, Stains points out, Welker is a five-time Pro Bowl pick and achieved the most receiving yards in a six-season span in NFL history. His success has been attributed to his unwavering dedication, confidence in his own abilities, and consistent work ethic. Welker’s coach, John Fox, has described him as “very gritty.” Examples like Welker show us that gritty people separate themselves by continuing to work hard, despite obstacles that would cause others to quit or give up.

We don’t know if grit is an inherent quality that some people are born with or if grit can be taught. Vicki Davis, an educator and author, argues that grit is developed by situations that require it. Researchers like Duckworth want to get more specific – they are working hard to identify exactly how we can teach kids to be “more gritty” as they move through school and ultimately face challenges in their adult lives. You can take Duckworth’s “grittiness quiz” here to determine your own self-reported grit score. I scored right in the middle around 3.3… probably because taking the quiz reminded me of all the little personal projects I have gotten excited about over the years, but then abandoned when life got busy.

“80% of success is just showing up.” – Woody Allen

John Wayne wasn’t the only one in Hollywood with grit. Regardless of what the research ultimately shows, we know that in order to have success, you have to show up. People with grit will show up at every single practice and at every single meeting with their end goal in mind… and tomorrow they’ll get up and do it again.

Need some more inspiration?


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