Live with GRIT – the Foundation for Long-term Success

If, as a parent, you could guarantee your child’s success in this frantically changing world, you would likely do almost anything, pay almost any price. Unfortunately, no such guarantee exists. No pill, procedure, protective bubble, or specialized program will equip your child for the world they’ll encounter today. So what can you do to help them succeed?

Start with asking that question to someone born prior to 1950. They will likely offer some sage, ‘outdated’ wisdom – “Work hard.”, “Finish what you start.”, “Put in a honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” This ‘yesteryear’ approach to life and work is now labeled ‘grit’. ‘Grit’ is important because it is being identified as the single most important factor in a person’s ability to succeed in the 21st Century

Modern Look at Grit

 ‘Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ – Dr. Angela Duckworth


Angela Duckworth (Ph.D, UPenn), a member of a team of researchers who have been studying ‘grit’ and its powerful relationship to long-term success, can define and describe grit. Yet, she admitted to her TED audience she doesn’t have a clear answer for parents and teachers asking her how to teach to their children and students.

Duckworth cites Carol Dweck’s (Stanford University) research on the ‘growth mindset’ as a good start. (I highly recommend Dweck’s book – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It completely changed the vocabulary I use with my four girls.) Duckworth is right acknowledging the power of a growth mindset as a start of understanding and developing grit. But there is more.

Grit is not a talent or a skill. Grit is a lifestyle and an understanding. Grit is hard work. Grit is a four-step cycle that necessities growth and communication.

The GRIT Cycle

G – Grace

Grace fuels love, acceptance, and hope. Hope dies without grace. True success lives within hope. While Dweck has identified the positive symptoms of a growth mindset, she has failed to identify the root cause of the fruit. Grace gives life to growth and success (and the continual practice required for both).

R – Realities

Three realities exist in any situation – mine, yours, and a third, constructed, reality.

Ironically, neither my reality or your reality are actually ‘reality’. They are simply our limited and finite perception of the situation. Success through GRIT requires developing skills in constructing shared realities with those we work and live with. These shared realities will feed a vision for life bigger than both of our current realities.

I – Integrity

Without integrity collapse is imminent. This is true in engineering and success. Integrity is foundational to long-term success. If you don’t know where and how to stand you will ultimately fall and not be able to get up. GRIT requires a backbone of integrity.

T – Toughness

Starting is not as easy as sticking to something day after day, year after year. Thomas Edison conducted nearly 3,000 experiments with filament materials from around the world before finding his breakthrough with Japanese bamboo.

Equally tough is learning when to say, “No” or “We need to change course.” Admitting the current direction is wrong and making the necessary changes to correct course takes courage, strength, and toughness.

Toughness bookends grace in the GRIT cycle. Without toughness, long-term success is the impossible dream.

Lincoln’s GRIT Saved a Nation

Abraham Lincoln might be America’s greatest example of grit delivering greatness. They didn’t call it ‘grit’ in the 1800’s. If you’re not familiar with Lincoln’s journey to being the most important president in United States history, it’s worth learning. He experienced ‘failure’ and heartbreak more than seems fair for a single human. Yet with GRIT he became a person (leader) capable of holding together a nation poised for collapse.
You too can live with GRIT and lead yourself and your family to an abundant life full of deep, life-giving relationships.
Which part of the GRIT cycle do you find more challenging to live out on a daily basis? Leave your comment below.
Here’s Duckworth and team’s online survey for scoring ‘grit’ in their terms – check it out.

About Kerby Court

Husband of the most wonderful and patient woman in the world, Anna, and father of the four most precious little girls a dad could be blessed to parent: Mackenzie, Whitney, Sidney, and Courtney. View all posts by Kerby Court

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