What Does It Mean to Have Grit? Learn from Angela Duckworth's Quotes & More

According to the best selling author Angela Duckworth, “grit” is the biggest key to success (besides luck which you can’t control).  So what is “grit” exactly?  In Duckworth’s book, she explained that having “grit” means working towards reaching a big goal for a very long time.   It may sound very obvious but it really isn’t as obvious as it sounds.  First of all, you need a big enough goal that is meaningful enough for you to spend years working towards.  Second, you need to keep working after failing again and again.  Let’s learn more and get inspired by the following quotes from Angela Duckworth and other gritty people.

“Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. ...To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”

This above amazing Angela Duckworth’s quote from her book Grit is probably the best advice for getting what you want to achieve.  The first step is to find a big goal or almost a life purpose.  It’s not an easy task at all and it often takes years of trial and error.  If you have problems finding your life purpose, maybe the philosophy of Ikigai can help.  The philosophy of Ikigai suggests that we find our one big thing to do that checks all of the four following checkboxes:

1) What You Love

2) What You are Good at

3) What Can Get You Paid (You can actually skip this if money is not a need in your specific situation)

4) What is Useful to Others

Now, if you reach the point that you have a clear big goal, work hard towards reaching your goal and “rise” everything you “fall”.  

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” - Angela Duckworth

The above quote emphasizes what rare it is to see people keep working on achieving their goals for more than months.  It’s also so common to see people being so passionate for ideas they have just come up with.  Good luck if you find them still working on their ideas.  How many of them have even started?  People define the word “passion” differently.  “Purpose” would probably be the better word when we are talking about “passion” that lasts.  People often misunderstand when famous entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs emphasizes the importance of passion.  They don’t realize that Steve Jobs’s passion isn’t the type of passion that lasts for months only.  

“You think intelligence and grit can succeed by themselves, but I'm telling you that's a pretty illusion.” - Nancy Kress

As a reminder, in her book Grit, Angela Duckworth says that “grit” is the biggest factor to success, only when you are not counting “luck” which you can’t control.  The above quote from Nancy Kress expresses that she tends to believe that other things like luck may be a bigger factor to success than grit and intelligence.  No one knows whether luck contributes to 10% or 90% of success, but the philosophy of stoicism suggests that we should (and we only can) focus on what we can control and ignore what we can’t.  That sounds like an easy and happy way to live.  

“It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things.” - Angela Duckworth

The above is another great quote from Angela Duckworth.  It is worth clarifying that it’s not that you should only learn one thing and ignore everything else.  It’s more about being great at one thing and being reasonably good at things that can compliment that one thing you are great at.  For example, if you are a great singer, it doesn’t hurt to be good at communicating with your producer and speaking to a large audience.  On the other hand, it’s not necessary for you to be great at writing songs.  The tough question is: if you are naturally good at singing and songwriting, should you focus on becoming great at your singing or should you develop both skills equally?  It is a happy problem to be equally super talented in two areas and probably either path works.  You may just want to either flip the coin or do some trial and error.  

What Does It Mean to Have Grit?

Having learned from these great quotes, let’s try to answer the question - what does it mean to have grit?  Having grit or being a gritty person takes the following elements:

- have a long-term goal that you can almost call it a life purpose

- work hard and consistently towards the goal

- stick to the goal for a very long time, failures after failures

Deciding Vs Wishing

If you have ever read the comic strip - Dilbert, you may have sensed the humor and the wisdom of the comic strip’s creator Scott Adams.  He has written a great book -  How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, and one of the best ideas in the book is “deciding vs wishing”.  Being able to execute this idea is having grit at the highest level.  He mentioned that “If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it”.  There is a deep and true meaning to this quote.  He mentioned in Brian Johnson’s podcast - if achieving success costs ten years, and if you think it’s worth the ten years, simply say “goodbye, ten years”.  That’s the kind of commitment that you need to make to be gritty at the highest level.  

System Vs Goal

Scott Adams’s book has another idea that is very much related to having grit.  We should look at our long term goal and convert that into a system.  For example, if your goal is to get in shape, instead of focusing on your goal of losing 20 pounds in 2 years.  Change that into a system that gives you a good shot of achieving your goal.  The system could be doing 30 minutes of exercise daily.  (You can sort of view the system as a daily goal.  Adams explains it very well in the book and gives a lot of interesting examples.)  Once you have your system figured out, you can almost throw away your goal or review your goal occasionally.  

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