Grit

by

Angela Duckworth

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Duckworth defines grit as the combination of passion, or a steady commitment to specific long-term goals, and perseverance, or resilience and hard work.

Grit Quotes in Grit

The Grit quotes below are all either spoken by Grit or refer to Grit. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Passion, Perseverance, and Success Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Grit published in 2018.
Preface Quotes

There was about a month between the MacArthur call and its official announcement. Apart from my husband, I wasn’t permitted to tell anyone. That gave me time to ponder the irony of the situation. A girl who is told repeatedly that she’s no genius ends up winning an award for being one. The award goes to her because she has discovered that what we eventually accomplish may depend more on our passion and perseverance than on our innate talent. She has by then amassed degrees from some pretty tough schools, but in the third grade, she didn’t test high enough for the gifted and talented program. Her parents are Chinese immigrants, but she didn’t get lectured on the salvation of hard work. Against stereotype, she can’t play a note of piano or violin.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker), Duckworth’s Father
Related Symbols: Genius
Page Number: x
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1: Showing Up Quotes

In their own eyes, they were never good enough. They were the opposite of complacent. And yet, in a very real sense, they were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it was the chase—as much as the capture—that was gratifying. Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.

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 it was 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.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2: Distracted By Talent Quotes

In my view, the biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple: By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors—including grit—don’t matter as much as they really do.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3: Effort Counts Twice Quotes

talent × effort = skill

skill × effort = achievement

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

I would add that skill is not the same thing as achievement, either. Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4: How Gritty Are You? Quotes

“Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it.”

“It’s doing what you love. I get that.”

“Right, it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love—staying in love.”

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

1. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

2. Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily.

3. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

4. I am a hard worker.

5. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

6. I finish whatever I begin.

7. My interests change from year to year.

8. I am diligent. I never give up.

9. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

10. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5: Grit Grows Quotes

Taken together, the data I’ve collected on grit and age are consistent with two different stories. One story says that our grit changes as a function of the cultural era in which we grow up. The other story says that we get grittier as we get older. Both could be true, and I have a suspicion that both are, at least to an extent. Either way, this snapshot reveals that grit is not entirely fixed. Like every aspect of your psychological character, grit is more plastic than you might think.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7: Practice Quotes

Gritty people do more deliberate practice and experience more flow. There’s no contradiction here, for two reasons. First, deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience. Anders Ericsson is talking about what experts do; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is talking about how experts feel. Second, you don’t have to be doing deliberate practice and experiencing flow at the same time. And, in fact, I think that for most experts, they rarely go together.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker), Anders Ericsson
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9: Hope Quotes

What is hope?

One kind of hope is the expectation that tomorrow will be better than today. It’s the kind of hope that has us yearning for sunnier weather, or a smoother path ahead. It comes without the burden of responsibility. The onus is on the universe to make things better.

Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10: Parenting for Grit Quotes

Growing up with support, respect, and high standards confers a lot of benefits, one of which is especially relevant to grit—in other words, wise parenting encourages children to emulate their parents.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11: The Playing Fields of Grit Quotes

So far, there hasn’t been a corresponsive principle study of grit.

Let me speculate, though. Left to her own devices, a little girl who, after failing to open a box of raisins and saying to herself, “This is too hard! I quit!” might enter a vicious cycle that reinforces giving up. She might learn to give up one thing after another, each time missing the opportunity to enter the virtuous cycle of struggle, followed by progress, followed by confidence to try something even harder.

But what about a little girl whose mother takes her to ballet, even though it’s hard? […] What if that little girl was nudged to try and try again and, at one practice, experienced the satisfaction of a breakthrough? Might that victory encourage the little girl to practice other difficult things? Might she learn to welcome challenge?

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12: A Culture of Grit Quotes

The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

Indeed, the calculated costs and benefits of passion and perseverance don’t always add up, at least in the short run. It’s often more “sensible” to give up and move on. It can be years or more before grit’s dividends pay off.

And that’s exactly why culture and identity are so critical to understanding how gritty people live their lives. The logic of anticipated costs and benefits doesn’t explain their choices very well. The logic of identity does.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker)
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

If each person’s grit enhances grit in others, then, over time, you might expect what social scientist Jim Flynn calls a “social multiplier” effect. In a sense, it’s the motivational analogue of the infinity cube of self-reflecting mirrors Jeff Bezos built as a boy—one person’s grit enhances the grit of the others, which in turn inspires more grit in that person, and so on, without end.

Related Characters: Angela Duckworth (speaker), Jeff Bezos
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Grit LitChart as a printable PDF.
Grit PDF

Grit Term Timeline in Grit

The timeline below shows where the term Grit appears in Grit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
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...and telling her father what she had learned: while she wasn’t a genius, she was gritty, and grit is more important than talent. This book explains the evidence that proves this... (full context)
Chapter 1: Showing Up
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...and ambitions are high, but they love chasing their goals. In other words, they have grit: passion combined with perseverance. (full context)
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In 2004, Duckworth developed the Grit Scale, a questionnaire to measure grit, and gave it to West Point’s 1,200 new cadets.... (full context)
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...Scripps National Spelling Bee, Duckworth began to wonder whether the spellers’ success was about talent, grit, or both. So, she tested it by giving the spellers the Grit Scale and a... (full context)
Chapter 3: Effort Counts Twice
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...their success in adulthood. (Ironically, Vaillant told Duckworth that he doesn’t think of himself as high-grit at all—except when it comes to pursuing the study.) (full context)
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...comments that if she had run the Harvard study, she would have measured the participants’ grit by inviting them to return and run the treadmill again. This is because commitment is... (full context)
Chapter 4: How Gritty Are You?
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...her how long and hard he worked on his start-up. He thought this made him gritty, but Duckworth explained that grit is really about long-term stamina, not short-term intensity. Real grit... (full context)
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Duckworth includes her Grit Scale, which asks people to rate whether 10 different statements, like “I am a hard... (full context)
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Duckworth points out that on the Grit Scale, the questions about passion ask about the consistency of people’s commitments, not the intensity... (full context)
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...concludes that passion means pursuing the “same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way.” Gritty people’s lower-level goals serve their higher-level ones, while people who lack grit tend not to... (full context)
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...that did matter were variations on passion and perseverance. In conclusion, Duckworth explains that the Grit Scale is just a tool for reflecting on how gritty people are now. The rest... (full context)
Chapter 5: Grit Grows
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People frequently ask Duckworth the extent to which grit is genetic. But both genes and experience—or nature and nurture—influence every human characteristic. For instance,... (full context)
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Duckworth has found that, unlike IQ scores, grit scores are higher among older adults. Perhaps culture change has made younger generations less dedicated... (full context)
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Next, Duckworth asks how people’s grit grows. Many people feel that they lack grit because they are lazy or flaky, but... (full context)
Chapter 6: Interest
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...Will Shortz and Jeff Bezos often say things like, “follow your passion,” as do the high-grit people Duckworth has interviewed. The British journalist Hester Lacey, who interviews “mega successful” people for... (full context)
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...people simply don’t have a passion to follow yet. They need to foster one. The “grit paragons” Duckworth interviews don’t generally find their passion in a single flash of insight—like in... (full context)
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High-grit people tend to change careers fewer times. For instance, Jane Golden has directed Philadelphia’s Mural... (full context)
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...by seeking out novelty. While lots of people pursue novelty by constantly exploring new interests, high-grit people find novelty in the nuances within their field. For instance, art experts learn to... (full context)
Chapter 7: Practice
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At the National Spelling Bee, Duckworth found that high-grit contestants practiced more—and this practice explained their success. Similarly, her math students who studied the... (full context)
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...only solitary, intensive study really counted as deliberate practice. Duckworth and Ericsson sent spellers the Grit Scale and a log to record their practice time. The winner, Kerry Close, spent thousands... (full context)
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Duckworth decided to study the relationship between grit and flow on her own. After giving thousands of people both the Grit Scale and... (full context)
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...difficult. But many think it’s a positive experience anyway. According to Duckworth’s spelling bee data, high-grit competitors rated deliberate practice “as both more enjoyable and more effortful.” But it’s unclear if... (full context)
Chapter 8: Purpose
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High-grit people’s passions usually depend both on their interest and on a sense of purpose—or “the... (full context)
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In interviews, when Duckworth’s “grit paragons” mention purpose, they always mean that their work benefits other people. For instance, after... (full context)
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During her research, Duckworth started to wonder if high-grit people give priority to selfish goals or selfless ones. Even Aristotle recognized that some people... (full context)
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...minority sees it as a true calling. People in this minority tend to have more grit and be more satisfied with their lives. As the legendary journalist Studs Terkel discovered after... (full context)
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Grit paragons” often don’t find a sense of purpose immediately or directly. For instance, Aurora and... (full context)
Chapter 9: Hope
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Many people define hope as expecting the future to be better than the present. Grit requires hope, but specifically hope “that our own efforts can improve our future.” Duckworth remembers... (full context)
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...from setbacks faster. In their interviews, Duckworth and Hester Lacey have both noticed that successful, high-grit people are usually optimistic: they see failure as a learning experience, not a disappointment. In... (full context)
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...under-resourced US schools). Duckworth, Seligman, and Kopp hypothesized that optimistic teachers were likely to be grittier and more successful. They gave 400 new teachers questionnaires to measure grit, optimism, and happiness.... (full context)
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...optimism. In several studies, Duckworth has repeatedly found that a growth mindset strongly correlates with grit. (full context)
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...they slip into a fixed mindset. Ultimately, a growth mindset is necessary to truly develop grit. (full context)
Chapter 10: Parenting for Grit
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People constantly ask Duckworth how they can help others develop grit. Most are parents, but some are also teachers, managers, and even military generals. Many of... (full context)
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Duckworth asks whether strict parents or supportive ones end up helping children develop grit. She offers two contrasting examples, starting with the star quarterback Steve Young, who attributes his... (full context)
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...unlike Steve Young in many ways, the British comedian Francesca Martinez also has lots of grit. She has built a successful career despite her cerebral palsy, which makes performing onstage difficult.... (full context)
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...parents were very different, but they fit into the pattern that Duckworth has seen produce high-grit kids time and time again. While psychologists still need to research this topic further, Duckworth... (full context)
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Wise parents raise gritty children because they serve as effective role models for grit. Of course, all children imitate... (full context)
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Other adults besides parents can also model grit for children. For instance, Spotify founder Tobi Lütke dropped out of high school and took... (full context)
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Not every high-grit person has parents who are able to be present and supportive, but they all have... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Playing Fields of Grit
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...stubborn box of raisins, she started to worry that Lucy wouldn’t grow up to be gritty, so she signed her up for ballet classes. Extracurricular activities teach children to follow a... (full context)
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...for multiple years helps students set and stick with long-term goals (which are key to grit). Psychologist Margo Gardner found that teenagers are more successful in college and more likely to... (full context)
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...the meaning of the term “follow-through” seemed to be pretty similar to the meaning of “grit,” so she decided to replicate Willingham’s research. (full context)
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...college drop-out rates. She asked 1,200 high schoolers to describe their extracurriculars, then calculated a grit score from zero to six for each student. Two years later, students with higher scores... (full context)
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...a box of raisins) end up avoiding the exact situations that would help them build grit. In contrast, young people who succeed at difficult tasks (like ballet) learn to embrace other... (full context)
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...made a sustained commitment to something they care about are likely to bring the same grit to Harvard, Fitzsimmons explained, even if they switch to different activities. In fact, he remembers... (full context)
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...But their ballet teacher had very high standards and taught them the key components of grit: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. Duckworth’s family follows “the Hard Thing Rule”: everyone has to... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Culture of Grit
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...2014, coach Pete Carroll explained that his coaching philosophy is to look for players with grit. In fact, he had called Duckworth a few months before, just after she released her... (full context)
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...need to fit in with the people around them, so people are likely to develop grit if they join a gritty group. (full context)
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...argues, culture is also extraordinary because it shapes people’s identities, and identity is key to grit because it determines how people make “critical gritty-or-not decisions.” As scholar James March explained it,... (full context)
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...identity: giving up, he said, is “not who I am.” This exemplifies the connection between grit and identity: gritty behavior often doesn’t make sense in terms of short-term costs and benefits,... (full context)
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Finland is small, cold, and full of people who view themselves as particularly high-grit. Finns use the word sisu, which really means perseverance, to explain their national character. In... (full context)
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Organizations can also create cultures of grit. For instance, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has tried to build a gritty culture at... (full context)
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...to the culture that he has built. Every year, Dorrance makes his team complete the Grit Scale and take the Beep Test, a running assessment that he treats as a measure... (full context)
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...even since the hazing ban. This isn’t because West Point is admitting students with more grit, but rather because it has started to focus on making its students grittier. Its educators... (full context)
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...couple years after their first conversation, Duckworth visited Pete Carroll in Seattle. Carroll had praised grit in his autobiography and media appearances. He said that he tries to make his players... (full context)
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...even chanted, “No whining. No complaining. No excuses.” Around lunchtime, Duckworth lectured the team about grit and helped one player decide how to help his younger brother succeed in school. On... (full context)
Chapter 13: Conclusion
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This book has been a guide to succeeding “in the marathon of life” by using grit. In this conclusion, Duckworth offers some final ideas. First, people can become grittier in two... (full context)
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Grit also may have some downsides—for example, gritty people might make their families and colleagues unhappy.... (full context)
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Next, Duckworth wonders if it’s possible to be too gritty. Psychologists know that with most personality traits (like courage, generosity, and self-control), the ideal state... (full context)
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Some audiences think Duckworth believes “grit is the only thing that matters.” But she doesn’t. For instance, she believes that morality... (full context)
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...to succeed in print. Duckworth argues that this is how all true accomplishments happen: through grit. (full context)