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What it Takes to Follow-Through


“Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do.” ~ Angela Lee Duckworth

Do you sometimes wonder why it’s easy to follow through on some plans but not others? Read on to find out why.

What it Takes to Succeed

Which of the following attributes most reliably predicts whether cadets will drop out of the grueling summer training program at the US Military Academy at West Point?

a) intelligence
b) teamwork
c) physical fitness
d) none of the above
The correct answer is d) none of the above. The best predictor of success at for new West Point cadets is GRIT, a measure of “stick-to-it-ive-ness” developed by Penn Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth.

Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Last month we talked about self-control. Grit is self-control in service of a goal.

Achievement = Talent x Effort

Both talent and effort are necessary for achievement. Without talent, you can put in lots of time and not get very far. And talented people often fail for lack of stamina. While talent depends on intelligence (the smarter you are, the faster you learn), effort is directly related to self-control.

Duckworth found that high grit scores predicted higher grades for university students, success for entrepreneurs, as well as the performance of West Point cadets.

It’s grit that keeps a person going long enough to put in the 10’000 hours of dedicated practice needed to achieve mastery in a field. And it’s grit that kept some famous “failures” going before they achieved their breakthrough success. Abraham Lincoln lost more elections than he won; Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job for lack of imagination!

How To Develop Grit

To develop grit, you need to identify goal(s) which turn you on over the long run. It’s hard to be gritty about something you aren’t passionate about. But having goals is not enough. You also need what Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” — the realization that excellence takes time and effort to develop. A person with a growth mindset tells herself that achievement is a result of “ability combined with zeal and the capacity for hard labour.” (Francis Galton)

One of the best ways to build grit is to attempt something difficult and fail, and then get back up and try again. In the face of failure, we learn who we really are. And we grow. Growth is critical for individual and organizational success.

Determine your grit score here (click on link “Get your Grit Score”):

Here are some well-known “failures” who possessed enough grit to persevere until they succeeded:

Photo credit: rosemilkinabottle / CC BY-2.0


Mark Milotich is a facilitator and coach with over 20 years' experience developing leadership excellence and managing change in global organizations. His clients include Aleris, Atmel, Barry Callebaut, Capco, Credit Suisse, Daimler TSS, Deutsche Post/DHL, Deutsche Telekom, HETA, localsearch, Microsoft, Orange, Pfizer, Phonak, Schlumberger, Software AG, Swisscom, Swissmem, SPX, Stäubli, UBS, UEFA, and Zurich Insurance Group. Mark is a founding partner of Claxus GmbH.

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