What Does it Mean to Have Grit? 4 Components

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Grit" by Angela Duckworth. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What does it mean to have grit? How does grit lead to success?

Grit is one of the biggest predictors of success. But what does it mean to have grit? Author and researcher Angela Duckworth argues that grit is composed of four character traits that can help people succeed.

Keep reading to find out the answer to the question “what does it mean to have grit?”

What Does it Mean to Have Grit?

So, what does it mean to have grit? Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance.

  • Passion is the consistency of goals held over long periods of time. It is NOT intensity or enthusiasm held for a brief moment. It is endurance.
  • Perseverance is the ability to overcome setbacks, put in hard work, and finish things you’ve started.

Grit predicts success, even when controlling for talent or IQ. That is, between two people of the same talent level, a grittier person will enjoy more success.

Make no mistake: talent and IQ are still important and still correlate with success. However, they are not sufficient for high achievement. If you are talented, you get the most mileage by combining talent and hard work. And if you are less talented, you can make up for it with grit, exceeding someone with more talent who works less hard.

We tend to fetishize talent because it protects our ego – if other people’s successes are due to inborn talent, then we are at an inherent disadvantage, and thus we don’t have to feel bad about not measuring up. We look at Albert Einstein or Tom Brady and think, well they were born with it – there’s no way I could do what they do – thus I don’t need to work hard.

Effort counts twice: skill = talent x effort. Achievement = skill x effort. The more effort you apply, the more your skill rises, and the more you achieve.

Grit is changeable. It increases with age, and small experiments show that it can be influenced.

There are 4 components to grit:

  • Interest: enjoy what you’re doing
  • Practice: conduct deliberate practice to improve on your weaknesses and continuously improve
  • Purpose: believe that your work matters and improves the lives of others
  • Hope: believe in your capacity for achievement and ability to overcome difficulties. 

The most successful parenting style is both supportive and demanding. The two do not need to trade off with each other. Listen to your kids, talk to them, respect their viewpoints. Also, set ambitious goals for them, punish them for breaking rules. This is also true of leadership and coaching in professional environments.

To become more gritty, join a gritty culture. The social norms will force you to be gritty.

What Does it Mean to Have Grit? 4 Components

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Angela Duckworth's "Grit" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Grit summary:

  • How your grit can predict your success
  • The 4 components that make up grit
  • Why focusing on talent means you overlook true potential

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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