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Angela Duckworth: The Power of Grit

Grit is a psychological trait which is termed as positive and non-cognitive based on the person’s perseverance and resolution to achieve the goals in life. It is an amalgamation of passion and effort which states the determination for the long-term life goals and achievements. Duckworth precisely defined Grit in 2007 as “perseverance and passion to achieve long-term goals.” He carried out an extensive study on Grit and proposed that grit can serve as a better predictor of success as compared to Intelligence or Emotional Quotient. Grit is mostly comprised of one’s ability to stick to a task and be able to pursue the ambitions and achieve the lifetime goals but putting in a lot of effort and passion. This evokes a positive psychology trait in a person. Another essential domain is the consistency of interest of an individual over a long period. These two things dominantly make up the grit, and in the following discussion, we would extensively discuss what positive or negative impacts can the grittiness cast over one’s personality.

Starting off with the interests and personality traits of gritty people. We are the kind of people, who, very common thing that a person who achieves something extraordinary or overcomes an insurmountable odds is one hell of a genius. Common examples quoted are of Einstein, Newton, Nash etc. So people have stereotyped such people with the word genius. On the other hand, it is the saying of Einstein himself that, “Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” According to Duckworth, that 90% is of much higher importance. So generally, people are of the opinion that extraordinary person are born with the innate skills and talents which makes them shine out and capable of being called genius. But this is not the case. The 90% perspiration, as mentioned in the Einstein’s saying, is called Grit – tough-mindedness, perseverance, and hard work. Duckworth carried out extensive research in this domain and finally drew out that grit is the outcome of four ingredients: Deliberate practice, hope, interest, and purpose. The light will be shed on each of these ingredients.

Importance of perseverance is one half of the equation. The other half is the interest, and passion found entangled with the efforts and hard work. The people who have a higher measure of grittiness have so much interest in their domain that the question related to it are all the time flashing in their minds. They go to sleep and wake up in the morning with the same flashing questions. Their minds are so clung to the domains of their interest that it is almost impossible to detach them from it. Therefore, to increase the capacity of grit in one’s personality, it is essential to develop and enhance the interest. And the first part of this process is to find the importance and then make it consistent over the period. Interest is developed suddenly out of nowhere. In fact, it needs to be evoked again, and again. People with high grit do the same, and then for keeping the interest active, they ask questions within questions. It is essential to foster the passion and then produce it in the form of benefits. That is the first ingredient of Grittiness.

The second very important element of Grittiness as pointed out by Duckworth is Deliberate Practice. Setting out challenges for yourself and trying to break your records is what defines deliberate practice. The people with grittiness set onboard with the intention of not looking back with dissatisfaction but to look forward with utmost eager and want to grow. This is deliberate practice. This includes the people who have almost achieved their goals but are unable to satiate their hunger of growing and flourishing. Such people don’t want to do well in the area they already do well in. Instead, they focus on their weaknesses and try to overcome them. The set out their challenges intentionally and then try to work hard for them. One can only improve if deliberate challenges are set. So this is a kind of intensive practice that polishes the expert. A psych writer, Malcolm Gladwell, put forward a 10,000-hour rule which was based on the principle that to master in any field, at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is needed.

The third element put forth by Duckworth is the desire to help others. Gritty people are selfless. They think far beyond their existence. Psychologists Amy Wisniewski and Barry Schwartz did an extensive research about how people are successful in finding a purpose to their life and the desire to help others. According to the psych researcher Angela, passion has two ingredients. One is interest, and the other is the purpose. The gritty people try to incorporate both interest and purpose in their passion. In the paradigm of GRIT, the purpose is not a mere ordinary purpose. It has a deeper meaning that surpasses self and goes beyond just goal orientation.

The third and last element of Grittiness is Hope. According to Angela, the kind of hope associated with grit is a different kind of hope. “I hope that tomorrow will be a good day” differs from “I am determined to make tomorrow a good day.” The latter one characterizes hope associated with grit. According to Angela, gritty people do not rely on luck for what is going to happen next. They make their luck get forged through hard work and effort. In the process of understanding hope, it is imperative not to over-react on the failures and setbacks one get. Instead, they should be tried to overcome in the best possible way.

Having defined Angela’s perspective about Grit and discussed the four elements of grit personality, let’s now consider views and perspectives of other people and how do they think about the concept of Grit. There was a German philosopher, Nietzsche, was of the opinion that excellence is only appreciated when it comes out of nowhere like magic. When one knows that this came out of slow, gradual, and cool origins, the excellence seems to lose its essence. This exactly happens with the word genius. When being genius is characterized as effortless, the audience is more pleased with it because it completely satiates their thoughts about being genius. But when someone is characterized to have become genius through slow and gradual hard work, the audience is not pleased in that way. In this regard, Angela Duckworth had researched with Anders Ericsson to analyze the winners of a spelling bee competition. The research resulted in a very important conclusion that it is the quality of practice that matter more than the quantity where the highest quality of practice is known to be deliberate practice. Hence, Grit is an excellent predictor of success. These are mostly gritty individuals that extract the maximum out of these efforts, and it surely pays off in their achievements.

Since the day, Angela Duckworth put forward her concept of “Grit”, there has been a great gush of controversial thoughts arising from different researchers. The first concern of the most of them lies on the fact that the one layman term to define Grit is “stubbornness” which is not a good quality to possess. If a person becomes too much stubborn regarding anything like goals, relationships, life etc. things can become tough. Such kind of stubbornness needs to be abandoned. Other than that, some researchers also argued about the results presented by Angela Duckworth about Grit which she later admitted needs a little amendment. Angela’s ideas put forward are the outcome of very long and extensive research, and “Grit” has become a big buzzword in the educational institutions.

Summarizing all the above discussion, the idea of Grit is put forward by a psychologist Angela Duckworth who was not at all convinced by the evaluation measure of intelligence currently in practice. She analyzed and explored that there has to be something different than just intelligence or emotional quotient that characterized the performance of a person in education. Then she came up with Grit which depicts that the more significant a person is sick to his goals and is determined to achieve them, greater is the chances of success of that person. Since it is a new concept, people will inevitably take time to absorb and develop it.


Table of Contents

1. Duckworth, Angela Lee. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading,

This is a very famous TED talk given by Angela Duckworth on the topic of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” In which she gave a very concise definition of grit as the passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. She started studying this concept by analysing why some students were better at mathematics than others. She draws a boundary between “grittiness” and “talent”. Since talent is something that is innate to you, it cannot make you gritty. People who own talents are very less likely to develop the grit since it requires much perseverance and hard work. Because of this, talent can sometimes relate inversely to the grit. The ability to work, learn, and understand is not static, and one can keep growing by putting in more of the effort and contribution.

2. “In Defense of Ignorance.” This American Life, 1 Feb. 2018,

In this article, Ira has brought forward a very different idea that ignorance is a bliss. There are myriads of incompetent people in this world. Ignorant people are somewhat self-assured that whatever they are doing in life is fine. They become so confident even more than the people who are doing well. The reason for that confidence is that such people are unable to figure out the competence in themselves. Skills required to become competent are somewhat similar to the skills required to detect competency.

3. “No Evidence That Grit Improves Performance, Iowa State Analysis Finds.” RSS,

This article stamps Grit with negation claiming that it cannot work well to predict the academic performance of a person. Grit is relatively a newly emerged concept which has come at the part with intelligence and conscientiousness. People are unable to digest it completely. Angie is of the view that there is not a sharp difference between conscientiousness and grit. The questionnaire criterion is almost similar. He put forth the view that other measures like class attendance and attention, adjustments, anxiety during tests and papers, and normal study habits contribute more towards performance evaluation than just by grit.

4. Kamenetz, Anya. “MacArthur ‘Genius’ Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit.” NPR, NPR, 25 May 2016,

In this article, the author has argued with the idea of Angela Duckworth that a person’s capacity of achieving success can be very well measured by how well he remains to stick to his goals. The argumentative paper mentions that grit is over-rated. Duckworth has also responded to the controversies arising from her idea put forth. The Crede’s paper had pinged Duckworth for poorly describing her final results, and Duckworth admitted to that. Secondly, Crede finds “only modest” relationship between grit and evaluation of academic performances of a person. Other criticism was about the impact of grit which Duckworth admitted must be small to medium for the psychologists. The overall articles critically analyze the concept of Grit put forward by Angela Duckworth.

5. “Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##).” Alfie Kohn, 17 Aug. 2015,

The article critically analyzes the concept of grit and how it is creating an educational fad. The writer calls the concept “sceptical”. He is of the view that infusing the concept of grit in our student is equivalent to imposing them what we want, not what they want. Grit wants to surpass the other intelligence level tests, but that seems to be impossible since asking the students to learn discipline is like compelling them to go on our choices. The writer has highlighted several issues in which grit can act unhealthy and inappropriate.

6. Kamenetz, Anya. “MacArthur ‘Genius’ Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit.” NPR, NPR, 25 May 2016,

Angela Duckworth has been able to get MacArthur ‘genius’ grant through an idea she put forth called “grit”. The idea puts forth the concept that the success probability of a man can be estimated by how determined and resolute he is for the long-term life goals. This idea got a lot of criticism, and one of them had been mentioned in this article where grit is said to be almost impossible to replace the already existing intelligence measures.

7. Vedantam, Shankar, et al. “The Power and Problem Of Grit.” NPR, NPR, 5 Apr. 2016,

This source again highlights the journey of the psychologist Angela Duckworth and how she paved the way for herself to study grit. She started analyzing why some students are right, and math and some are not. She revealed that her primary concern was that how much effort matters to achieve good grades or any other goal in life. She was interviewed by a lot of people in which she always put forward the four essential elements of grittiness: interest, desire to help others, deliberate practice, and hope. Psychologists are still underway to determine how to cultivate grit to achieve better performance evaluations.

8. Vedantam, Shankar, et al. “The Power and Problem Of Grit.” NPR, NPR, 5 Apr. 2016,

The source highlights the effort made by the psychologist Angela Duckworth to put forward a new trending concept of Grit. She defined Grit as perseverance to achieve long-term goals. There are many arguments which people posted regarding the results she put forward. Such people are of the view that the state-of-the-art techniques of measuring the “Genius” element like IQ, EQ, etc. make much more sense. Some researchers have also focused on the downside of grit that is characterised by stubbornness to stick to some relationship, and goals that are not fruitful in the long run. Such kind of stubbornness is absurd and can lead a person to nowhere.

9. Useem, Jerry. “Is Grit Overrated?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 Apr. 2016,

The article published in The Atlantic highlights the downsides of grit and what kind of negative impact it can have on people. Duckworth has argued that Grit is something that needs to be developed for the prediction of academic performances through a “Grit Scale.” She has claimed that perseverance and the particular desire to achieve something in life is a fundamental concept that has been under-rated for a long time. But the other researchers do not agree with her much since they have found Grit to be essential but not that much attractive. The article highlights how the existing measures of performance are better than incorporating Grit.

10. Zernike, Kate. “Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Feb. 2016,

The New York Times articles again highlight the work done by Angela Duckworth who was of the opinion that the current measuring standards for performance evaluation are not up to the mark. Grit has become a very hot topic in educational institutions after the talk of Angela Duckworth. She even resigned from the board members who used to oversee the Californian Project since she did not like the evaluations based on the test papers.



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