I recently learned that the greatest predictor of success in an endeavor is not anything you would typically think. It’s not IQ, socioeconomic status… whether you grew up rich or poor, or whether you had good parents. Actually, it’s a difficult to define quality called grit.

To give an example, with enough grit you can overcome all odds and become a navy seal. Just take a look at David Goggins. I’m paraphrasing, but he came from a racist part of Alabama. He grew up poor. His father was abusive. He was overweight. He had just about every reason not to succeed. The one thing he did seem to have was grit. If anyone has grit, it’s this guy. He’s a certifiable badass. But he didn’t get there overnight.

I recently stumbled across this Ted talk by Angela Duckworth about this topic. Her research shows that just about the only significant predictor of success is having grit. It wasn’t IQ, looks, upbringing, or any of the other commonly assumed predictors of success.

Grit is having stamina and endurance. It’s being able to weather failures and difficulties. It’s working towards a goal day-in and day-out, over a long period of time, and not giving up.

Ok, so how do you build grit?

That’s a good question.

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to become grittier. Angela Duckworth talks about how some of the things that seem to correlate with being gritty are having a growth mindset and realizing that failures aren’t a permanent condition. It’s ok to fail if you learn from your failures.

A growth mindset is believing that weaknesses can be overcome by applying yourself and putting the work in. It’s the difference between believing that some people are just talented or smart, or that those things are skills that can be developed.

Don’t get me wrong; talent helps. Some people are more genetically gifted. It’s not an equal playing field. But I think what this shows, is that the gap between having those natural abilities and having grit is a lot smaller than we think. There are exceptions. It’s not enough to just have grit if you plan to be a world-class Olympic swimmer like Michael Phelps. He’s a freak of nature with a crazy wing-span. He has flippers for feet. But he also has grit. Phelps might have medaled at the Olympics, but I doubt he would hold 21 Guinness World Records if he didn’t also have the grit to work as hard as he did.

Ok, so being in the top 1% in your field might take both grit and god-given gifts; if you plan to medal at the Olympics. But how many people were there who are just as genetically gifted, or even more so than Phelps and aren’t a household name? That’s a good question…there’s probably a few of us. I think the point is, you’ll never realize your potential if you don’t start having some grit.

I guess I’m writing this as much for myself as for those of you who are reading. I’m not satisfied with where I’ve gotten to in my life so far, and I need to change that. It’s going to require hard work, perseverance, dedication, and sacrifice.

I’ll leave you with a quote from probably one of the hardest working athletes in football.

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
– Jerry Rice