From Good to Great takes Grit
There are plenty of great qualities individuals must possess in order to be highly successful, but if I were to narrow it down to three I would choose: ability, judgement, and grit. I would define them as follows:
Ability: Having the necessary skills to perform the required tasks
Judgement: The ability to make decisions that lead to positive outcomes
Grit: The staying power and resourcefulness to stay with challenging goals to a successful conclusion
While coaching the women’s soccer team at SCU, I’ve had the great fortune of working with many highly successful student athletes with varying degrees of ability, judgement, and grit. Every SCU student athlete ranks high in at least one category. Many would rank high in two categories. The best of the best rank high in all three categories. Some of our highest achievers are Brandi Chastain ‘91, Danielle Slaton ‘02, Leslie Osborne ’05, Aly Wagner ‘10, and, more recently, Julie Johnston ‘14. Each of these individuals either won National Player of the Year or was a finalist, and each represented the United States in either the Olympics and/or the World Cup.
We must continue to find better and more creative ways to evaluate, develop, measure, and celebrate these key qualities. While we’ve done plenty of work in the areas of ability and judgement, we’ve done less work on grit.
While some people cut their losses when faced with boredom or disappointment, those with grit stay the course.
In 2002, Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, and her colleagues interviewed high achievers and found that they shared one quality: grit. Defined as "sustained perseverance and passion for long-term goals," grit seemed to explain why more top CEOs hail from state schools than from Ivy League schools, and why some people gut out that last series of sit-ups in boot camp and others flop on the floor when the burn really kicks in. According to Duckworth: "Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges and maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity, and plateaus." While some people cut their losses when faced with boredom or disappointment, those with grit stay the course.
Many California elementary schools are starting to grade grit. While I see this as a positive step, we need to make sure we have mechanisms in place that encourage a growth mindset and grit-growing opportunities. We need to be careful to include goals and objectives that require a longer, sustained plan full of obstacles and hurdles for our students to work through. This environment will encourage grit-growing opportunities and help develop and evaluate this essential quality.
One thing I’ve learned over the years in trying to win national championships is grit is a key component. As we look for future players for our teams – whether it’s a sports team, a corporate team, or a community team – I recommend evaluating a prospect’s grit factor.
Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.” - Thomas Edison