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One characteristic that emerges as a significant predictor of success

I remember few years back I faced a really tough situation that I had never faced before. Things did not go as planned and I was pretty desperate in looking for source of motivation. As a fan of internet, I tried to search some insights that could shade some lights. I found it in a TED Talk delivered by Angela Duckworth Lee, a psychologist from University of Pennsylvania about one factor that contributes significantly to someone’s success.

That thing is GRIT.

Fascinated by this concept, I bought her book around 2 years ago. Being a very impulsive book buyer and bad reader made me abandon the book for almost a year. The book has profound impact in my life and I’m more than happy to share some insights I get from it. This might or might not be 100% relevant for you but I hope you can get some benefit from it. Let’s get started.


Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint. What fascinates me is that knowing the fact that grit contributes more to someone's success in life compared to IQ, physical attractiveness, and several other things we often hear.

The next question that pops out in my head is that, ok, it sounds sensible but what is the proof? After reading her book, I got a chance to know some of the living proofs on how grit is indeed the x factor to determine someone success.

Angela and her team used a tool named "grit scale", which is basically a tool to measure how gritty you are, and implement it to various set ups. They went to military, school, even spelling bee competitions. The experiments they did proved that the grittier you were, the bigger your chance to thrive during difficult situation (stay in military, achieve high score in school, and win competitions)


As much as grit matters a lot to success, often times we are distracted by the idea of "talents". We often think that some people are born genius which means that it is very tempting to see ourselves as more inferior compared to others.

Talent is defined as how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. While it’s true that talented people acquire skill faster than people who are less talented and it is also true that in short term talented people outperform the less talented one yet, when we talk about mastery or expertise, we don’t talk about 1 year, but we talk about 3, 5, or even more years.

As much as talent matters, what we do with it matters more. So we should not be discouraged just because we have less talent.

In the end, grittier people have higher chance to thrive than the less grittier ones.


There are two elements of grit, passion and perseverance. Passion is defined as having a strong desire for something, while perseverance means not giving up and trying again. Initially, I thought that I was a gritty person because I didn’t like giving up but once I heard this definition I realized that I was not as gritty as I've thought. The reason for that is while I’m not giving up, I keep changing my interest, rarely finish what I started, and often get distracted with something new.

One suggestion I get from this book is to define an ultimate goal, a goal you care so much about that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. I realize that throughout my entire life I have so many things going around and forget to really define one ultimate goal that really matters to me. Thank God, I have a better understanding about it right now.

Having an ultimate goal is important because it gives us direction on what matters the most in our life. Imagine having a goal as something like this:

The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself and the less it’s merely a means to an end. For example, my ultimate goal is to unleash human’s greatest potential. It’s very abstract but indeed, the ultimate goal is meant to be abstract. The mid level goals are the work that I’m currently doing right now, one on one career coaching that I do on my free time, and some work in Indonesia Debating Union. While the low level goal is my to do list that I need to face on daily basis such as going to office, attending meetings, etc.

One key insight I get from the book is that:

While we need to hold a very tight grip for the top level goal, it’s not only forgivable but sometimes absolutely necessary to give up on lower level goals.

On a long journey, detours are to be expected.

In applying this framework to my life, I faced several difficulties. I’ll share some of them:

1. No one ultimate goal

As a person with many interests, I used to have many top level goals. This is extremely draining because as if everything is urgent and important and at one point I felt that I didn’t have any anchor in my life.

2. Lack of coherence between goals

Sometimes I’m wondering why I give up so easily on something. Turned out, my lower level goals are not coherent with my high level goals. Being mindful on this helps me to readjust my lower level goals.

3. Sometimes I forget my ultimate goal

​Although at some extend I have defined my ultimate goal, it does not mean that giving up never comes across my mind. In some tough days, the temptation is there and real. Once that feeling kicks in, I remind myself about my ultimate goal and push myself to stay in the game.

A good news about grit is that grit grows. Learning how grit grows helps us in two ways (1) it helps us to be a grittier person (2) it helps us to help others to cultivate their grit. I’ll discuss about how to grow grit in my next article. Stay tuned :)


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth Lee

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