Grit: The One Ingredient in Any Recipe for Success



If there’s one thing I learned in my time in the Navy and during my last 10 plus years in the Human Resources field, is that the one ingredient you can never go wrong with in a recipe for success is: Grit.

The dictionary definition of grit is: firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding course in the face of hardship or danger. Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit – which I just finished reading - defines it as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”.

What resonates the most is Duckworth’s definition and how she doesn’t at any point indicate that education, IQ, talent or intelligence play a factor in success or in achieving goals.  Instead, it’s having a passion for what those goals are, and pressing on despite obstacles which may get in the way which makes a difference.

This is something I experienced early on while going thru boot camp and has stuck with me ever since.  I’ve never been the smart guy in school, or the quickest to pick things up and remember things from reading. I’d leave those traits to my brother who is now a doctor!  Instead, I’ve always had a passion for the hard things, for never giving up and pushing myself as much as I could.  I’ve been an endurance athlete for 20 years, and was already a triathlete in high school so I knew about getting thru tough times and not giving up. 

While in boot camp, I noticed those who came from more prestigious schools, or who had high GPAs were typically chosen for leadership roles, but many of them were the first to drop out.  The people who tend to make it through and succeed were those who exhibited grit.  Interestingly, one of Duckworth’s case studies in the book revolves around training at the United States Military Academy at West Point and how grit turned out to be a reliable predictor of who made it through.

This isn’t unique to the military.  It’s a behavior that predicts success in any career field – be it the military, human resources, or in the businesses we work with being in the HR field.  It’s a trait that as a job applicant, or military member transitioning into the civilian workplace you should be proud to exhibit and ensure its documented on your resume and during your interviews.  As an HR professional, it’s a trait you should constantly be on the lookout for in your applicants and employees, and ensure its embedded into your values and career paths. 


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