Got Grit?

Get It and most likely you'll make it -- in sports, in school, in business, and in life.

It is the secret of West Point Grads, Olympic swimmers, and those who excel in college. It is more important than innate talent, IQ, or standardized test scores. If you want to put a name to It, call It GRIT.

Not long ago, a group of scholars evaluated West Point Cadets to determine why some persevered through seven grueling weeks of Basic Training while some quit.

The reason?

  • Not physical strength.
  • Not leadership ability.
  • Not well-roundedness.

The researchers determined that the best predictor of success was grit, "defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals."

The work of these scholars is corroborated by others. Anders Ericsson, an expert on expert performance, writes, 

Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the results of intense practice for a minimum of 10 years.

 These are not ten easy years either. Rather, it is mundane effort that is "difficult, painful, excruciating, and all-consuming." Daniel Pink writes:

The path to mastery--becoming better at something you care about--is not lined with daisies and spanned by a rainbow. If it were, more of us would make the trip. Mastery hurts. Sometimes--many times--its not much fun.

There is something within me that resonates with the theme of hard work. Maybe it is because God commends it (Proverbs 14:23). Maybe it is because my parents modeled it. Maybe it is because my dad demanded it. But one thing I know about hard work, it is Paul who helps me understand it.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. . . . So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 10:31 NIV

If GRIT is defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals," Paul had the real long-term goal clearly in mind. He called it "the prize." Study his life and you will see that prize was God's glory, God's gospel, and hearing God's "Well done." And that is what sets him apart from Pink, Ericsson, and others (like my father), who have preached "hard work." For Paul, hard work was always a means to God's end, and hard work was always driven by God's power:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV

If you want to get better, by all means get GRIT. But if you are thinking perseverance and passion for the real long-term goal then begin to think about what you do as a response to God's goodness, a means to God's glory, driven by God's strength. 

Where do you need to get gritty for God?

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  1. "The best predictor of success..." from Angela L. Duckworth, et al, "Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92 (January 2007): 1087, quoted in Drive by Daniel Pink (1650-59).
  2. "Many characteristics once believed ..." from K. Anders Ericsson, et al, "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance," Psychological Review 100 (December 1992): 363, quoted in Drive by Daniel Pink (1659-67).
  3. "difficult, painful ... " from Daniel Pink, Drive.
  4. "The path to mastery ..." from Daniel Pink, Drive. Location: 1659-67.