In the summer of 1995 I was preparing to take one of the biggest risks of my life. I was six months into a new and excellent job with a telecommunications company in Spokane, but I had already decided to quit my job and go back to school full time for at least the next four years to work on getting a Ph.D. in management from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
In June of that summer, a few weeks before I was going to give my notice at work, I was traveling on business in Oklahoma City and decided to drive up to Stillwater one afternoon to see if I could meet some of the faculty in the program. There was only one guy in the entire department in his office that day. After introducing myself, the first thing he said to me was “I recommended we not accept you into this program because your GMAT scores were not very high.” What a blow.
I started the program that fall with the attitude that I would probably be the least intelligent person in any class I found myself in. There was nothing I could do about that. But I entered every class with the attitude that no one in the room was going to work harder than me. Four years later I was one of the only ones left from my original cohort of students – the rest had quit or transferred to a less rigorous program.
My success can probably be partially explained by grit. Grit is:
Perseverance and passion for long term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course. (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews and Kelly, 2006)
General mental ability, or IQ, is one of the best predictors of achievement. Grit is not related to IQ, and studies have shown it can be an important predictor of performance beyond IQ.
Want to leverage grit in your workplace? Instead of searching for extraordinary people to do the job, partner with your folks to design jobs that ordinary, gritty people can excel at.