“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”. This was supposed to have been said by Thomas Edison, the man who also said that invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

The implication is that success is due to hard work, rather than intelligence or even luck. But is that true?

Angela Duckworth may have the answer. She is a highly respected researcher on the subject of what she calls grit: “perseverance and patience for long-term goals”. She has found that grit is what differentiates people who persist and achieve long-term excellence, as opposed to those who start off well, but lose enthusiasm and give up.

She found that the amount of grit one has is the best predictor of success in school, in the military and in corporate sales, rather than intelligence or even luck.

Interestingly, she found in one of her studies of over 10 000 people, that people who are married have more grit than those that don’t get married. Also, people who stay married have more grit than those who separate. Her findings point out how tough it is to keep a long-term relationship healthy!

You can listen to her describe her research and findings about grit in this short TED Talk:


Her research findings make sense to me. Throughout my life, I have known people who were much cleverer than me: at school those who took a shorter time on their homework or at work those who could argue a point better than me. However, many of those very clever people don’t persist when encountering difficulty.

Angel Duckworth explains that the reason for this is that they don’t often experience difficulty and failure. They are used to finding things easy and used to succeeding. So when they weren’t succeeding, they preferred to move on to something else.

Contrast this with people who know that they have to work hard to get ahead and to reach their goals. They understand that they have to keep working at a task, possibly longer than their colleagues, and that failure is a necessary part of moving forward. For example, a working mother whose child had serious health issues, and had to repeat night classes due to her erratic class attendance, summed up her attitude of toughing it out, by saying: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road!”

So grit is really important for success! What’s your level of grit? You can find out by taking this free (and safe) on-line quiz, sponsored by the prestigious Pennsylvania University:


Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers appears to support the role of grit in achieving success. He states that it takes about 10 years, or about 10,000 hours, to reach mastery on any topic.

So grit seems to be an essential ingredient in persevering despite setbacks and disappointments to ensure success in important endeavors.

So when you encounter difficulties and heartaches, don’t give up! Keep on trying to reach your goals, remembering Thomas Edison’s wise words that it’s only a failure when you stop trying.

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101