December 14th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 4


Talent is good. Gifting is great. Being at the right place at the right time is terrific. Etc. But none of these is a reliable marker of success.

So says MacArthur Fellowship recipient Angela Lee Duckworth, Associate Professor of psychology at U Penn.

So what is a dependable predictor of success? Grit!

Dr. Duckworth studies grit—hard work, perseverance, doggedness, tenacity. What causes people to stick with a goal, a dream, a pursuit, for years and even decades? Grit.

Her studies in a variety of situations—including cadet training at the United States Military Academy at West Point, training for the National Spelling Bee, graduating from Chicago high schools, and even the chances of men remaining married—reveal that grit is the best herald of success.

She distinguishes between grit and self-control.

Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, sustained over time. … Self-control is the ability to resist momentary distractions and temptations in order to reach a goal, but the goal doesn’t have to be something that you’re pursuing for years or decades. You might have a goal of staying on an exercise routine or doing your homework that night. And if you fail to do that and instead sit on the couch or watch TV, that’s a failure of self-control. But the goal doesn’t have to be something you’re working on for years and years.”

It is that unique ability to persist for long periods of time at a task, however thankless, joyless, and fruitless—grit—that gives one the best chance of success. Of course, gritty folks do have to exercise a great deal of self-control lest distractions detract from the single-minded pursuit of a long-term goal. Besides, they do need to have the zeal and passion for what they are doing, too—a guiding north that is meaningful and fulfilling for them. (And one needs to be sure one is doing the right thing: keeping on running when you’re going the wrong way doesn’t really help. So grit needs to go with good judgment, obviously.) But ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: grit.

Woody Allen was right after all.

Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.”

(Or something like that.)

Needless to say grit is costly. It will cost you the sacrifice of other pursuits, other quests, other crusades, other chases you could have been engaged in. It will cost you grief and pain, for the long-term grind is rarely blissful and painless. But there is joy—the joy of the end, the thrill of accomplishment, the delight of finishing well.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1–2

You see, there are two kinds of pain: the pain of grit, and the pain of regret.

If we are gritty, we work hard and painfully, but excel in the end. Or we can be slack and flit from task to task, and in the end regret in pain. What pain will we choose? That of grit or that of regret?

For you have need of endurance,
so that when you have done the will of God,
you may receive what was promised.
Hebrews 10:36

Grit or regret?


  1. Amin January 6, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    What a profound comparison-pain of grit/pain of regret. Thank you Abe for sharing wisdom and encouragement through RaMbLeS. May our Lord continue to bless you with continued wisdom.

  2. Richard December 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Grit or regret? I am overflowing with gratitude for the Gospel. Grace. My only assured hope. And as the years pile up, grit just continues to grow stronger because of the hope we have in the Righteousness of One covering the unrighteousness of many. Thank you Abe for your illuminating ways.


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