Kim Cordell
Product Development Administrator, European Medical Journal

If you haven’t been living under a rock, then I’m pretty sure you will have heard of TED, a non-profit organisation dedicated to spreading ideas, in the form of short powerful TED talks.

Recommended on the Future Leaders course curriculum (for more information on this, see my earlier blog, titled ‘What is a Leader’ here) was one such TED talk by Angela Duckworth in 2013, having received >2.5 million views on YouTube, in which she explored the theory of ‘grit’ as a predictor of success. After leaving a high-powered role in management consulting in her late twenties, Duckworth began teaching Maths to seventh-graders where she wrote lesson plans, taught classes, handed out homework assignments, and graded papers. Over time she noticed that IQ wasn’t the only difference between the grades her best and worst students were receiving. Some of the strongest performers in her class did not have the highest IQ, whilst those who were considered ‘smarter’ weren’t doing as well. As Duckworth noted in her TED talk: “I was firmly convinced that every one of my students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough.”1 So, what was the difference between the high achievers, and those who weren’t doing so well? Whilst education focusses on the ability to learn quickly, and easily, Duckworth looked at her time as a teacher from a psychological point of view. What if there was more to doing well in school, and indeed in life?

This is where grit comes in. Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger,2 grit can be recognised as the passion and perseverance for our long-term goals. We all know at least one person who will tell you that they are really bad at something, but what if they’re not? If you are constantly comparing yourself to others, be it friends, family, or those who are considered extremely gifted in their field, you are more likely to be met with a metaphorical brick wall each time you try to attempt that task. Why? Because you’re automatically setting yourself up for mental failure.

Determination may have different connotations for everyone, but largely bores down to the idea of perseverance, the idea of getting the job done no matter what, and keeping motivated in order to reach your end goal. Whilst talent may gift an individual with a natural flair for something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that talented individuals will succeed in reaching their goal; it just means they have the ability to do so. Remember that there are many who do not follow through on their goals because they lack the grit to do so.

Next time you hear yourself say “I can’t”, take a step back because grit is having that stamina, and “sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”1 Recognising that you are the one stopping yourself from reaching your potential will, in turn, help you knock down the brick wall you have built up in your mind, and achieve your goal.

“Believing in grit is about believing that your personal and professional success is largely in your own hands.”3


  1. NPR. Is Having Grit the Key to Success? 2013. Available at: Last accessed: 27 July 2017.
  2. Merriam-Webster. Grit. Available at: Last accessed: 27 July 2017.
  3. Business Insider. A UPenn psychologist says there’s one trait more important to success than IQ or talent. 2016. Available at: Last accessed: 27 July 2017.

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