Woody Allen is famous for saying 80 percent of life is showing up. But it’s neither that nor sheer intelligence that will help you succeed, according to compelling new evidence about what it takes to achieve goals.
What does it take? Grit.
The term was coined by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania in measuring characteristics that lead to perseverance. Jonah Lehrer wrote last month in the Boston Globe on the new scientific measurement that predicts long-term success.
Grit, says Lehrer, “is about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached”.  “Grit is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success”, he says.
Pioneering grit researcher Angela Lee Duckworth, a U. Penn psychologist, has written extensively in this area.  She characterizes grit as a “noncognitive trait” that predicts success over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness.  Her research looks at success in places as diverse as the US Military Academy at West Point, the National Spelling Bee, plus college and grade-school grades.
If you’re interest is whetted and want a readable academic reference from Prof. Duckworth, see this one from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Grit examines traits that enable some people to reach long-term goals while others just give up. You can test your grit by participating in the University of Pennsylvania study if you want to see if you have the power to persist.
The upshot: Some people are more successful because they have the skills to help them stick with a task long enough to reach a goal. Those who want to help foster these traits – parents, HR professional and workplace leaders, for sure – can do so by learning an important praise or feedback technique: recognize the effort behind work, rather than an intangible quality.
Instead of saying, for example, “good job — you’re so smart!” Go with something like this: “I appreciate how you handled that negotiation – it resulted in a cost savings for the division.” Or, for your child: “Nice going.  You really worked hard on that project and it looks great!”  This sort of recognition will net big results in job satisfaction, and can further develop loyalty.
Success depends on having the “grit” to keep on working toward a goal in the long-term even in the face of challenges. It’s up to leaders to provide the right tools – including meaningful praise, feedback and rewards – to help them keep working toward that success.
Giving meaningful praise and backing it up can prove valuable to your bottom line.
Grit is great.  As the father of a grade-schooler, I earnestly work at my grit-reinforcement parenting, imagining I’m helping myself by helping someone else.
Is grit as interesting to you as it to me?  If so, and you want to learn more about passionate persistence, or mindful diligence, there’s lots much more reading you can do in the popular domain.  Prof. Duckworth’s work is a great place to start, but it’s written for academics.  (Although I can’t wait to see her in-process study for the KIPP Schools, one of the most exciting, large-scale grit-centric imaginable—that can change the course of our nation.)
Mindset, from Stanford University professor Carol Dweck is one place to start. Her work has begun to have a life of it’s own, which you can see at MindSetOnline.
For a business slat, Geoff Colvin, longtime editor and columnist for Fortune Magazine, has written Talent is Overrated.
And for a more popular take see The Talent Code, from Daniel Coyle.
Finally, a hearty gThankYou! to my friend and neighbor, Jim Zellmer, whose blog tipped me off to grit; School Information System is America’s #1 compendium of news for all things K-12 educational.
I’ll post on this topic again soon.
In the meantime, keep your nose to the grindstone.
Rick Kiley is President of gThankYou, LLC, based in Madison, WI.  gThankYou® Certificates of Gratitude™ are one way  savvy companies demonstrate commitment to valued employees. The company is best known for its Turkey Gift Certificates, Ham Gift Certificates, and Grocery Gift Cards.

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