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Updated: Apr 19, 2021

What is Grit about?

Researched, developed and written by the psychologist, consultant, and MacArthur Fellow, Angela Duckworth, Grit is about explaining to everyone, especially students and parents, that one can achieve success through passion and resilience.

Duckworth reveals the grit it takes to reach certain levels of success. This includes case studies and stories about inspirational figures, such as Oscar nominated actor Will Smith.

Grit explains that success is not fixed. With interest, practice, purpose and hope, Grit can be learned and strengthened.

Why Grit?

Grit is an integral part of living, breathing, aiming, reaching and being in life. Duckworth superbly captures the gritty stories of so many people from all walks of life…and it’s something that needs to be a key feature of student and school culture if we are to enable young people to own their success.

What do we think?

Grit was an extraordinary read! In fact, founder of School Should Be and our Book Club host, Zahara Chowdhury claimed, “it was the book that caused a turning point in my career!”

By defining success as resilience and passion, never have we read something that made us want to practice and fail to achieve. This is because Duckworth makes it acceptable to fail and try again.

Outside the realms of school and work, we discussed whether grit is personal and subjective, and if it is more likely to be achieved and recognised where there is privilege – something we continue to debate. One of our Book Club members also suggested that grit isn’t just academic or work-based; rather it is an attitude to life.

Duckworth’s book is insightful and compelling. She persuades us to take time to understand what we love, and as hard as it is, to move forward with the failure we will undoubtedly encounter in the journey to personal success.

What can students learn from Grit?

Students can learn how to be gritty! Finding the time and effort to be passionate and resilient is hard, but that’s the point. To be successful, we must work hard.

We can change our understanding of hard work though. If we are working hard for something we genuinely care about and want, that hard work becomes passion and dedication. Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, explains why having a “why”, or purpose, makes a great leader, similar to what Duckworth found out about passion and purpose in her research. If your hard work is worthwhile and brings you purpose, then it makes sense to follow that work ethic.

A Student’s Perspective

Let us take a step back though and acknowledge that the UK’s school system does not let us do that. I am sure we all know teachers who encourage and empower us, telling us to “follow our passions!” and to “chase our dreams!” But does school really give us the time?

From approximately 08:30 to 16:00, students are in school being taught several different things every day and are assessed weekly with homework for most subjects. This will likely be completed in the evenings, before dinner and bed. Therefore, between the ages of five and sixteen, the majority of the week is spent doing lots of work we are not really that passionate about.

I’m not sure students are given the time or opportunity to even begin to address their passion or purpose at school. I am not sure what the answer is, but there is definitely an argument for school establishments to work harder centralise or enable time for this type of thinking. I am a student, not an educator, however the grit in me tells me there has to be a way to achieve this during our school career.


Alongside passion and practice, we should be resilient if we aspire to be gritty. All of the scientists, writers, actors, sports athletes, CEOs, Duckworth researches and interviews tell her they failed over and over again before achieving their levels of success.

Becoming gritty takes time. All of the Grit Paragons in Duckworth’s book were not overnight successes. Why?

Because an overnight success does not exist. As much as we may believe it does (increasingly so due to the abundance of success highlights and instant gratification on social media platforms).

In every success story Duckworth shares, there is trial and error. Each Grit Paragon plays around with their interests whilst growing up and changes them a few times before reaching what psychologists call an “ultimate concern”, also known as a life philosophy or a calling – perhaps this is what we need to enable at school.

There are other things to consider for being gritty too. Grit is relative based on your choices, decisions and purpose. Grit can be encouraged if your environment enables it. Ultimately, what we regard as the old cliché, to believe in yourself’ can be extended here – trust your gut, cut out the noise and keep going. What can you do so that you believe more and doubt less? Build and strengthen the pillar of self-belief, self-acceptance and empathy inside:

even if the building around you is crumbling, make sure your pillar is tall and the last one standing

Zahara Chowdhury (at the end of our pretty deep, 2 hour chat about the book!)

Get to know yourself, what you care about and why, and try to spend as much time as you can to pursue your interests. Do not let your failures hold you back. Dust yourself off and keep trying. Oh, and read Grit!

Article written by Noor. Noor is studying French and Business Studies at Aston University where she is also Co-Head of Speakers & Performers for TedxAstonUniversity.

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