Stories of grit – from Rudy Ruettiger making the Notre Dame football team to Rocky Balboa battling Apollo Creed – captivate the public imagination, representing a deep appreciation for individuals who overcome tough obstacles through hard work and determination. Through the pioneering work of University of Pennsylvania Professor Angela Duckworth, educators have moved to incorporate grit into the classroom, focusing on the traits of resilience and perseverance. Duckworth has championed grit – which she defines as the combination of perseverance and passion – as an important predictor, alongside I.Q. or SAT scores, for predicting future success.
Despite the intuitive importance of grit for performance, researchers have been unable to find consistent evidence that grittier individuals are more likely to succeed, leading critics to increasingly declare the concept to be an over-hyped mirage.
But a new study published by Columbia Business School and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management on September 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) pushes back – both moving grit beyond the classroom and reviving its predictive power. Grit, itself, has grit as long as one also measures its passion factor.
The research team of Columbia Business School Professor Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business, doctoral candidates Jon Jachimowicz and Erica Bailey, and Professor Andreas Wihler of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, find that earlier analyses of grit fell short because they primarily focused on perseverance and undervalued the key ingredient of passion. That is, prior research emphasized the importance of persevering through tough challenges, but, as the researchers note, perseverance without the clear sense of direction that passion provides does not propel people forward. By more explicitly incorporating passion into both the theory of grit and its measurement, the researchers have established a link from grit to future performance.