Are you gritty?

“The true joy of life is to be a force of fortune instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” -George Bernard Shaw

I got this quote out of the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. I’d just read the last page and was staring at the cover when a fellow blogger pinged through my WordPress app with a simple comment: “Why’d you stop writing?”

Thanks for the nudge, H.H.

Grit. I like the sound of the word in my mind when I read it. It sounds rich with consonant. It’s one of those words where everything audible around me gets deliciously laced into the sound of it. Like rain hitting the window or a woman’s heels clicking on the pavement as she walks down my street. Grit.

I’ve taken to the word ever since I picked up the book in an airport bookstore, which was right before I missed my flight to London (wrong gate, long story). It was meant to be a night of grittiness, as it turned out. I resolved to take a train back home after they graciously rebooked me for the next morning. I slept fitfully for three hours and then got up to go back to the airport, making it to London proper by 10 that morning. I was dead tired but happy and relieved to have arrived.

I’m not always gritty, and in fact I got a depressingly low score on the grit test in Duckworth’s book. I’ve abandoned hobbies that I’d once passionately pursued, and for no good reason at all other than life distracted me. I can be discouragingly wishy-washy about my ambitions. But I’m getting grittier as I age. I stick it out more. I’m increasingly curious about the pursuit of something for the innate purpose of accomplishing a goal, because I know it will build my core confidence to do other things I’d quietly told myself I wasn’t suited for.

If you’re curious about the word grit, or about being a gritty person, or about encouraging your children to be gritty, please pick up a copy. It’s well worth the read, and she’s a hard-nosed researcher so it’s all based on scientific evidence. But for those of you who won’t read it, here’s a gem she relayed, originally spoken by T-Nehisi Coates, award-winning journalist and author of Between the World and Me:

The challenge of writing
is to see your horribleness on page.
To see your terribleness
And then go to bed.

And wake up the next day,
And take that horribleness and that terribleness,
And refine it,
And make it not so terrible and not so horrible.
And then to go to bed again.

And come the next day,
And refine it a little bit more,
And make it not so bad.
And then to go to bed the next day.

And do it again,
And make it maybe average.
And then one more time,
If you’re lucky,
Maybe you get to good.

And if you’ve done that,
That’s a success.




  1. I think most people end up quitting anything they don’t believe they absolutely have to do.

    • Hmmm, I disagree, although I think at least some people are like that. I’ve never quit running (and I’ve been running since I was 13) and I know I don’t have to do it – in fact it’s maybe not the greatest thing to do for the body. I do it because it makes me feel good. I would say instead that most people quit things that don’t make them feel good in that moment. That’s why this book is interesting: most of us quit what doesn’t make us feel good right now, whereas gritty people may push through the lack of initial satisfaction because they know the end goal will give them ultimate satisfaction. After devoting the entire book to the grit-success correlation, Duckworth asks if gritty people are actually happier. Her research findings suggest that yes, overall they are a more contended bunch. Her next question, which she hasn’t yet answered, is if their loved ones are actually happy as well. Living with someone who is incredibly driven to achieve their own goals may not always be easy….thanks for the reply, Mr. Johnson! I appreciate you reading. 🙂

      • You probably said it more accurately. If it’s not enjoyable then it takes discipline to keep going. My original statement is based on the people I know and how they are not good at anything besides their job or whatever their parents forced them to do when they were young. I’ve been on and off on the guitar for over 10 years because learning it isn’t really the enjoyable part. Once you get to a good level though then it becomes enjoyable because it’s easy.

        What do they all it? Self-motivated? It’s always been difficult for me to do things for my sole benefit.

        People seem to always be happier that they pushed through to reach their accomplishments. Then again people are very good at rationalizing the past and outcomes whether good or bad. “I’m glad I got cancer because it made me appreciate my life.”

        I’ve heard someone say before that being really driven is like a mental illness. A good one though…to an extent.

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