From Gritty to Great: Why Perseverance Matters

5 minutes

There have been debates raging all over the world after Angela Lee Duckworth in her TED Talk, ‘The Key to Success? Grit’ opined that the difference between success and failure is not dependent on IQ and focus but on ‘grit’ which she defines as ‘ passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.


Management Gurus and Life Coaches have their own recipes for success. Each one talks about something. However, if you step back and take a holistic view of what they are all saying, they all talk about the same thing – perseverance in small things. Tony Robbins calls it ‘the 1 mm shift’, Jeff Olsen calls it ‘the slight edge’, Mindfulness Coaches call it ‘being mindful’, and spiritual gurus call it ‘being in the moment.’

The irony of the whole thing is that difference between success and failure is not dramatic. In fact, it is so subtle, so mundane, that most people miss it. The people who do not succeed may not realize they have a philosophy of life, but they do and it goes something like this, ‘What I do now doesn’t really matter in the long run.’ It’s not difficult to see why they come to this understanding, how much does just one burger increase cholesterol levels? How does skipping one workout make a difference when you have to lose 20 kgs? How does putting off one phone call make an impact on the monthly sales target?

The truth is, it matters. What you do now, today, every day, matters. Successful people are those who understand that the little things matter, and because of that, they choose to continue doing them over and over and over again till the compounded effect of those little things become huge. Those little things that make you successful in life – secure your health, your happiness, your fulfillment, your desires. These simple, mundane, subtle things that nobody will see, nobody will applaud and probably nobody will even notice. They are the things that, when you do them, often feel like they make absolutely no difference. As Walter Elliot says, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.

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Have you heard of the ‘Broken Windows Theory?’ It helped unilaterally reduce the crime rate in NYC. The crime bureau of New York City was so busy focusing on murders and robberies, that the ‘little things’ like break-ins and public drinking were taking a back seat. But once these ‘little things’ were taken care off, the overall crime rate reduced. As Matt Linderman writes for signalvnoise, “One key component of Broken Windows is that it shows progress. It’s not about miracles or heroic solutions or solving massive problems overnight. It’s about building momentum. It’s showing your audience that you’re headed in the right direction. It’s making visible changes, even slight ones, that show you’re doing something.”

Jeff Olsen says, ‘things are easy to do and easy not to do as well’. Easy not to do because they don’t show you instantaneous results which you are looking for – all the time. You do one repetition of bicep curls in the gym, and immediately flex your muscles at the mirror, expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger like results. Which doesn’t happen and you think, well, instead of 3 reps that the trainer asked me to do, let’s just do 2. 

How much difference would it make? That is the difference between success and failure.

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Progressive implies it is a process. It is something that you experience gradually over the passage of time, which itself moves at the same slow pace.

In our push button, swipe to change, mouse click, 24-hour internet  and microwave dinner world, we all want instant results. We find that ATM machines take too much time to dispense cash, people take too much time to pick up our calls and banks take too much time to open accounts.

This is a change from the agrarian culture that our forefathers believed in. They would plant a seed, and water and wait, and water and wait and then they would harvest. There was a significant time gap between planting and harvesting, i.e. doing something and getting the results. They were willing to put in a consistent effort before expecting results.

If you want to succeed, keep doing what is right and one day when the cumulative effort is enough, you will find that you are successful. One day suddenly, you will find that you have lost 10 kgs, suddenly those jeans will fit, suddenly everyone will want to shake your hand and take selfies with you.

But to get to that day, keep working at it, one push up, one phone call, one paragraph on your laptop at a time. 

Having grit and focus may not be as easy as it sounds. Let YourDOST’s life coaches and experts help you become grittier and greater, soon!

Sudip Mukerjee

Col Sudip Mukerjee is your special friend at YourDOST. He has 21 years of active army experience and approximately 2 years of corporate experience being a Vice President of an airline and has worked extensively with Human resource development. His area of expertise is human behavior and how thought patterns work to make people behave in a particular manner, sometimes to their own detriment.