Can one be too gritty? Boy, did I struggle with this question when I was researching grit. Patriot Day, the name now given to the remembrance of 9/11, reminded me of this question. I mulled over the horrific goal those terrorists set, the planning, training, and effort it took to be “successful” of crashing planes into some of our most important buildings, and my conclusion was that those extremists had grit. It hurt me to admit that, because honestly, who would want to attribute such a positive quality to people who were so hateful?
I philosophized over this issue relentlessly, and finally found an explanation I could live with. Angela Duckworth, the grit guru, was interviewed by the Templeton Foundation, and was asked this very question. Her answer made perfect sense. She says that one can’t really have “too much” grit, but can be gritty in the absence of other virtues. In other words, grit is important, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. It’s a great quality to have, but so are honesty, integrity, and compassion. Without those types of characteristics to drive the goal-setting piece, or what one is working toward, grit may do more harm than good. Think Bernie Madoff, or Lance Armstrong. So, yes, grit can be one of the most important ingredients for success, but it needs to be accompanied along with integrity, empathy, gratitude, and maybe even some humor.