Consultant and author Paul Stoltz has previously written extensively on adversity, developing what he calls the “Adversity Quotient,” which measures the ability to leverage setbacks and failures into success. Stoltz has more recently discovered, however, that while AQ is essential to success, it is not sufficient. As he explains in his new book, GRIT: The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere – Flourish – Succeed, “If AQ is all about how you effectively deal with ‘it’ — whatever comes at you — then GRIT is about what it takes to really go for ‘it’ — your boldest and most important goals — and make ‘it’ happen.” AQ, he writes, is your defense, but GRIT is your offense.
Stoltz uses the word “GRIT” in two ways. Although consistently in all caps, GRIT is used at the beginning of the book as a word that encapsulates the offensive counterpoint to adversity, as described above. In his second chapter, Stoltz introduces the four dimensions of GRIT, which then becomes both word and acronym. These dimensions are:
Growth. Growth refers to a mindset that is constantly looking for the new and the different. Growth, Stoltz writes, is “your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.”
Resilience. The core of Stoltz’s original research and writing, resilience is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but, more importantly, to make constructive use of the adversity.
Instinct. The focus here, according to Stoltz, is to know instinctively which goals to pursue and how to pursue them.
Tenacity. Most quests are going to be longer and more difficult than anticipated. Tenacity separates those who succeed from those who fail.
Stoltz emphasizes that not all GRIT is good. To help readers visualize the positive and negative facets of GRIT, Stoltz presents his six-faced GRIT grid cube, with opposing faces representing good and bad, smart and dumb, and strong and weak GRIT. Stoltz explores each facet in detail. For example, bad GRIT, he writes, is evident when people relentlessly pursue goals that aim to hurt people, gain benefits at another’s expense or unintentionally pursue a damaging goal. Stoltz cites the example of a humanitarian organization that installed 10 million hand pumps in Bangladesh to help the impoverished population get access to water. Unfortunately, the water pumped up was filled with arsenic.
To exemplify good GRIT, Stoltz offers as an example his wife, Ronda Beaman, who was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. A personal fitness trainer, Beaman was told, when diagnosed, to slow down, but refused. Twenty-four years later, she is still working out as hard as ever, despite occasional intense pain in her shoulders and weird headaches.
Stoltz offers equally compelling stories of dumb vs. smart and weak vs. strong GRIT. The ultimate goal, he writes, is to achieve “optimal GRIT” — which is, according to Stoltz, “when you consistently and reliably demonstrate your fullest, “goodest,” smartest and strongest GRIT to achieve your goals.”
This definition is expanded later in the book, as Stoltz moves readers to more advanced notions of GRIT. First, he includes what he calls the “four capacities” of GRIT: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. GRIT must not only be smart, good and strong but also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually balanced, Stoltz explains. GRIT must also be present in a wide variety of situations (work, school, relationships, money-related situations and more). Finally, GRIT begins with the individual but then moves up what Stoltz labels the “grit ladder,” through the relational, team, organizational and, finally, societal “rungs.”
As Stoltz expands and deepens his definition of optimal GRIT, he describes how to both gauge and grow one’s grit, offering a number of different tools for each. Stoltz is a veteran consultant, whose Adversity and GRIT techniques and tools have been used by Fortune 100 companies around the world and taught in schools as prestigious as the Harvard Business School and MIT — which is why GRIT is not a philosophical treatise but a toolbox for life.