1: Grit is “the intersection of passion and perseverance,” University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth tells us.  

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s observation three hundred years ago is even simpler: “No pressure, no diamonds.”

We all know the path to consistent high performance is a bumpy road with many rocks, boulders, and unexpected hairpin turns.  

In his book, The Art of Impossible, author Steven Kotler identifies three indigents required for sustained peak performance: intrinsic motivation, proper goal setting, and grit.

The first indigent launches us on the path, the second sets our direction, and the third allows us to persevere through life’s inevitable difficulties, challenges, and obstacles.

“Even if we harness the full suite of intrinsic drivers and turbo-boost the results with proper goal setting, it’s still not going to be enough,” Steven observes.

Grit matters. A lot.

“Excellence has a cost,” he writes. “The challenge of sustained high performance is the grind.”

2: The brain science behind grit focuses on two characteristics: “Goal-directed behavior” and Self-regulation.” Together, they are the recipe for grit, and they show up in very specific ways in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies.  

“When neuroscientists talk about grit, their discussion focuses on the prefrontal cortex, or the part of the brain that sits right behind the forehead,” Steven writes. “The prefrontal cortex controls most of our higher cognitive functions.”

“Goal-directed behavior” includes all of the different actions required to accomplish our goals.

“Self-regulation” involves “how we feel and what we do with those feelings on our way to accomplishing those goals,” Steven notes. “In other words, self-regulation is both the ability to control our emotions and the ability to persist through challenging, strenuous tasks.”

3: The exciting insight is that we can train our brains to be grittier.  


“Whenever we accomplish a hard task, dopamine is our reward,” Steven writes. “If we accomplish hard tasks over and over again, the brain starts to connect the feeling of persistence with the dopamine reward to come. We’re making the act of tapping into our emotional reservoir a habit.”

And that’s not all: “Once the emotional fortitude required for digging deep becomes a habit, we can dig deep without having to think about it, so the part of the brain required to think about it doesn’t have to get involved.”

Because once a behavior becomes a habit, our brains run on auto-pilot. “Being gritty” becomes a habit.

That’s powerful.

More tomorrow!


Action: Make it a point to stay resolute and complete a difficult task.

Reflection: Take note of how I feel afterward. Resolve to do it again tomorrow. And the next day.

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