Resilience, Grit, Determination and your Mental State is the difference between Success & Failure.

Stephen Nalley
Relentless Pursuit Magazine
4 min readJun 19, 2021


10th Mountain Division Commandos

Resilience, Grit, Determination, and Mental Toughness is the difference between success and failure. In many cases, it is the difference between life and death. The ability to pick yourself up off of the floor and carry on even when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders is the type of resilience we need in our lives. There have been times in my life that I truly believed that there was no way out. I was resigned to the fact that the problem was too big or the pain was too much to endure. There is an old saying. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” We need to keep on going even when things get tough.

According to psychologist, mental toughness is described as the resilience and strength that people possess to drive through adversity and succeed. Mental toughness begins with a change in our mindset. When we really master it is when it is a part of our core foundation and lifestyle. I look at mental toughness the same way that I look at fitness or building muscle, strength, and endurance. Muscle size increases when a person continually challenges the muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance or weight. This process is known as muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibers of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibers by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles.

Mental Toughness works the same way. Imagine that your brain is like plastic, and it can be remolded or rewired to react differently. Many researchers have studied high-performance athletes and successful business professionals alike and determined that Mental Toughness, Resilience, and Grit are the major indicators for success.

Each year, approximately 1,300 cadets join the entering class at the United States Military Academy, West Point. During their first summer on campus, cadets are required to complete a series of brutal tests. This summer initiation program is known internally as “Beast Barracks.”

In the words of researchers who have studied West Point cadets, “Beast Barracks is deliberately engineered to test the very limits of cadets’ physical, emotional, and mental capacities.”

West Point Cadet Training 2021

You might imagine that the cadets who successfully complete Beast Barracks are bigger, stronger, or more intelligent than their peers. But Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, found something different when she began tracking the cadets.

Duckworth studies achievement, and more specifically, how your mental toughness, perseverance, and passion impact your ability to achieve goals. At West Point, she tracked a total of 2,441 cadets spread across two entering classes. She recorded their high school rank, SAT scores, Leadership Potential Score, which reflects participation in extracurricular activities, Physical Aptitude Exam, a standardized physical exercise evaluation, and Grit Scale, which measures perseverance and passion for long–term goals.

Here’s what she found out…

It wasn’t strength or smarts or leadership potential that accurately predicted whether or not a cadet would finish Beast Barracks. Instead, it was grit — the perseverance and passion for achieving long–term goals — that made the difference.

In fact, cadets who were one standard deviation higher on the Grit Scale were 60% more likely to finish Beast Barracks than their peers. It was mental toughness that predicted whether or not a cadet would be successful, not their talent, intelligence, or genetics.

While strength and brainpower all contributed to helping the 81% of West Point cadets who ultimately graduated from the school, the study found that “grit” proved to be the most significant factor.

This mental toughness gives some of the world’s athletic superstars the ability to push past exhaustion, opposition, and injury to score and win. The same quality gives even weekend warriors the strength to finish that last mile and power through that final set of reps.

Developing and sustaining mental toughness is key in understanding and accomplishing what needs to be done in a time of adversity. But what is it?

The term “mental toughness” refers to the idea of being able to push past failures by remaining positive and competitive. It also involves training and preparing oneself to be mentally ready for whatever challenge comes our way. Staying mentally tough will give us the strength we need to deal with our mistakes or sub-par performance and provide us with the resilience to keep going despite them. When events don’t go our way (or the way we expect), we cannot lose focus or determination. By the very definition of mental toughness, we must continue to persevere through the adversities we face.

I have been blessed to have people in my life that were resilient and demonstrated extraordinary grit and mental toughness throughout my journey. Whether it be in my military service, as a student, a father and/or entrepreneur, I have always been impressed with the people who displayed certain characteristics that allowed them to push through adversity and excel while doing so. All of these traits or characteristics played a huge role in my success and the way that I approach everyday life. I cannot state this enough. Mental Toughness is not just a mental state. It is a lifestyle. It is the way that we think every minute of the day.



Stephen Nalley
Relentless Pursuit Magazine

American Business Magnate, Veteran, Entrepreneur, Mentor and Author.