Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

How likely are you to succeed? Watch the video to find out:

How likely are you to succeed at something? According to Angela Duckworth, American psychologist, popular science author who won a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, states that the amount of grit you have can determine your odds of success. So what exactly is grit? Grit’s a combination of passion and perseverance as the name of the book implies. Throughout the book she talks about her own personal experiences, gives anecdotes, and refers to other studies and research that support her argument on her theory of the psychology of success. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the psychology of success, this is a great book on it. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. Grit is an accurate predictor of whether or not you’ll succeed. Surprisingly just a simple 10-question test is all it takes to determine whether or not you’ll succeed at one thing. Watch the video above to see how well you do on the grit test. “By the last day of Beast, seventy-one cadets had dropped out. Grit turned out to be an astoundingly reliable predictor of who made it through and who did not. The next year, I returned to West Point to run the same study. This time, sixty-two cadets dropped out of Beast, and again grit predicted who would stay. In contrast, stayers and leavers had indistinguishable Whole Candidate Scores. I looked a little closer at the individual components that make up the score. Again, no differences. So, what matters for making it through Beast? Not your SAT scores, not your high school rank, not your leadership experience, not your athletic ability. Not your Whole Candidate Score. What matters is grit.She later states,Here’s what I found: measurements of grit taken months before the final competition predicted how well spellers would eventually perform. Put simply, grittier kids went further in competition. How did they do it? By studying many more hours and, also, by competing in more spelling bees. What about talent? Verbal intelligence also predicted getting further in competition. But there was no relationship at all between verbal IQ and grit. What’s more, verbally talented spellers did not study any more than less able spellers, nor did they have a longer track record of competition. The separation of grit and talent emerged again in a separate study I ran on Ivy League undergraduates. There, SAT scores and grit were, in fact, inversely correlated. Students in that select sample who had higher SAT scores were, on average, just slightly less gritty than their peers. Putting together this finding with the other data I’d collected, I came to a fundamental insight that would guide my future work: Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.


2. We all love to believe that talent is the root cause behind someone’s success. Whenever we see a stellar performance at something, or we see how many material items one has, we automatically assume that its because he/she is talented or that those material items somehow came easily to him/her. We usually take that success at face value and rarely do we look or think beyond what we see. As stated and proven by many other researchers on talent, achievement, and success, all of that comes after thousands of hours of practice. “‘With everything perfect,’ Nietzsche wrote, ‘we do not ask how it came to be.’ Instead, ‘we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.’ When I read that passage, I thought of the young swimmers watching their icon Spitz exhibit form that almost didn’t seem human. ‘No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become,’ Nietzsche said. ‘That is its advantage, for wherever one can see the act of becoming one grows somewhat cool.’ In other words, we want to believe that Mark Spitz was born to swim in a way that none of us were and that none of us could. We don’t want to sit on the pool deck and watch him progress from amateur to expert. We prefer our excellence fully formed. We prefer mystery to mundanity. But why? What’s the reason for fooling ourselves into thinking Mark Spitz didn’t earn his mastery? ‘Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius,’ Nietzsche said. ‘For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking. . . . To call someone ‘divine’ means: ‘here there is no need to compete.’ ‘ In other words, mythologizing natural talent lets us all off the hook. It lets us relax into the status quo. That’s what undoubtedly occurred in my early days of teaching when I mistakenly equated talent and achievement, and by doing so, removed effort—both my students’ and my own—from further consideration. So what is the reality of greatness? Nietzsche came to the same conclusion Dan Chambliss did. Great things are accomplished by those ‘people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them.’ And what about talent? Nietzsche implored us to consider exemplars to be, above all else, craftsmen: ‘Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it). . . . They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.


3. To become successful or to achieve a level of mastery at something it takes a lot of focus, dedication, and a lot of sacrifice. According to self-made billionaire Warren Buffett, to succeed at something, first write down your 25 life goals. After you’ve written them down, choose your top 5. Now what you’re left with is the remaining 20. Have a good look at the one’s you’ve crossed out and avoid them at all costs as they’re going to divert you away from your top 5 goals. “Warren Buffett—the self-made multibillionaire whose personal wealth, acquired entirely within his own lifetime, is roughly twice the size of Harvard University’s endowment— reportedly gave his pilot a simple three-step process for prioritizing. The story goes like this: Buffett turns to his faithful pilot and says that he must have dreams greater than flying Buffett around to where he needs to go. The pilot confesses that, yes, he does. And then Buffett takes him through three steps. First, you write down a list of twenty-five career goals. Second, you do some soul-searching and circle the five highest-priority goals. Just five. Third, you take a good hard look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle. These you avoid at all costs. They’re what distract you; they eat away time and energy, taking your eye from the goals that matter more.


4. The amount of grit that you have isn’t fixed, it can actually change based off of your environment. If you believe that you’re in a position that you can’t change, that’s not true. Your mindset towards your ability to change is vital to your success. There are many books on the fact that developing a champion mindset is key to getting what you want. This is exactly why there are so many stories of people who have risen from nothing both literally and figuratively, it’s all because of their mindset.How do scientists know, with unwavering conviction, that both nature and nurture play a role in determining things like talent and grit? Over the past few decades, researchers have been studying identical and fraternal twins, raised in the same family or raised in different families. Identical twins have all the same DNA, while fraternal twins, on average, only share about half. That fact, and a whole lot of fancy statistics (well, not that fancy—more mundane, really, once a good teacher explains them to you), allows researchers to infer, from how similar the twins grow up to be, the heritability of a trait. Very recently, researchers in London let me know they’d administered the Grit Scale to more than two thousand pairs of teenage twins living in the United Kingdom. This study estimated the heritability of the perseverance subscale to be 37 percent and the passion subscale to be 20 percent. These estimates are on par for heritability estimates for other personality traits, and in the simplest terms, this means that some of the variation in grit in the population can be attributed to genetic factors, and the rest can be attributed to experience. I hasten to add that there isn’t just one gene that explains the heritability of grit. On the contrary, dozens of research studies have shown that almost all human traits are polygenic, meaning that traits are influenced by more than one gene. Many more, in fact. Height, for example, is influenced by, at last count, at least 697 different genes. And some of the genes that influence height influence other traits as well. In total, the human genome contains as many as twenty-five thousand different genes, and they tend to interact with one another and with environmental influences in complicated, still poorly understood, ways. In sum, what have we learned? First: grit, talent, and all other psychological traits relevant to success in life are influenced by genes and also by experience. Second: there’s no single gene for grit, or indeed any other psychological trait.


5. Be an optimist. Optimists are happier, live longer, and experience greater life satisfaction. How can you become more optimistic? Well, it’s not going to change overnight but if you make a decision to move forward and away from pessimism then you can do it. One of the best ways to switch over to a positive mindset is to first be aware of your negativity. Whenever you catch yourself being negative or pessimistic, pivot over to having grateful thoughts. Think about the positive outcome of whatever it is that you’re upset over. By pivoting to a more positive mindset, you’ll train your brain to look for the bright side of things. If you do this enough times, it’ll become an instinctual habit.Optimistic young adults stay healthier throughout middle age and, ultimately, live longer than pessimists. Optimists are more satisfied with their marriages. A one-year field study of MetLife insurance agents found that optimists are twice as likely to stay in their jobs, and that they sell about 25 percent more insurance than their pessimistic colleagues. Likewise, studies of salespeople in telecommunications, real estate, office products, car sales, banking, and other industries have shown that optimists outsell pessimists by 20 to 40 percent. In one study, elite swimmers, many of whom were training for the U.S. Olympic trials, took Marty’s optimism test. Next, coaches asked each swimmer to swim in his or her best event and then deliberately told each swimmer they’d swum just a little slower than was actually the case. Given the opportunity to repeat their event, optimists did at least as well as in their first attempt, but pessimists performed substantially worse.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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