In 2013, University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth Phd. received The MacArthur Genius Award. In that same year, she gave a TED Talk where she reviewed the keys points from her New York Times bestselling work, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Today, Ignitia reviews her key points. 

IQ Does Not Determine Success

Professor Duckworth began her talk by explaining how at 27 years old she left her very demanding job to teach. What professor Duckworth says she was surprised to find out about her students was how IQ did not determine their success. When professor Duckworth notices some students with lower IQ’s were doing well, and others with higher IQ’s were not doing as well, she began to wonder why.

According to professor Duckworth, she was firmly convinced every one of her students could succeed but that to teach effectively she’d have to take an approach to learning from a motivational and psychological perspective. Professor Duckworth knew in education it is easy to measure IQ. However, professor Duckworth wanted to know the answer to the question: What if doing well in school, and in life, depends on much more than our ability to learn quickly and easily?

Taking it to the Field

To answer this question, professor Duckworth left the classroom and started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings. In every one of her studies she asked herself the question: who is successful here, and why? This question took professor Duckworth to West Point Naval Academy, The National Spelling Bee, and even to schools in very bad neighborhoods.

The Single Greatest Predictor of Success: Grit

According to professor Duckworth, in all of these differing contexts, one single characteristic emerged as the single greatest predictor of success: Grit. According to professor Duckworth, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, and day out, not just for the week. Not just for the month. But for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.” According to professor Duckworth, Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint.

As a case study, professor Duckworth says she then had a class of Chicago high school seniors take a Grit questionnaire then waited for a year to see who graduated. According to professor Duckworth, even when measured against factors like family income, standardized test scores, and even how safe the kids felt while they were at school, what she found was that the greatest indicator of those students who would go on to graduate was grit.

To professor Duckworth’s surprise, very few people are ever taught grit. They are never taught work ethic, or how to be motivated for the long run. According to professor Duckworth, one of the best ways to build grit in people is something called a ‘growth mindset’. According to professor Duckworth, growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and that it can change with effort.

The Need for New Ways to Learn Grit

According to professor Duckworth, when children learn about the brain, and how it can change and grow when they learn, they are much more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t feel failure is a permanent condition. According to professor Duckworth, this is a great tool to built grit, but it is insufficient. According to professor Duckworth, there are not enough models for success in this field just yet. We need to develop more. But it won’t be easy. It will take a lot of hard work, and dedication, over a long period of time. So in other words, in order to develop new models of what it takes to become more gritty, it is going to take a lot of grit.