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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Duckworth | 6:15


When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting, for a job that was even more demanding teaching. I went to teach seventh graders math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests, I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades. What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. 

Some of my smartest kids aren't doing so well. And that got me thinking kinds of things you need to learn in seventh grade math. Sure, they're hard ratios decimals, the area of a parallelogram, but these concepts are not impossible. And I was firmly convinced that every one of my students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough. 

After several more years of teaching, I came to the conclusion that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective. In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is IQ. But what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily. 

So I left the classroom and in went to graduate school to become a psychologist. I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings. And in every study, my question was, who is successful here and why?

My research team and I went to West Point Military Academy, we tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training, and which would drop out, we went to the National Spelling V, and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition. We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students. We partnered with private companies asking which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs and who's going to earn the most money in all those very different contexts. 

One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't IQ. It was grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. 

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