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Ted Talk, The Key to Success? Grit

Angela Lee Duckworth purports that the key to success manifests not in an astronomical IQ or dashing good looks, but in grit, which she equates to passion and perseverance for the long haul. She describes grit to entail having stamina, a long-term vision for the future, and a zeal to turn those dreams into reality—to run a marathon, imagining start to finish.

She recounts how she stepped down, at age 27, from management consulting to teach seventh grade math at New York City public schools. It was during this time that, as she graded tests and observed her students, she realized that the concepts taught at school can be learned by any student given time and effort. What really set apart ordinary from extraordinary was beyond an IQ measurement, but had to be gleaned from a motivational and psychological standpoint.

After going to graduate school to become a psychologist, she visited West Point Military Academy, as well as the National Spelling Bee, rookie teachers in the projects, and private companies. No matter the differences in setting and age and more, the overarching marker that predicted success was grit.

She studied grit in Chicago public schools, asking high school juniors to take questionnaires and then waiting until graduation to see how the students did. Students who displayed more grit were more likely to graduate, regardless of other factors. Therefore grit permeates into any and every setting in life, for children and adults.

While little about grit is known from a scientific standpoint, Buckworth states that she does know that “talent doesn’t make you gritty.” She goes on to say that there are “many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments.” She goes even as far as to say that her data shows that grit is typically unrelated or even inversely related to talent.

She ends with talking about growth mindset, which is a concept developed by Carol Dweck at Stanford University. It is the idea that the capacity to learn is not fixed but is shaped by effort. Dr. Dweck’s research has shown that how children’s brains respond to challenges while reading and learning makes them more likely to be resilient and see failure as a temporary state. Therefore, growth mindset offers one way to build grit.

Whether in schools or in businesses, grit shows the persistence to continue forging a vision and a future. With many start-ups in the Bay Area, grit sets apart those that can survive the initial setbacks and push through with innovation and adaptation. Businesses and marketing that can grow and adapt in the face of challenge can count on earning a foothold in an ever-evolving canvas of success and standards.

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