As a follow-on to my recent email about ‘Winners: Made or Born”, this article in the The Atlantic Magazine (May 2016) talks about the importance of grit to career and academic successes. In particular, it discusses the argument in Angela Duckworth’s new book, “Grit”, that “grit can be developed and is at least as important as IQ in predicting educational success.”

In one study, she found that the only reliable determinant of whether the newly arrived US military cadets at West Point would survive the gruesome first seven weeks of life there was–not SAT scores, ACT scores, high school rank, physical fitness, “leadership potential” or any other measures of aptitude—how they performed on her “Grit Scale”.

I think the ramifications in this study as it relates to education is that we should attempt to develop grit in our children, of how to “persevere just a little longer in tackling problems that exceeded their current skill set.” This, combined with deliberate practise, will serve our children well in everything they do.

I see it over and over again among my students whenever I give them a difficult task to do, which inevitably is everything because I always teach beyond their year “level”. Their first reaction is always to resist me with incessant whining until I show them that it’s not as difficult as they think. It is magical when they realise that what they had just done is 3 to 4 years beyond their year level.

There are some interesting words of wisdom in the article for adults as well in regards to how grit translates into the workplace through perception and subsequent behaviours: bosses may want you to work hard, but do it in private because the “naturals” are more valued than the “strivers”. Basically, make it look easy regardless of what you do behind the scene.

Is Grit Overrated?

The downsides of dogged, single-minded persistence

By Jerry Useem
May 2016


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