True Grit (Part 1)

What is it that makes a person successful? Is it that they came from money and had everything handed to them? Is it because they are extremely smart and did well in school? Or is it because they poured their heart and soul into a task or a dream until it was accomplished? The latter of the three seems to be a much better reason. We have been told since childhood to never give up and to always fight for what we are passionate about. But how many of us actually do it? How often do we show our “true grit” and pour every ounce of ourselves into a project or a dream? This unique trait of tenacious perseverance, or grit, may well define our success.

Dr. Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who mainly studies achievement. She is the founder of the “true grit” mentality. She stated that when most people think of a successful person, they automatically think of an extremely intelligent person. But can intelligence really predict success? In fact, Dr. Duckworth believes that intelligence plays a very small role in being successful and showing grit. Intelligence is an uncertain determinant because we do not know if intelligence is inherited or something that is learned throughout life. Our intelligence deals more with our creative capacity and multifaceted talents. The best way to find success is to find the industries that unlock our talents so that they can shine bright.

Catherine Cox did research about intelligence and success as well. One study she did during her graduate program at Stanford was a study of the biographies of  300 geniuses. She was trying to isolate traits that could be an indicator of success. In her study she came up with two common traits that the 300 shared:

  1. The tendency not to abandon tasks for mere changeability.

  2. The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles.

From these two findings is where the basis of the two pillars of “true grit” stem from.

The first pillar of grit is a sustained passion. This passion is the driving force behind everything a person will do to reach their ultimate goal. This passion starts at the beginning and continues even after the goal is reached. Yet, few people have this type of passion for anything. They get so distracted and frustrated or just simply bored with their goal that they get distracted by the novelty of other things and forget about their original goal. This intense, burning passion is not to be confused with talent. There are many people that are extremely talented in certain things. But that natural talent can only take a person so far. Studies by Dr. Duckworth, and others, have shown that as talent increases; grit decreases.

A study done by Dr. Duckworth at Westpoint Military Academy shows this idea of sustained passion. The first summer at Westpoint is called “Beast Barracks.” During this time you are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests. Dr. Duckworth was able to put her “grit” scale into one of the test the cadets were administered and had staggering results. She found that despite all the physical and intellectual talent a cadet had, the key factor that determined whether they would stay through the whole summer was grit. The higher their grit score, the more likely the cadet was to last through the summer.

In my next essay I am going to be taking on the second part of Dr. Duckworth’s “true grit” philosophy. The next step to having “grit” is keep your passion. To not lose your passion because of the obstacles that life throws your way. It is this tenacity and perseverance that helps you reach your goals.

True Grit (Part 1)

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