Grit and Angela Duckworth. Yes and Yes.

Have you heard of this buzz word "grit"? Of Angela Duckworth? Yes and yes? Then you must be as giddy as I am about her new book Grit. No, you haven't heard of her?! If not, please keep reading because her research on grit applies to you whether you're a CEO, an entry-level coffee runner aspiring to become CEO, an artist, actress, athlete, student, educator, a mom, or dad. Basically, if you want to succeed at what you're doing, then her research, and recently published book Grit. The Power of Passion and Perseverancewill help you do just that.


Oh, man… where to even begin with the grit guru herself? I first heard about Angela Duckworth back in 2012 when I read Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, and since then she's been everywhere. Just last week I had two different people E-mail me articles about her new book, she shows up in, what seems like, every other Freaknomics podcast that I listen to, and she is very involved in research with KIPP, the charter school network where I work. After starting her career as a management consultant, she left to work in a job that, as she says, "was even more demanding: teaching math to seventh graders in New York City public schools." After some years of teaching she applied for a PhD program at Penn, writing in her application that "after working in schools she had a distinctly different view of school reform, and that the problem is not only the schools, but also the students themselves. And, in order to help chronically low-performing, but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect" (Tough, p. 61). As a character development teacher, this statement makes my heart so happy, and is why I love her, and her work.   

Grit, as defined by the character lab (in which Duckworth is the Founder and Scientific Director) is perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Duckworth began researching grit because she noticed that all the successful people she encountered (like J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, or Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll) had this passionate commitment to a single mission, and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission. So, she named this quality grit, and, naturally, created her own grit scale (Tough, p. 74). When she and a colleague took this three-minute, self-reporting scale out into the field, they found it highly predictive of success from Spelling Bee winners to military cadets who would finish at the top of the Beast Barracks at West Point (even more predictive than the military's own complex evaluation system) (Tough, p. 75). Over and over again this simple 12-item questionnaire predicted success of all sorts. In fact, Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness claims, "psychologists have spent decades searching for the secret of success, but Duckworth is the one who found it."

And, the best thing about her is she didn't stop there. She didn't just say, "there, I did it. I proved that grit is the key to success." She goes on to ask the question, "If grit is the predictor of success, can it be taught and learned?" Amazingly, the answers are yes and yes, regardless of IQ or circumstances. Think about that for a second; let it marinate. If we can teach our most chronically low-performing children to have, what she proves, is the number one predictor of success, then the sky is the limit for these little astronauts, athletes, doctors and CEOs in-the-making. I am so excited to dive into her book, then share with you how to teach your children grit. And, I'm so lucky that KIPP adopted grit as one of it's seven character strengths, meaning that I get to teach this subject to 600 little KIPPsters for a living. #success.