If you find yourself asking what is a good indicator of future success in life the answer seems to be Tenacity Trumps Talent!
Tenacity, or “Grit” as psychologist Angela Duckworth calls it, is a better indicator of life-long success in children. Grit trumps, natural talent, IQ, and luck when it comes to getting ahead of the crowd. In a recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth explored that the ability to cope with stress and move beyond previous failures is the best indicator of what level of life achievement a student will attain.
“What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students,” she shared in her recent TED talk. “Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. Some of my smartest kids weren’t doing so well.”
After teaching in New York City, Duckworth went to graduate school to become a psychologist, where she studied what types of people were successful at West Point Military Academy, the National Spelling Bee, in classrooms, and beyond. Again, she said, “it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”
She began by studying grit in the Chicago public schools. “I asked thousands of high school juniors to take grit questionnaires, and then waited around more than a year to see who would graduate,” she said. “Turns out that grittier kids were significantly more likely to graduate, even when I matched them on every characteristic I could measure, things like family income, standardized achievement test scores, even how safe kids felt when they were at school.”
In a paper, “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ In Predicting Academic Performance Of Adolescents,” Duckworth and colleague Martin Seligman tested 164 eighth graders “recruited from a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse magnet public school” in the Northeast for self-discipline and IQ. They measured the students in the fall and spring through self-assessment, a behavioral delay-of-gratification task, and a survey of study and lifestyle habits, along with a group IQ test. They found that “self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.”
But why do some people have grit and others don’t? That’s where science needs to fill in the gaps.
“What I do know is that talent doesn’t make you gritty,” Duckworth said in her TED talk. “Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”
One way to instill it, she says, it to help people understand that learning and ability isn’t fixed. And that there’s life after failure.