Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, won a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, an award so prestigious that it is also known as the “genius grant.” As Duckworth explains in the foreword to her latest book, Grit, the award of the grant reminded her that throughout her childhood, her scientist father would despair that she was no “genius” — in other words, that she just wasn’t smart enough or didn’t have a great-enough talent in anything.
And he was right. As Duckworth explains in her book, genius or talent didn’t win her the coveted MacArthur Fellowship: It was grit. According to Duckworth, grit is the combination of unbridled passion and unrelenting perseverance — a combination, she writes, that will overcome innate talent or hard work or high IQ or any of the other assumed key success factors for individuals. Duckworth first demonstrated the power of grit at West Point, where she sought to answer a question that had eluded a number of psychologists for decades: Why did so many new cadets drop out in the first training program of their West Point careers? Only a tiny portion of candidates make it through the admission gauntlet into West Point — and only if they receive a high-enough Whole Candidate Score, which carefully measures the likelihood that candidates have the mental and physical capabilities to make it at West Point. Thus, most should be in a position to survive the brutal seven-week training course known as “Beast Barracks.” Yet, many didn’t — and surprisingly their scores on the Whole Candidate Score bore no correlation to whether or not they dropped out.
In July 2004, Duckworth had new cadets take her Grit Scale, which was…(click here to continue reading)