The "G" factor

Why do some people with very high IQ’s seem to struggle in their academic or professional endeavors, while others with average intelligence thrive and succeed? The answer might be that they are determined. They set a goal, and then they persist towards it, sometimes striving against extraordinary odds.
In a May 2013 TED talk, Angela Lee Duckworth explained the “secret” of success.  She confined her presentation to the academic realm, but one can easily extrapolate to a much larger population. In her mid-twenties, she left a position as a consultant to teach math in a middle school in a New York City public school. She observed that some of her “capable” students weren’t doing so well, while those with less ability were succeeding.  Why?  That teaching experience encouraged her to pursue the concept of motivation. So she became a psychologist  and studied individuals in different settings from West Point to the National Spelling Bee, teaching, and private companies to discover which individuals would succeed.  Those who came out on top shared a common characteristic: She termed it “grit.” That is persistence and determination.

In an article in The Observer,  a pubication for the Association for Psychological Science, she and co-author Lauren Eskreis-Winkler present Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare as a metaphor for achievement.  “Gritty individuals are tortoise-like, distinguished by their propensity to maintain effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.”  
In his book, Emotional Equations, Chip Conley documents the personal history of a famous American who epitomized grit.  He overcame enormous hardships to become President of the United States.  He had to start working at age seven because his family lost their home. His mother died when he was nine. He was also kicked in the head by a horse, and he nearly drowned.  He suffered from malaria, syphilis, and smallpox.  He failed in business, was rejected from law school.  He was engaged, but his fiance died. He lost at several attempts at political office  as late as age forty-nine. Yet, Abraham Lincoln became President at fifty-one.

The “secret” is out! Teachers take note! Studies with children have demonstrated that those who are praised for being smart do not do as well as those who are praised for working hard.  Grit– determination, persistence, practice, and hard work are keys to success in school and in life! 


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