What Is Grit?
Good afternoon, everyone.
Today, I would like to talk about my research project concerning the key to success.
I would like to start my topic with my own story.
When I was 27 years old, I left for a demanding job: teaching seventh graders math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades.
What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have super IQ scores. Some of my smartest kids weren't doing so well.
Then I felt very interested in knowing the reason why the students' math performance is not that closely related to their IQ scores. I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of challenging settings, and in every study my question was, who is successful here and why?
My research team and I went to West Point Military Academy. We tried to predict which students would stay in military training and which would drop out. We went to the National Spelling Contest and tried to predict which children would advance furthest in competition. We worked with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who's going to earn the most money?
We went to many places, and finally one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence. It wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't IQ. It was grit.
What is grit?
Well, grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make future a reality. Grit is living your life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.
A few years ago, I started 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. It turned 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, test scores and so on.
To me, the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it. Every day, parents and teachers ask me, "How do I build grit in kids? How do I keep them motivated for the long run? "
Our data shows very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitment. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated to measures of talent. So far, the best idea I've heard about building grit in kids is something called "growth mindset."
Growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Kids with grit are much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don't believe that failure is a permanent condition. So growth mindset is a great idea for building grit.
But we need more.
And that's where I'm going to end my talk, because that's where we are. That's the work that stands before us. We have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.
As a conclusion, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.
Next time, I would like to share with you my experience in building up students' grit.