Do you have the key to success?

By Team YS|16th Nov 2013
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key to success

You would have heard endless debates and advices on what would determine your success or failure. From IQ to good looks to social intelligence or money, every factor possible has been cited somewhere or the other as the key to success. Thanks to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, we know what success really takes: sheer grit.

Duckworth, assistant professor with University of Pennsylvania, studied students, West Point military academy cadets, and corporate salespeople to determine how "grit" is a better indicator of success than factors like IQ or family income. What exactly is grit? “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 that future a reality.” Duckworth says in her TED talk.

“Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.”

At the age of 27, Duckworth quit a high-flying consulting job with McKinsey to teach mathematics to seventh grade students in public schools in San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York. There she noticed that the students who topped her tests were not always the ones with the highest IQ. That puzzled her. She began to study the factors that gave some students a clear edge over others. Then, she went back to grad school to complete her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

During her extensive research, she found 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.”

She emphasises: "We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we've been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.”

The most shocking thing she found about grit is how little science knows about building it. Yet people often ask her techniques to build grit. A tool she suggests is the growth mindset.

This is an idea developed by Carol S. Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Motivation, personality and development are her primary research interests.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she writes about growth mindset. Many people believe their success is based on innate ability; that is a "fixed" theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a "growth" or an "incremental" theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don't mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure. Dweck argues that the growth mindset will allow a person develop grit and to live a less stressful and more successful life.

Want to know how you fare on the grit scale, take this test.

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