Is There Anything Grit Can't Do?
Angela Lee Duckworth, the psychologist who champions ‘passion and perseverance,’ explains the power of ‘noncognitive skills.’
Angela Lee Duckworth has just returned from her 25th class reunion at Harvard. “People’s lives really do turn out differently,” she observes during an interview in a stylish boardroom. “And it certainly can’t be explained by how intelligent you remember them being when they were sitting next to you in organic chemistry class. Some of it is luck, some of it opportunity.” And some of it is “grit,” as Ms. Duckworth has told the world in articles, lectures and a 2016 bestselling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
It’s no hyperbole to talk about the 47-year-old University of Pennsylvania professor in international terms. More than eight million people have watched her 2013 TED talk on grit. That same year she won the renowned MacArthur “Genius” grant. U.S. and foreign government officials, CEOs and ordinary helicopter parents, teachers of every stripe, world-class coaches and award-winning researchers line up outside her office to pick her brain about how to make their employees, students, children or competitive swimmers grittier.
She also runs a nonprofit, the Character Lab, with a staff of 12. Our interview took place immediately after the organization’s board meeting—hence the snazzy conference room. After 90 minutes of anecdotes, research citations and quotes—Aristotle, Nietzsche and, unexpectedly, US Weekly—my disarmingly laid-back but highly practiced interlocutor shows no signs of flagging.
So what is this thing called grit....
This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal