The talent trap: why try, try and trying again isn’t the key to success

Ian Leslie in New Statesman:

AngelaAngela Lee Duckworth begins her book with a story that frames her life’s work as an act of retribution against her father. When Duckworth was a child, her dad would tell her, repeatedly, “You know, you’re no genius.” He was, she says, expressing the worry that she wasn’t intelligent enough to succeed in life. In 2013, aged 43, Duckworth felt able to show her father how wrong he had been. She was awarded a prestigious fellowship for her work on the relationship between character and success – specifically her identification of “grit” as a critical component, perhaps the critical component, of educational achievement. The unofficial name of the award: the MacArthur Genius Grant. Or maybe she proved him right. Duckworth’s work casts doubt on the very idea of genius. Her aim is to knock talent off its pedestal and replace it with strategically applied effort. Successful people, she argues, display a blend of passion and perseverance. They are motivated primarily by a love of what they do, as opposed to money or fame. They set long-term goals and seek to get better at what they do every day. They never give up, no matter what setbacks they suffer. Because grit is a practice, and not a gift, it can be learned.

Duckworth’s own success has been dazzling. Grit is already one of the best-known and most widely influential ideas to emerge from psychology in the past decade. Duckworth’s Ted talk has been viewed well over eight million times. She has advised the White House, the World Bank, the National Basketball Association and Fortune 500 chief executives. In the US, universities and schools are implementing programmes to raise grit levels among their students. In the UK, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has announced measures to instil grit in disadvantaged pupils.

More here.