This morning Angela Duckworth, Million-Dollar MacArthur Genius, U-Penn psychology professor and star author of Grit, spoke in central London about the importance of hard work. No matter the field, whether spelling bees or military training academies, her work has proved one thing: it’s not about what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it.
Hearteningly for anyone who’s ever thought themself lacking in talent, Professor Duckworth shows repeatedly that it’s not ability that’s the deciding factor in success. Instead it’s your tendency to persevere, to work hard, to stick at it, to practice that really counts. Dishearteningly, this also means that there are no shortcuts. If you want to get great at something you’d better practice, and practice well.
What does this imply for education? The good news is that you can get grittier. The research shows that you can grow grit. How? Develop interests before training weaknesses. It’s more likely you’ll stick at something and want to get better at it if it’s something you’re passionate about. Know the science of deliberate practice. 15 minutes of 100% focus trumps 1 hour of 75% focus. Cultivate purpose. Tie learning to problems in the world that you care about. Finally, adopt a growth mindset. You need to believe (and you should, it’s true) that your intelligence, aptitude and motivation are malleable.