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  • What if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

  • I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super 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 cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out.

  • We went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition.

  • We partnered with private companies, asking, "Which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs?"

  • "And who is gonna earn the most money?"

  • In all those very different contexts, 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.

  • Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.

  • Grit is having stamina.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Turns 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, standardized achievement test scores, even how safe kids felt when they were at school.

  • So, it's not just at West Point or the National Spelling Bee that grit matters.

  • It's also in school, especially for kids at risk for dropping out.

  • Every day, parents and teachers ask me, "How do I build grit in kids?"

  • So far, the best idea I've heard about building grit in kids is something called "growth mindset."

  • This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort.

  • Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they're 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.

  • 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.

What if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

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