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  • BEN FRIED: We're here today to talk to Angela Duckworth, whose

  • book, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance"--

  • today is the official publication day, right?

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Today is the official publication day.

  • BEN FRIED: Congratulations.

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • Thank you.

  • BEN FRIED: And incredibly gracious of her

  • to fit time in at Google with a really, really busy publicity

  • tour, which I was getting exhausted just hearing about it

  • a few minutes ago.

  • So for those of you who aren't familiar with Angela

  • Duckworth's work, I'll try to briefly read a biography.

  • Angela Duckworth is professor of psychology

  • at the University of Pennsylvania

  • and the founder and scientific director of the Character

  • Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is

  • to advance the science and practice of character

  • development.

  • In 2013 Angela was named a MacArthur Fellow in recognition

  • of her research on grit, self-control,

  • and other non-IQ competencies that predict success in life.

  • It's a very impressive resume.

  • Prior to her career in research, Angela

  • founded a summer school for low income children

  • that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study.

  • She's been a McKinsey management consultant, a math and science

  • teacher in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco,

  • and Philadelphia.

  • She has degrees from Harvard, Oxford,

  • and the University of Pennsylvania

  • in neuroscience and in psychology.

  • Did I mention she's a MacArthur Fellow, 2013 MacArthur Fellow?

  • All right, I'll stop there.

  • And "Grit" is her first book, it says.

  • So welcome again, Angela.

  • Thank you for coming.

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Ben.

  • Thank you for having me.

  • I'm delighted.

  • Thanks.

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • BEN FRIED: So let's get right into it.

  • If you're not with her work-- the TED talk, the book--

  • I guess, hopefully it's fair for me to summarize the thesis

  • as that the power, as you put it,

  • the power of passion and perseverance

  • are at least as strong indicators and contributors

  • to success or achievement as things like IQ

  • and talent, which are what societally at least

  • we've traditionally focused on.

  • And that resonated enormously for me,

  • because I think at Google we spend

  • a lot of time thinking about talent, IQ, raw talent.

  • It's kind of baked into this crazy hiring process

  • that we have.

  • And which brought me to the first question I had for you,

  • which was, do you think that-- I mean,

  • from what you know about Google-- do you think that we

  • or do you think that organizations in general

  • select for the wrong things in the hiring process?

  • And would organizations be better off

  • if they looked for grit plus fit,

  • as opposed to attempting to measure innate talent?

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: You know, I think the interests that we all

  • have in talent-- and it's not just Google, it's me too.

  • I wish I were more talented.

  • Talent's great.

  • And if you could give me five more IQ points, I'd take them.

  • So I don't think it's wrong to think about talent.

  • I don't think it's wrong to think about potential.

  • I do think it's useful to think about what we really mean

  • when we say the word talent.

  • And if you force yourself to write down

  • on a piece of paper in a sentence that

  • ends with a period, talent is, it's really hard

  • to actually fill in.

  • What do I mean?

  • Potential?

  • I mean, we start to use metaphors.

  • Here's my definition of talent, and I

  • think it reveals that I do think it's important.

  • Talent is the rate at which you increase in your skill

  • with effort.

  • Some people are going to increase their skills faster

  • than others.

  • And I think it's legitimate to say

  • those are the quick studies.

  • Those are the talented people.

  • I think it's legitimate for Google to look for them.

  • Why not?

  • Why not try to hire the more talented people?

  • But in my data I find two things.

  • One is that more talented individuals don't always

  • keep showing up.

  • Woody Allen famously once said, "Eighty percent of success

  • in life is just showing up."

  • He was later asked by William Safire of "The New York Times"

  • how he got to the number 80.

  • And Woody Allen, who is not exactly a scientist,

  • said, "Well, you know, I was going to say 70,

  • but it had one extra syllable."

  • BEN FRIED: [LAUGHS]

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: Nevertheless, 70, 80.

  • I think his point was is that his experience as a writer,

  • which was the context of the quote, there

  • are many people who could write a great book

  • or who are talented in the sense that when they write,

  • they get better faster, but they'd never

  • finish what they begin.

  • And so what I find in my data is that talent

  • is no guarantee of actually showing up and finishing

  • the things that you start.

  • The second thing is, characteristic

  • of high achievers really in any domain,

  • whether it's Google or outside Google,

  • is this kind of daily discipline of trying to get better.

  • BEN FRIED: Yes.

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: In sometimes microscopic,

  • infinitesimally trivial ways.

  • All those little details add up to excellence.

  • And it's not always the people who

  • are the quick studies who are willing to put

  • in those hours and hours of behind the scenes unglamorous

  • work.

  • So sure, Google should hire talented people.

  • But I do believe that you want people

  • who are going to stick with things when they're hard

  • and who are going to daily submit themselves

  • to the Japanese principal of kaizen, continuous improvement.

  • BEN FRIED: So on that subject, continuous improvement,

  • you talk in the book about practice

  • and the difference between-- I think

  • you use the words directed practice

  • versus regular undirected practice.

  • And it reminded me of in running there's a phrase junk

  • miles, which maybe indicate-- I've never actually

  • been a runner, so I can only hypothesize what it means.

  • But I guess it means kind of running that doesn't really

  • contribute to your improved conditioning.

  • And what is the difference between direct practice

  • and undirected practice in this spirit of kaizen

  • and self-improvement?

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: So let's keep running as actually

  • the perfect example.

  • So when I started to try to understand

  • the science of achievement beyond bumper sticker

  • wisdom-- what do we really know as a science about experts

  • and how they got that way-- I quickly

  • found myself at the doorstep of Anders Ericsson, who's

  • the world expert on world experts.

  • He studies what experts do that make them

  • different from the rest of us.

  • It's a great job.

  • He goes to the sudoku tournaments

  • and he studies World Cup soccer players.

  • And he refers to it actually as deliberate practice.

  • BEN FRIED: Right.

  • Deliberate practice, yeah.

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: And he would like

  • to say that deliberate practice is different from anything else

  • that we do in four important ways.

  • And I'm going to come back to running as an example.

  • But the first thing when you're doing truly deliberate practice

  • is that it's extremely intentional.

  • It's problem solving something in particular.

  • Not like I'm going to come into Google

  • and be a better CEO, whatever it is.

  • It's like I'm going to say that the first 15

  • seconds of my presentations are going to be a little sharper.

  • I mean, it's extremely, extremely precise.

  • That's the first thing, a very specific goal

  • that you're working on.

  • And often it's a weakness, not a strength.

  • Second is 100% focus.

  • Or as some coaches would say-- like Pete Carroll

  • at the Seahawks-- practicing with great effort.

  • Third is feedback.

  • Ideally, right away and ideally information rich.

  • And fourth, the kind of refinement that you reflect on

  • and you try the whole thing over again.

  • In fact, these four things are incredibly straightforward.

  • And you might wonder why only world class experts do it.

  • But let's come back to running.

  • So when I heard about this research on deliberate

  • practice, I asked Anders, why is it

  • that I have gone running pretty much every day for years

  • and I'm not a second faster than I ever was?

  • Isn't that evidence that you're wrong,

  • that it's not thousands and thousands of hours of practice?

  • He started asking me questions like, well,

  • when you go out for a run, do you have a goal,

  • like a certain time?

  • Or are you trying to run hills?

  • No, no.

  • I'm taking the same route every time

  • I go out around my neighborhood.

  • And he said, OK well, that's great.

  • What do you do when you're running?

  • I was like, well I listen to NPR and any other podcasts

  • because I'm trying to distract myself.

  • And he said well, that's interesting.

  • Because people who are trying to improve

  • their running are actually concentrating

  • on their running and their strides and their breathing.

  • All right.

  • And he said, so how are you getting feedback

  • on your running?

  • I mean, are you keeping your times?

  • Are you measuring your heart rate?

  • Do you have a coach who's looking at your form?

  • No.

  • No.

  • And no.

  • BEN FRIED: [LAUGHS]

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: And then he said, are you

  • going back every time when you run

  • and thinking to yourself, what can I refine here?

  • Before this next repetition what is there

  • that I can do differently?

  • No.

  • And he said, well, then I can tell you why you're not

  • getting any better at running.

  • And that is, those thousands of hours

  • are not thousands of hours of deliberate practice.

  • So I think this idea that we should be getting better

  • at things, we can unpack that a little.

  • It's not just going out and trying hard.

  • It's actually trying hard in those four very specific ways.

  • BEN FRIED: So on the subject of deliberate practice

  • and coaching, I thought it's an interesting question.

  • In the organization, do you have theories

  • about what roles managers can play in helping

  • people develop in the same way?

  • Or do you have opinions on how professional development works

  • in organizations versus how it should work?

  • ANGELA DUCKWORTH: One of the things

  • that's really important to know about human beings

  • is that it's not that we stop growing up when we're 18.

  • And if you look at the etymology of the word parent,

  • the word parent really means to bring forth.

  • So after we leave our own parents who've

  • tried to bring forth our-- we leap

  • into other situations which frankly,

  • are parenting situations.

  • I mean, I had teachers, I had professors.

  • I still do, you know, mentors who, in a very authentic way,

  • are parenting me.

  • All right, now what does it really mean?

  • What does it look like?

  • I think that really, really great leaders

  • do a couple of things.

  • One is they model the character that they

  • want other people to emulate.

  • And there are two schools of thought about leadership.

  • Some people say the leader doesn't really matter.

  • Swap out one, put in the next one.

  • Really culture's going to happen without them.