Video Of The Week: Angela Duckworth - Grit

A few years ago, we invited Angela Duckworth to speak to our portfolio company CEOs at our annual get together. It was a terrific talk that absolutely impacted the way these CEOs thought about hiring and managing their teams. Angela’s theory of “Grit” as a predictor of success in education, careers, and life is powerful. If you have not read her book on the topic, you should. You can get it here.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mike

    “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

  2. jason wright

    So, is grit a substitute for talent?

    1. Adam Sher

      Grit will let you fully realize your talent. You still need to be talented. For more on that, read The Sports Gene by David Epstein.

  3. sigmaalgebra

    She’s into challenging questions in the social sciences, essentially clinical psychology, parts of sociology, and lots of the center of research in education.Yes, sometimes “grit” is important. I have plenty of “grit” and now to chill out for a while will come here and debunk a TED video!Her remarks on IQ, that it measures how to learn quickly, were poor. The explanation I got for IQ was that, do a factor analysis and call the largest factor IQ. Still, that is just one dimension and, thus, by itself not very comprehensive for having predictive value in the social science problems she is addressing.For “grit”, I’ve seen too much of that, charging ahead all the way to death.So, with “grit” also need some good reasons, information, for what’s going on and to apply some insight and judgment.Maybe a big fraction of successful people had grit, but what fraction of people with grit were successful? If that is small, then we will need more than grit.I would recommend looking for better sources of information than TED videos, especially hers.Next I would suggest a better single-nostrum: Good ideas. So that can have some fairly objective quality control on the ideas, it is good to have the ideas close to the STEM fields, especially math where can have actual theorems and proofs.Yes, just how to use such math to make progress in business so far has essentially totally escaped nearly everyone in business. In short the role of the math is to enable some valuable new products or services or improve some existing ones. So, the paradigm is to find some ideas, commonly technical, likely that customers never see directly, that are powerful in the sense that they make the product/service more valuable.While the US NSF, NIH, and DoD have funded fantastic, fantastically powerful and valuable, technical ideas, nearly no one in business has learned that lesson yet. Sooooo, there are some big opportunities!It’s nearly impossible for a person in mainline business to have any faith at all in this paradigm; one big reason is the huge excess of hype and the lack of good examples (in business). So, for someone who knows how to evaluate the power and value of STEM field technical work for business, there should be some good opportunities!My best successes were having good ideas in the STEM fields where the ideas were powerful for problems outside the STEM fields.An extreme case of grit versus good ideas is getting a Ph.D. in a leading US research university. Generally the grad students are really long on grit and really short on good ideas.I.e., the main requirement for a Ph.D. is research; common criteria are “an original contribution to knowledge worthy of publication”; and the usual criteria for publication are “new, correct, and significant”.Well, can spend years of grit trying to do that or with some good ideas can knock it off in two weeks.Once in grad school I did just that in just two weeks. So, I could have used that for a Ph.D. dissertation, but I used something else, in stochastic optimal control.For a little more, a good idea is usually in the context of a problem, and some good advice there is to do well on problem selection.It ain’t all about “grit” guys.Oh, by the way, that thing I did in two weeks? It didn’t take any grit. It was fast, fun, and easy. I did a lot of it sitting beside my wife on our bed while she watched TV.Wish I could do that again. That was a total sweetheart life for the two of us, but she had such high goals and so much grit that she couldn’t enjoy the grand success we did have.

  4. Adam Sher

    As a supplement to her book, I’d recommend David Epstein’s new book, Range.

  5. Richard

    You know what better than grit when it comes to success? grits in the morning – with lots of salted butter. Pay yourself first and give back the rest of the day.