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The Nitty Gritty Secret of Success

Bracha Stein

Researchers have discovered the secret of success, and it doesn’t lie in intelligence, social savvy, or personality. Which character traits have been proven integral to achievement — and how can we help our children hone these qualities?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Angela Lee Duckworth, a seventh-grade math teacher, was flummoxed by the academic performance of her students. Some of her brightest pupils seemed to barely coast by, while she had other students who earned grades that far outshone their IQ scores. Despite tests that seemed to attest to the contrary, she remained convinced that each of her students was capable of grasping the material. So why did some kids flourish while others floundered?

Duckworth decided that educators needed a better grasp of how — and why — kids learn. Positing that “character is at least as important as intellect,” Duckworth embarked on a journey to find out precisely which character traits played a role in success. There was surely one quality found in high achievers across the board. But what was it?

Until fairly recently, psychologists had assumed that IQ played the largest role in achieving success. Other theories speculated that perhaps it was social or emotional intelligence, or charisma, confidence, or sheer talent. But as her research led her from public-school classrooms to the highly competitiveUnited StatesMilitaryAcademyatWest Pointto the National Spelling Bee, Duckworth suggested that the key to success lay in a completely unexplored quality. She called it grit.


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