The Right Practice

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Angela Duckworth on Grit... Matthew Futterman on Players a...

What's the secret of success? Doesn't everyone want to know the answer to that question??? This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with Angela Duckworth to discuss her work on Grit, which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance for challenging, long-term goals.

Can grit be taught? How important is practice to success, and what kind of practice is best? Is there any role left for innate talent in success today? These and other questions spring to mind listening to this fascinating conversation. So post your own question...or post a comment in response to one of ours. Either way, we love to hear from you.

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1. How "gritty" are YOU? Take Duckworth's "grit scale" quiz. (I'm a 3.90 on the scale...) What do you think you could do to increase your grit? What have you done in the past to do so?

2. Why do young people seem so prone to overrating the role raw talent plays in success? Is this a lack of grit, or something else? To what extent can children possess grit?

3. Can you practice being an ethical person? What would this look like in practice? To what extent do you think there is "grit" in ethics?

4. What role does luck play in a person's success (or lack thereof)? How does Duckworth's view of the role of luck compare to that of Robert Frank? With whom do you agree more, and why?

5. What does Duckworth mean in admitting that her work on grit might be tautological? How much of a possibility do you think this really is?

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Descartes writes:

Excellent subject matter that has lots of room for years of research and analysis. Pre-1995, intangibles like grit and goals were discussed in interviews. After 1995, I never had an HR person discuss grit. Humorous, what made the best inventor of all time Thomas Edison embarrass all the other engineers with their formal engineering education, Grit. What made college dropout Bill Gates the second best entrepreneur of all time, Grit. What made all those college dropouts (eg Apple's Steve Job and Wozniak) turnout to be the pioneers of the internet, Grit.

Robert Swan writes:

I don't usually comment in the extras, but the above comment calls for a response. I'll go ahead and answer one of the questions while I'm here.

1. The "grit scale" seemed largely to be asking "How self-disciplined do you think you are?" multiple times in different words and is direly afflicted with the weaknesses of self-assessment. I rated myself 3.3. I don't think there's much could be done to lift it, but I suspect my answers to those questions 30 years ago would have yielded a higher score -- yet I'd say I'm more tenacious now than then.

How that questionnaire evaluates me on Prof. Duckworth's definition of grit (Passion and perseverence in the pursuit of challenging and meaningful long-term goals) eludes me.

Well, on to Descartes's comment.

I'm sure Gates, Edison and Jobs had competitors who were just as gritty as they were. I think they stand out more in ruthlessness and, in Gates's case at least, luck.

You seem to have a strange measure of their success if you think the most remarkable thing they did was be successful despite not having degrees. To me, the main thing an employer sees in your degree is proof that you had the "grit" to complete the thing. If you're going to do what Edison, Gates and Jobs did, and strike out on your own, you don't need to prove anything. Why waste time on a degree?

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