After I graduated high school, my parents read the book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth. Some may remember Duckworth’s keynote speech during Spring Convocation 2018.
In her book, Duckworth details the characteristics that make up someone who has a lot of grit. She explains that grit is different than talent because talent can only get a person so far. Grit is about how much effort and resilience an individual puts into their work. Someone can be talented and never improve because they don’t work hard, or someone can be untalented and never work hard. Neither will lead to success. It’s about never giving up, even on the worst days.
Duckworth said grit can lead to three things: excelling, dropping out or plateauing. Excelling in a certain field comes from talent, skill and effort. It comes from developing interests before training weaknesses, knowing the science of deliberate practice and cultivating purpose. People who have a lot of grit are commonly extremely passionate about what they do and use that to motivate themselves to work harder.
It’s rare to walk around Elon for a day and not hear someone talk about their GPA or a grade they received on an exam. Coming from a prestigious high school, I was focused on those things, too. My parents were strict about grades, and I was always terrified of disappointing them, so I can’t lie – I fall into the trap of numbers too.
What a lot of us don’t stop to think about is that we’re learning. This is all a growing experience, and it’s not about a letter on a transcript or a number on an exam. It’s about retaining information and using it. The numbers may get you into graduate school or into a better job, but they’re so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve had many adults in my life say they learned the most from the class they did the worst in. That “C” you received in your statistics class may make you feel upset and inadequate, but shouldn’t you take that “C” and acknowledge how hard you worked? How much more you know now than you did before?
This is what Duckworth focuses on: this growth and fixed mindset. The growth mindset refers to an individual’s beliefs about their talents. A fixed mindset is the belief that one’s talents are due to inborn traits. For example, someone might believe they got a good grade because they are good at math. People with fixed mindsets believe they can’t improve and are simply bad at something because it’s the way they are. People with growth mindsets say, “I know this is not my strength, but I’m going to do my best and work my hardest at it anyway.”
Grit is directly rooted in the growth mindset. Grit is our passion and perseverance for long-term goals. As we approach the end of the semester, we should all work to keep this mindset and not be too hard on ourselves over numbers that won’t matter a year from now. It’s about our experiences and us gaining knowledge about our fields that will help us improve in the future. Let’s not focus on the grade; instead, let’s focus on how much we’re growing as people and as students.