Grit: An Important Determinant of Academic and Professional Success

Authors: Stephen Rudin, MD, Cindy Puccio, PhD, MA, LCSW and Matthew Kelly, PhD, MHP

In this white paper, experts Cindy Puccio, Ph.D., M.A., L.C.S.W., Matthew Kelly, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Stephen Rudin, M.D. give us insight into grit as a characteristic. What is grit and why is it important? These lessons are important to anyone in a family office in charge of hiring or team building.

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In 1997, Angela Lee Duckworth, a 27-year old management consultant and graduate of Harvard College, quit her job to teach math to seventh graders in the New York City public school system. She soon observed that her best performing students were not necessarily her students with the highest IQs, and that her students with the highest IQs were not the best performers.

This fascinating observation grew to become her passion and led her to study the motivational and psychological aspects of learners. Her journey took her first to graduate school at Harvard and Oxford, as she and her teams observed people in all kinds of challenging situations, always asking the same question: “Who is successful here and why?” (Duckworth, 2013). Time and time again, the correlative factor predicting success wasn’t IQ, attractiveness, or social intelligence, but rather passionate perseverance maintained over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in practice (Duckworth, 2007). Quite simply, these individuals were gritty. From that, Duckworth derived the term that has now become an international buzzword in almost every arena of academic and professional endeavor.

While grit has many connotations in the English language, as we refer to it here, it is comprised of a combination of resilience, stamina, positive thinking, effort, and perseverance. It is something that we can’t have too much of and something that we surely hope will be present in our children throughout their lives as students and leaders. Grit, however, is not mindless persistence along a given path. In fact, that’s not grit at all. Grit entails requisite self-monitoring and emotional intelligence to achieve planned for and hard-won success, with all the inherent ups and downs, sideways and byways one may need to traverse along the way. Long mindless pursuits usually lead to wasted time, effort, funds, and energy, resulting in feelings of depletion and frustration. Grit, on the other hand, has a clear end goal or purpose that requires constant attention and an awareness of where things are headed.

Read the full white paper to get a sense of how grit plays a role in individual success and plays into greater family office success.

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