What makes people successful? Here's an answer.
Fascinating West Point study. Agree on problems of defining “grit” and circular reasoning. FWIW when I was at Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth (UK naval academy except people don’t do degrees, more like a year or less of basic officer training) I found the lack of emphasis on brain power and learning to be quite shocking - it seemed to be all about swagger and looking/acting the part. But there is (or was, in my experience - I was a naval officer for 10 years, ending in 1994) a pronounced anti-intellectualism in the UK armed forces that there isn’t in the US. Point of pedantry - I think it should be “inflated” rather than “overinflated,” which is (imho - some would debate) tautologous (cf. over exaggerated)
How does grit interact with spunk and/or gumption:
I mean, the study isn’t all that surprising: People who find a passion for their work tend to overcome adversity at a higher rate than those who don’t. As a career Army officer, I have found this axiom to hold true, although having the whole package (smarts and physical prowess) is always the surest recipe for success, particularly as you move up into the more competitive high-level positions. While the physical part is connected to the nature of an Army officer’s work, I suspect “grit” and smarts are also major factors of success in any career field. I’d add luck, networking, and social/emotional IQ to the list of important factors.
Great article and I totally agree. I like to call it "respectful persistence".
It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude
I wanted to attend college but my family could not afford it and there were no student loans back then so my only option was to work full time and attend college full time. I worked from 4 pm to midnight 12 days in a row (to get the weekend overtime pay) with 2 days (every other weekend off) and attend class during the day and graduated in 4 years. It was difficult and I missed out on a lot of the college life but I knew it was only for a short time and I could get through it. Now when I ever I face adversity I know it will not last and I can get through it. That to me is perseverance
Many words might describe my guy - end stage Parkinson’s patient w LBD and blind. To his core, three resonate most: never. give. up. I sometimes think: poster boy (class officer, Eagle Scout, carrier-based jet pilot, etc). And flawed human as are we all. Going blind and spray painting tools to color code to keep tinkering; asking for typewriter bc he remembers home row of keys. Revolving door at hospital / ER last year - declining but still in the game. One can’t but admire. Grit? Life’s not easy, but. If you could ask him, and he could respond, unsure even he could adequately define.
After hitting the ‘send’ button on comment below, it occurred to me that while every word is factual the words present a totally different picture of the complete person I know. He would never reveal most of those things about himself - if asked, probably respond, “oh. yeah” and move on to something he considered more interesting. E.g. yeah he flew jets, etc, but what was important to him was his love of flight and the design of air machines. We have to be careful, people are complex.
Coincidentally, I got an email from the Appreciation at Work folks today. It’s a good essay on how to navigate your grittiness in an informed way. https://www.appreciationatwork.com/blog/overcome-the-two-main-obstacles-to-reaching-your-goals-2/
To me, the flaw in the study is the underlying presumption that succeeding at the academy is within the control of each individual. I think there are many more factors at play. I recommending reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for other things over which we have no control that impact our success.
Sadly, a fourth element is also critical to general socioeconomic success: having what are considered to be good looks in your main society of reference.
“When a thing is done, it’s done. Don’t look back. Look forward to your next objective.”
George C. Marshall
Bill, absolutely believe in grit. Call it that, or perseverance or an undeniable belief in self or anything close to that. It is truly what a best friend of my son and I have talked about.
I was accepted to West Point - in 1976. Not a good time for an only child to go to military school as Viet Nan closed out. Jackson did go however. He was one of the valedictorians from HS, went to West Point, graduated close to top of his class and became a Ranger less than a year later. If anyone is aware of what that all takes, it is not because of solely brains or physical prowess. It is a self-determined mindsets that says “I will NOT give up, no matter what”.