The virtue of hard things

Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith. He is the author of best-selling novels celebrated for their Dickensian plots, including “The Cider House Rules” and “The World According to Garp.” But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer?

Angela Duckworth argues that the answer is “grit,” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. The author, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the past decade studying why some people have extraordinary success and others do not. “Grit” is a fascinating tour of the psychological research on success and also tells the stories of many gritty exemplars, from New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who submitted some 2,000 drawings to the magazine before one was accepted, to actor Will Smith, who explains his success as follows: “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. . . . If we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”

As for Mr. Irving, though verbal fluency did not come easily to him as a young man, what he lacked in aptitude he made up for in effort. In school, if his peers allotted one hour to an assignment, he devoted two or three. As a writer, he works very slowly, constantly revising drafts of his novels. “In doing something over and over again,” he has said, “something that was never natural becomes almost second nature.”

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in an excerpt from The Virtue of Hard Things, a book review of Angela Duckworth’s new book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Portrait of John Irving: CBC

What Drives Success?

Not sure I buy into #1. I’m a fervent believer in #2 and #3.
I’ve mastered #2. There’s considerable work required on #3.

“The strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control….

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s precisely this unstable combination that generates drive: a chip on the shoulder, a goading need to prove oneself. Add impulse control — the ability to resist temptation — and the result is people who systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.

But this success comes at a price. Each of the three traits has its own pathologies. Impulse control can undercut the ability to experience beauty, tranquillity and spontaneous joy. Insecure people feel like they’re never good enough…A superiority complex can be even more invidious. Group supremacy claims have been a source of oppression, war and genocide throughout history.”

~ Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld, What Drives Success?

Read entire article in NY Times: What Drives Success?  Worthy…

Tough Teachers Get Results (finally, some common sense)

Mr. K

“I had a teacher who once called his students ‘idiots’ when they screwed up…he made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.  Today, he’d be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years’ worth of former students flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country…I was stunned by the outpouring for the gruff old teacher…Some were musicians, but most had distinguished themselves in other fields…What did Mr. K do right?…Comparing Mr. K’s methods to the latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine leads to a single, startling conclusion:

It’s time to revive old-fashioned education.  

Not just traditional but old fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here’s the thing: It works…and the following eight principles – a manifesto if you will, a battle cry inspired by my old teacher and buttressed by new research – explain why:

[Read more…]

Take Grit (low bar)

grit and abrasiveness chart

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