Edison, Gretsky and the gritty side of success

"If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Thomas Edison.

Fundamentally different views of achievement can be seen in the well-known debates between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Tesla, the theoretician, conducted experiments only after careful consideration and calculation while Edison's approach was an "empirical dragnet" according to Tesla.

Similarly, hockey great Wayne Gretsky has stated "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

Is the key to success to multiply your rate of failure?

Of course, ability matters. But how much does perseverance matter? In other words, how much difference in success will be seen for two people of equal ability but unequal perseverance?

In success psychology, one can measure "grit", defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals". Duckworth and colleagues have created a self-report measure for this trait, known as the Grit Scale. In this survey, items such as "I have achieved a goal that took years of work" correlate with high grit, while items such as "New ideas and new projects sometimes distract me from previous ones" are negatively correlated with grit.

Here are some interesting things they found about grit:
* Highly educated people have more grit than people with less education.

* When controlling for age, grit increases with age.

* Grit is related to the Big Five Personality trait of Conscientiousness.

* When examining undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, students with more grit had a higher GPA, but students with lower SAT scores had higher grit. This could suggest that getting to an elite university can be through ability (reflected in SAT scores) or grit.

* Although grit was unrelated to rankings of West Point cadets, grit was the best predictor of whether cadets would complete summer training.

* Students with higher grit were more likely to make it to the final round of the National Spelling Bee, due to putting in more time to studying.

I've been thinking a lot about grit in the last day of trying to win a scholarship (as I wrote about yesterday). The video I made is about grit, but the promotion I'm doing for it is putting me way out of my comfort zone as a shy person. I may fail, but I'll be back. :)