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Growth and Grit = Stunning Career Success

Posted by | March 5, 2015 | Advice, Career

Via LinkedIn : Time and again, I tell others about Carol Dweck’s superb book, Mindset, is which she explains that people with a growth mindset tend to outperform those with a fixed mindset. That is, if you think your abilities are fixed, you won’t do as well as people who believe that with enough effort, they can expand their capabilities.

Dweck’s work is so powerful because it demonstrates that one fundamental shift in mindset can change the path of your career and life. This shift is easy to understand, easy to communicate and – for many people – relatively easy to accomplish, once they understand the potential benefits.

Earlier today, I heard University of Pennsylvania Associate Professor Angela Duckworth on NPR’s TED Talk program. Duckworth studies grit, which she defines as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”

Duckworth’s research has demonstrated that grit predicts success in a number of endeavors. For clarity’s sake, I have eliminated Duckworth’s scholarly references from the following text from her site:

Grit predicts surviving the arduous first summer of training at West Point and reaching the final rounds of the National Spelling Bee, retention in the U.S. Special Forces, retention and performance among novice teachers and sales agents, and graduation from Chicago public high schools, over and beyond domain-relevant talent measures such as IQ, SAT or standardized achievement test scores, and physical fitness.

Listening to Duckworth speak, a light bulb lit up in my head. What if you could use a growth mindset to become more gritty? Would that be a killer career strategy?

There’s reason to believe this is true. I found this passage in Duckworth’s research statement:

It is now well-established that traits change across the life course (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). So, while there is enough stability to traits to sensibly describe one individual as grittier than another, it is also true that children and adults change their habitual patterns of interacting with the world as they accumulate additional life experience.

In other words, your level of grit is not fixed. She explains further:

Individuals who believe that frustration and confusion mean they should quit what they are doing may be taught that these emotions are common during the learning process. Likewise, individuals who believe that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs may be taught that the most effective form of practice (deliberate practice – see research by Anders Ericsson) entails tackling challenges beyond one’s current skill level.

Growth + Grit = Long term success

Growth + Grit is already a powerful recipe for a stellar career, but while I am citing insightful author/professors, let me throw in one more “G” for you to consider. Adam Grant, also at UPenn, pointed out in Give and Take that some of the most successful professionals in the world are givers; they are primarily focused on the needs of others.

Growth + Grit + Giver = Change the world

I don’t have the research to prove it, but my gut says that the people who radically change our world for the better combine all three of these traits. They build schools, attack poverty, and lead companies with a sense of purpose.

The most exciting part of these three traits is that they all are within your grasp. You can decide to adopt them. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, a genius or of “average” intelligence. If you set your mind to embrace this formula, you will change what you are capable of accomplishing. More importantly, you will change what others are capable of accomplishing.

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