Hard work often gets the short shrift when it comes to explaining someone’s success. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, we love to romanticize achievement, as though raw talent and something we call “genius” are the real determining qualities of accomplishment. Named a MacArthur fellow, and given what is colloquially known as a “genius grant,” Angela Duckworth has personal stakes in how we understand success.
Not only because the title of “genius” was bestowed upon her, but because her life experiences figure prominently in how she came to understand “grit,” and how it can help us to overcome obstacles and find meaning in our lives. In this discussion with New Yorker contributor Maria Konnikova, Duckworth discusses her own ambitions which, though fierce, were rudderless through her twenties.
Duckworth realized that hard work without direction would not ultimately lead to real lifelong achievement — the kind she craved, and the kind she wished for everyone to find. She realized that finding passion — an essential part of grit — was more difficult than finding the determination to work hard. Her conversation with Konnikova reveals a human portrait of grit as well as the scientific findings which underpin her important work.