Her basic premise is that grit (i.e., tenacity and diligence) is the best predictor of success. It may be a substantial predictor of success, but success is way too complicated to list one factor as “the one” that matters. Yes, I would rather work with moderately intelligent people with grit than highly intelligent people without it; but the colleagues and students that I really like are highly intelligent AND possess grit. I honestly don’t believe that Duckworth emphasizes this point enough. And the problem is, with the increasingly abundance of “analytics” (i.e., using statistical tools without knowing what they really do), we see more and more of these erroneous claims made.
I graded my first statistics exam this week, and 60% of the students missed the question on correlation and causation. This is a normal occurrence. Even though I repeatedly went over it in class (every day), the students still have this belief that just because there is a strong correlation, then it is a cause and effect relationship. The next time they see it on an exam, 90% will answer correctly, but when they leave my classroom, many will regress to their incorrect perceptions. The same is true of those who read Grit; they will walk away with the convection that hard work and endurance are the answer to all problems. As this young generation has heard all of their lives, “You can do anything you set your mind to do.” – I wish…
I believe the mind is an incredibly powerful tool, and we don’t use it enough; but (so far) it can’t change the laws of nature. A 90-year-old man can use his mind to contemplate being 20 again, but “it ain’t going to happen.” The same is true of a 20-something girl who stands five feet even and wants to play in the NBA – no amount of grit is going to “Git-R-Done.” Yes, it is good to have dreams and stretch goals, but they must also allow for the realities of the situation.
Duckworth makes a good argument and her assessment instrument probably has a very strong correlation to recognizing people who will be successful, but it is not 100%. There are those who will score high on her instrument, but not be successful; and there will be those who score low, but are still successful. Statistics, or analytics, are only accurate to a certain percentage of confidence. That is, we can reasonably predict what will happen in the future (better than most weather forecasters…), but we cannot do it with certainty, and neither can grit.