Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My speech to the class of 2014

I want to talk today about the significance of grit.  Grit is the quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long term passions and goals. 

I encourage you to reflect on your passions and what you want to accomplish in life from this day forward.  It is extremely important that you are passionate in whatever line of work you enter.  That is what will drive you towards personal and professional success. 
I am very interested in understanding how some students make it in life when they have everything stacked up against them.  What is that allows students with every at risk factor to succeed?

Angela Lee Duckworth is a researcher and has been conducting ground breaking studies on grit.  Grit is optimism. To be gritty is to be resilient in the face of failure or adversity.  So when times get tough, which they will, or they have already – How do you respond? When you are gritty you respond with optimism - the belief that if I work hard I can get through this tough patch. 

According to Duckworth grit is also about having consistent interests – and focused passions over time. 

Duckworth studied the relationship between grit and high achievement at West Point Military Academy.  She compared the Whole Candidate Score which included the SAT, class rank, leadership ability and physical aptitude in their short questionnaire on grit.  They found that the Whole Candidate Score which was the Army's predictor of success had no relation on whether a candidate would complete the program.  You see it wasn't about test scores, it was about how resilient the person was.

Grit predicts success over and beyond talent. 

It isn't talent that causes success, although it does help.  It is resiliency that is the greatest predictor of success for kids.  How many of us know people that were the most talented people in the world, but falter in life?

What about talent?  Can talent alone bring success without grit? According to Duckworth grit and talent either aren’t related at all or are actually inversely related.  In terms of academics – if you’re just trying to get an A or trying to get to some threshold and you’re really talented you may only do homework for a few minutes.  You get to a certain level of proficiency – then you stop – so you actually work less hard. 

Think about this if you are a talented individual.  If you are really good at something do you stop when you have reached a certain level? Push yourself! It is the people that are talented and gritty at the same time that push the boundaries of success. 

People who can set long-term goals and stick to them have a leg up on success in school and life. 

The sky is the limit for all of you sitting out there.  I can promise you that success doesn’t come easy and there will be plenty of ups and downs on your journey in life.  Don’t be afraid to fail – embrace it and learn from it!

As parents and educators we need to instill the attitude of "I can get better if I try harder" in our kids.  Encourage them to be resilient and help them to understand that failure is not the end of the world. Failure is an option, and helps us to become resilient.  

To wrapup I will finish with the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” 

“You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!” 

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