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Chris DeMuth Jr.
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Chris DeMuth Jr. is the founder of Rangeley Capital LLC. Rangeley is an investment firm that focuses on event driven, value-oriented investment opportunities. Prior to founding Rangeley Capital, Mr. DeMuth spent his career as a securities analyst for several hedge funds and proprietary trading... More
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  • The Key To Success? Grit 16 comments
    Aug 30, 2013 2:45 PM

    Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. It is a characteristic that predicts better teachers and better students.

    The brilliant and lovely Angela Lee Duckworth explains grit as a predictor of success:

    When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching. I went to teach seventh graders math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades.

    What struck me was that I.Q. was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric I.Q. scores. Some of my smartest kids weren't doing so well.

    And that got me thinking. The kinds of things you need to learn in seventh grade math, sure, they're hard: ratios, decimals, the area of a parallelogram. But these concepts are not impossible, and I was firmly convinced that every one of my students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough.

    After several more years of teaching, I came to the conclusion that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective. In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is I.Q., but what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

    So I left the classroom, and I went to graduate school to become a psychologist. I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study my question was, who is successful here and why? My research team and I went to West Point Military Academy. We tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. We went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition. We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students? We partnered with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who's going to earn the most money? In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence. It wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't I.Q. It was grit.

    Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.

    A few years ago, I started studying grit in the Chicago public schools. I asked thousands of high school juniors to take grit questionnaires, and then waited around more than a year to see who would graduate. Turns out that grittier kids were significantly more likely to graduate, even when I matched them on every characteristic I could measure, things like family income, standardized achievement test scores, even how safe kids felt when they were at school. So it's not just at West Point or the National Spelling Bee that grit matters. It's also in school, especially for kids at risk for dropping out. To me, the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it. Every day, parents and teachers ask me, "How do I build grit in kids? What do I do to teach kids a solid work ethic? How do I keep them motivated for the long run?" The honest answer is, I don't know. (Laughter) What I do know is that talent doesn't make you gritty. Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

    So far, the best idea I've heard about building grit in kids is something called "growth mindset." This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they're much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don't believe that failure is a permanent condition.

    So growth mindset is a great idea for building grit. But we need more. And that's where I'm going to end my remarks, because that's where we are. That's the work that stands before us. We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we've been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.

    In other words, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.

    Thank you.

    Themes: success, grit
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Comments (16)
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  • Derek Munyan
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    I have this Calvin Coolidge quote on the wall in front of my desk.

     

    'Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.'
    30 Aug 2013, 03:43 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (7468) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Wonderful quote from my favorite 20th century American president. If you have not already done so, I cannot recommend the biography "Coolidge" (http://amzn.to/14eJpbB) by my friend Amity Shlaes highly enough.
    30 Aug 2013, 03:53 PM Reply Like
  • Derek Munyan
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    I just ordered the book. Truthfully I know nothing about Coolidge outside of that quote. I am excited to get the book. Thanks!
    30 Aug 2013, 03:59 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (7468) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » You're welcome. I hope that you like the book as much as I did.
    30 Aug 2013, 04:10 PM Reply Like
  • Derek Munyan
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    I am almost finished reading Economics in One Lesson based on your referral. That book has been excellent so far. thx
    30 Aug 2013, 04:17 PM Reply Like
  • SoCalNative
    , contributor
    Comments (610) | Send Message
     
    Hey Derek, I went to Amazon to check out the Econ in one day book based on Chris's referral to you and got it for the kindle. Rave reviews!
    30 Aug 2013, 04:25 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » I think that most public policy debate is answered within the pages of that book. When I hear a politician speak, I frequently think to myself, "oh, he never read Economics in One Lesson".
    30 Aug 2013, 04:26 PM Reply Like
  • SoCalNative
    , contributor
    Comments (610) | Send Message
     
    SELL GRIT!

     

    http://bit.ly/17sT5oW
    30 Aug 2013, 04:28 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (7468) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Ha! Nice. Thanks for the link.
    30 Aug 2013, 04:31 PM Reply Like
  • Derek Munyan
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    It should definitely be required reading for politicians. It is so basic and easy to understand too.
    30 Aug 2013, 04:29 PM Reply Like
  • sheldond
    , contributor
    Comments (1305) | Send Message
     
    Interesting....one of my main psychological areas of study was resilience and resiliency theory....

     

    Why do some people pick themselves up no matter what. What drives people to succeed regardless of their experience.

     

    Grit....toughness........

     

    Combine this with a modicum of intelligence....a little internal locus of control.....and a touch of luck and wala success.

     

    This is why so many successful entrepreneurs have failed numerous times yet still keep plugging away.

     

    Some people curl up in a ball and wallow in their failure and others just keep fighting oblivious of the beating that life is giving them.

     

    Most competitive athletes or gamesman understand the importance of the next play and the next game. If you get beat, learn from it and move on. Works for me.....and if you get the chance return the lesson to those that beat you do it all with a smile on your face :)

     

    If I lose and I learn....I really won
    just dont tell anyone
    They might not understand

     

    Best,
    D
    31 Aug 2013, 10:19 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » Exactly. Wonderful comment; thanks. -C
    1 Sep 2013, 02:34 AM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (433) | Send Message
     
    My brother is in undergrad trying to do well in difficult medical-related topics. I gave some advice to him pretty similar to this. I mentioned the psych studies on growth vs fixed mindset. I also talked about since I was a little kid I wanted to be a great scientist or engineer and so I constantly worked at improving at this regardless of what the external environment said (many of my classmates had scorn of me for being a geek). I told him about Buffett's inner scorecard and since I had wanted to be better at math, science, technology my whole life, I had no innate talent but these abilities may have appeared to come to me "easily" because I spent all my time thinking and working on them.

     

    My Mom told me when a door is shut, if that's what you want, find a way to get it open, or go around. My mental picture for my career has been to stick with what I enjoy and just slowly bulldoze everything out of my way. At the beginning of my Ph.D. I went through a divorce, failed my qualifying exams and almost got kicked out, but in that and other situations, always putting one foot in front of the other has worked for me.

     

    Probably the biggest benefits to me have been (1) mentors, (2) intrinsically enjoying what I do, (3) refusing to let the world turn me away from what I enjoy (stubbornness).
    1 Sep 2013, 12:24 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » Excellent. Sounds as if you lucked out with the family in terms of your Mom and brother. A related virtue is mirth -- mirth fits well with grit. Especially if you are applying grit to get through chemical engineering or something similarly rigorous it is helpful to enjoy the process, to have a light, mirthful way of getting through each hurdle but also being ready to start on the next. One cannot get too worked up about each step. I tutored kids in SAT prep when I was in high school and always reminded them that this was just the beginning, if they excelled, they would only be tested again and again and again so one should not get too anxious about it.

     

    I hope that my children get the benefits of the 1-3 that you listed above. I totally lucked out on all three. I had/have high quality mentors, love what I do, I would stop what I do only if physically dragged away.
    1 Sep 2013, 01:04 PM Reply Like
  • Derek Munyan
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    Connelly - my favorite part about your comment is the word 'bulldoze' I like using that word about overcoming problems/barriers etc.
    1 Sep 2013, 04:20 PM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (433) | Send Message
     
    Thanks Derek and Chris!

     

    Mirth sounds like a good thing. Even in investment I've already found HP, Deckers, and Ebix rather amusing.

     

    One other career rule I've used is (4) choose something in the intersection of what pays well and makes me intrinsically happy.

     

    For example, let's say I love music. Music is assumed to have terrible economics, but even here, there are careers such as sound engineer, programming sound software, audio researcher, that could be cool and pay 10x better than "musician." As a teenager I wanted to make computer games and am glad I steered clear of that high hours / low pay career.

     

    Seems obvious but somehow a lot of people screw up on either the intrinsically loving the work or the good economics axes, giving, respectively, legal and music careers ;-).
    1 Sep 2013, 10:40 PM Reply Like
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