Sometimes it’s not how good you are at something. Many times people succeed just because they persevere.
Maureen Downey, the education columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, spoke to journalist Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.” He says that that characteristics of persistence, self-control, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence may contribute more to a child’s success – no matter the background – than just learning words and numbers.
Downey goes on to describe research done on kids who graduated from the KIPP program in The Bronx, N.Y. Many of the kids in that program graduated middle school, high school and went off to college. They’d earned the highest test scores of any Bronx students and the fifth-highest scores in New York City in 2003. Downey quotes Tough, who cites KIPP co-founder David Levin.
Yet, only 21 percent of those young achievers earned a college degree. What happened? It appears, Downey quotes Tough, that the students who succeeded showed the greatest optimism, were able to recover from setbacks, didn’t let a bad grade destroy them and would seek extra help from professors. They would turn down going to a movie to spend the time studying.
Many educators have said that it’s the parents’ job to instill character in a student. Educators in the past have focused heavily on making students feel good about themselves (self-esteem), and some students have learned that just showing up deserves reward. As an aside, showing up on time is a big part of a success routine, but it should be expected.
Some parents have been overly concerned about protecting students from harm, and bailing them out when they get in trouble. We’ve seen that attitude follow them into adulthood. Do you know a 30-year-old who still leans on his parents to survive? Is that behavior natural, or was it carefully taught?
Tough seems to want to get kids away from the feel-good attitudes. He believes they should experience adversity, and learn to find ways out of it. They should learn gratitude, generosity and social agility. Do you know someone who won’t go to something that could benefit them, because they have a negative opinion of the people who might be there?
Do you know someone who will never turn down a chance to have a good time, even though their time could be better spent at more constructive activities? Do you know someone who won’t look at something that could really benefit them, because they are not the least bit curious?
Sometimes resiliency is more valuable to a student than self-esteem. Most resilient students already feel good about themselves, and know that success is up to them. Combine that with generosity, gratitude and the desire to help others succeed and you’ll have someone who WILL succeed as an adult.
So, it may not be just math and reading that students need to learn. They must combine what they learn with character attributes that will maximize what they’ve learned. To paraphrase Wendy Kinney, director of Power Core, a close-contact business networking organization, each business person can identify a person in his field to whose skills they aspire, but has a less successful business. At the same time, each business person can identify a person in his field who should never get referrals, but has a bigger business. How one markets himself makes the difference.
Related to that, most people can identify a person who started what should have been a great business, but didn’t have the grit to stay with it long enough to make it succeed. Perhaps, had they been taught the virtues of character in school, the result may have been different.
Do you have grit? Can you take a punch, get up and keep fighting? Are you looking for the best way to apply that grit to be the most successful? Do you want to help others succeed with you? If so, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. It’s one vehicle that can help the gritty person become successful, no matter the education.
The more resilient, gritty, optimistic and generous people we have in this world, the better our world will be. Do you want to be part of the gritty solution, or be the grit that clogs the works? If you don’t see yourself as gritty, but wish you were, you can learn to change.