What makes people successful? It’s not a rhetorical question.
Is it some kind of inherent advantage? Is it privilege? Is it talent? Hard work? Having a good idea to begin with?
A new study of 11,258 cadets at West Point, conducted over 10 years, says it’s something else: “grit.”
Led by professors Amy Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Matthews of West Point itself, the study tried to determine the degree to which measures of three attributes —
- cognitive ability (smarts),
- physical ability (braun), and
- grit (defined in the study as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals of personal significance”) —
could predict whether a cadet would succeed or fail at the famously challenging academy.
The researchers found that grit was the most important attribute to predict whether cadets would make it through the initial 6-week West Point basic training known as Beast Barracks.
They also found that high levels of both grit and physical ability were both associated with whether the cadets went on to graduate from the academy four years later.
Perhaps most surprisingly, they found that while cognitive ability predicted higher academic and military grades, it was not also as associated with achieving the ultimate goal: graduating from the academy.
I know a little bit about West Point. I didn’t attend the academy, but I wrote a book about it. It’s a challenging, competitive place, and it’s full of high-achieving people.