STEM Tuesday: Failure is Great for Success

New studies show that IQ is not enough; neither is EQ.  It takes Grit.  Grit is perseverance and resilience.  It’s not enough to be intelligent.  Grit isn’t even related to talent.

According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the best measure of success is something call Growth Mindset: the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, it can change as a result of effort.

I love that she began to recognize this while teaching 7th grade math in Chicago.  She says that ratios, areas and fractions are hard, but “these concepts are not impossible.” She believes all of her students are capable of learning these concepts. Then she noticed something interesting, IQ did not predict success. Find out what she discovered by watching this 6.5 minute video. (It’ll be even shorter, if you skip the movie trailer. –  I’m a sucker for trailers, so I watched the whole thing.)

Stanford University professor Carol Dweck, developed a learning strategy dubbed Brainology to teach kids grit. The program starts with a video of how the brain works like a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it gets.

For me, the most important thing about building grit is that making mistakes is part of the learning process. So is starting over and trying again. That’s how to develop grit.

English: Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997
English: Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[tweetthis]Grit gives people the ability to stay in it for the long-haul, to pick up and start again[/tweetthis]. Edison had grit, Curie had grit, Michael Jordan had grit.  Babies have grit.

[tweetthis]Perhaps we should remember how very long it took to learn to walk, and how much struggle and perseverance it took.[/tweetthis] From the time a baby first begins to stand, to the time she can walk steady is at least six months.  We all expect a toddler to fail, to fall, to get back up and try again. Considering that the average age to begin walking is 12 months, by the time she can walk with ease, she’s 18 months old.  That’s devoting 1/3 of her life to learning to walk.  That takes grit.

Learning to walk.
Learning to walk.

In my years of working in corporate management, I recognized a problem.  Even the smartest, most educated people have difficulty trying new things because they believe they will fail.  Of course, they will. That’s how everyone learns.  The pathway to success cobbled with failure.  I took that for granted because I learned it in little and big ways on my own journey: learning to hula-hoop, studying spelling words, working a Rubrics Cube, or holding a candy in my mouth without chewing.  Perseverance wins the day.


Duckworth teaches kids that frustration and mistakes are part of learning. According to Dwek:

Kids with a fixed mindset, who believe high-achievers are born, not made, don’t want to risk looking like a loser, so they run from challenge. But kids who believe success comes from effort are grittier and ultimately do best.

Or as Mom said, “You can do anything, just practice, practice, practice and don’t give up.” And then she left me alone to fall, get back up, and try again.