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Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck are both extremely intelligent professors of psychology that have seemed to gain a recent common interest: success. More specifically, what led to students becoming successful in their endeavors as opposed to giving up. In their respective books, Grit and Mindsets, both women write about two similar theories that may account for this rate of success; Duckworth claims that students must be “gritty” and persevere for long term goals, whereas Dweck writes that success comes from those who have a “growth mindset” and believe their intelligence and abilities can always grow to do better. Both women claim that talent plays hardly any role in success, and that achievement is due entirely to effort. However, as nice as the two theories may seem, they both hold faults. Logically, both concepts make sense, and most people would want to believe them to be true, but in today’s practice, just having some grit and a growth mindset do not lead to immediate success.
The idea of having grit and a growth mindset is appealing to the majority of the public for many reasons. For one, they are both still fairly new concepts, which is something people love to cling to and test out to see the effectiveness of. For another, the world is finally able to put a name to what leads to success. Not being able to say why one student ends up more successful than another is frustrating, so of course being able to claim the more successful person was grittier or had a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed one is a nice concept to have. However, that does not mean these concepts are applicable to everyone. For instance, in her book Mindsets, Carol Dweck is saying those with a growth mindset “could turn failure into a gift” (Dweck 4). She claims that these students are always learning, and their intelligence is not summed up by a grade. Contrary to her words, schools in America – the country where ideas like grit and mindsets are most prominent – go completely against this idea. Each student is summed up by their individual GPAs. Instead of letting a student redo a test or assignment they have failed at once, “we grade using an ‘F’ for failure when we should be using a ‘Not There Yet’ and allowing them to keep trying” (Mizerny par 7). This type of practice does not encourage students to have the growth mindset to try again, but rather that their intelligence and mindsets are fixed from that single assessment. Schools also “encourage speed and competition rather than thoughtfulness and collaboration” (Mizerny par 10). It is highly expected for students to do something right the first time instead of allowing them multiple attempts to better learn the material and encourage their growth. Dweck writes that “you can change your mindset,” but this is nearly impossible to do when you are stunting your own mind’s growth by failing without even being able to try again (Dweck 14).
According to Dweck, and to an even greater extent Duckworth, effort comes above talent no matter what. Duckworth’s whole thesis in her novel is that “talent is no guarantee of grit” and “what matters is grit” (Duckworth 10). By her reasoning, “we would all have the capacity to be Olympic athletes if we just put our minds to it” (Mizerny par 23). Perseverance alone can only lead to success with the aid of encouragement from others. Just as Duckworth mentions in her novel, “aptitude did not guarantee achievement,” effort with no skill does not guarantee achievement either (Duckworth 17). There are also plenty of examples in the media of successful actors, musicians, and many others that got to where they are now based on talent more so than effort. Though it is ideal to imagine anyone who puts in enough hard work will achieve anything they can dream of, it is not realistic. This, of course, does not mean that effort is pointless. Without effort put forth, it is even harder to become successful in life.
It is really quite impossible to weigh out a person’s perseverance in the face of failure and say whether or not they will live a successful life or not. For example, someone with a growth mindset can have no grit; they may believe they can do better, but not follow through on the thought. Just the same, someone with a fixed mindset can believe they’re incapable of doing better after failing, but they may have enough grit to push through and succeed in the end. The steps to success are much more than having the right mindset and being able to take failure in stride. Just the same as anything else, success has many, many variables that cannot all be accounted by a person. One would have to consider every aspect of a person’s life in order to guess if they will end up successful. Even then, it is only a guess. Grit and growth or fixed mindsets are not an infalliable way to determine who will be successful.
Though Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck both make very intriguing points in their respective books about grit and mindsets, their theories do not hold up to be as true as one might hope. Everyone wants success to be something they can teach, but it is a simple matter of just doing what you can and hoping for the best. Having grit and a growth mindset are both good qualities in a person that may assist them in achieving great success one day, but it does not guarantee anything.
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