Now Reading: The source of success, Brainpickings, Miley Cyrus, writer’s block

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Is grit the true source of success?

Maria Popova, the brain behind the fantastic, has a post up on Angela Duckworth, a psychologist who has earned praise, and a 2013 MacArthur genius grant, for her work on understanding the effects of self-control and grit on success.

Duckworth has a wide range of professional experience, from teaching to working in the White House speechwriting office to management consulting, but it was her work in a PhD program at Penn that has become most noteworthy. Beginning in 2002, Duckworth focused her graduate work on studying the effects of self-discipline on students’ academic success, and she found that self-discipline scores were a more accurate predictor of academic success than IQ scores.

She decided that there are two important ingredients to success in anything – motivation and volition – and a person needed both. If a student lacked motivation, she concluded, than the “self-control” tactics she was teaching would be almost worthless.

What a student really needed was grit – the ability to sustain effort over a long period of time in pursuit of a long-term goal. If a student had grit, Duckworth theorized, then they were in a more advantageous position to succeed than a high-IQ student who lacked this intangible.

To test this, Duckworth and a colleague developed a 12-question “grit test” that was designed to essentially gauge how well individuals sustain effort on a singular task. They tried the test on different samples, with the most revealing being 1,200 West Point freshmen before beginning their grueling summer training.

West Point had its own seemingly more sophisticated and thorough test to project which cadets were most likely to survive the summer training, but Duckworth’s “grit test” proved to be much more effective than the exam the military devoted an unknown amount of hours to creating and administering.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, it’s simple: Yes, talent is necessary and invaluable, but strong commitment and sustained effort are the dual engines that drive achievement. Talent might dictate potential, but it becomes a depreciating asset if not leveraged to hammer away at a goal, day after day.

Glad Maria posted that blog – give it a read. It’s something we all, regardless of profession, can benefit from.

Another Brainpickings link, just because

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

Use that however you wish. I see a direct connection to what we just read above, about grit and sustained effort and success.

Behind the craziness of Miley Cyrus

I don’t have any real knowledge of Miley Cyrus – I don’t listen to her music or consume her work in any form. All I know is that she pissed people off at the VMAs and seems (to put it nicely) sort of strange.

But I came across this Josh Eells profile of the singer in Rolling Stone and wanted to share it, because it’s really well done. Eells has incredible access and does what a good writer should do when blessed with those circumstances: let the scenes carry the piece.

Instead of perpetuating the maybe true, almost surely embellished narratives that become spun tighter with every blog post and salacious story, Eells allows us to actually witness Cyrus the person. And that’s exactly how she comes across – a wild, harmless and fun-loving artist. I don’t have any opinion of Miley after reading this either. I’m not suddenly going to follow her career anymore closely.

But I found her to be an interesting character and this piece to be a true representation of this mega-star. That’s credit to Eells reporting and his storytelling control. Good read.

Malcolm Gladwell on writer’s block

This isn’t a full story, just a quote I ran across. But it’s prescient and, who knows, might be stated a little differently than anything you’ve heard and help you overcome your own block.

The quote:

I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent – and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is to never sit down and imagine you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.

Email: Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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