loving life

What's More Important Than Intelligence?

12/09/2013,34 Comments

Something to remember: always start with an end in mind. Photo from jacquesvh.

I have already known that life doesn't end in the four corners of the classroom. Back when I was this rebellious teenager, I used to say that School is not my life. Life is my school. But apparently, how well you do in school contributes to 20% of your success in life. The remaining determinants to success fall on your performance in the work place, your determination and your choices.

I made sure that I agree with all of them before I posted them. Photo from quoteinfinite.

I am not that intelligent. I am aware that we have this thing called multiple intelligence and I used to consider myself as intelligent in the field of arts but apparently right now, I dunno. I think I am already below average on that aspect of life. My IQ, as what the online tests suggest, range from average to above average.

I did not perform well in college. I am fully aware of that, since I didn't want to become a nurse in the first place, I am not really called for this profession. Well now I'm here and there's nothing I can do. I might as well deal with it and face it.

I have learned to give up my dream to become a painter the hard way. I spent a year of my college life without a dream, without knowing what I wanna do with my life after I graduate. After a year of feeling like a walking zombie, I finally put myself together and developed a new dream. I wanna become a website developer. That is what I wanna study next.

I have seen this video provided from TED wherein psychologist Angela Lee Duckwood talks about the determinant of success. I have learned some and most just confirmed what I already know about life.



I have transcribed the discussion into words originally for my own reference. If you want to read it too, please feel free to do so.

When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching. I went to teach seventh graders Math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades. In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is I.Q., but what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

So I left the classroom, and I went to graduate school to become a psychologist. I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study my question was: who is successful here and why?

My research team and I went to West Port Military Academy. We tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out.


We went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition.

We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students?

We partnered with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who's gonna earn the most money?

In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged, as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence. It wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't I.Q.

It was grit.

Girt is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.

Grit is having stamina.

Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the weeks, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.

Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.

A few years ago, I started studying grit in the Chicago public schools. I asked thousands of high school juniors to take grit questionnaires, and then waited around for more than a year to see who would graduate.

Turns out that grittier kids were significantly more likely to graduate, even when I matched them on every characteristic I could measure. Things like family income, standardized achievement test scores, even how safe kids felt when they were at school. So it's not just at West Point or the National Spelling Bee that grit matters. It's also in school, especially for kids at risk for dropping out.

To me, the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it. Everyday, parents and teachers ask me,

"How do I build grit in kids? What do I do to to teach kids a solid work ethic? How do I keep them motivated for the long run?"

The honest answer is, I don't know.

What I do know is that talent doesn't make you gritty. Our data shows very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

So far, the best idea I've heard about building grit in kids is something called "growth mindset." This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort.

Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they're much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don't believe that failure is a permanent condition.

So growth mindset is a great idea for building grit. But we need more.

And that's when I'm gonna end my remarks because that's where we are. That's the work that stands before us. We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we've been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.

In other words, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier. Thank you.


This is such an excellent definition of success. This is exactly what I am chasing right now. Photo from dailyquotes.

I have to agree that the determinant of success is basically not how well you have performed in school or how good you are in analysis and memorization. It all boils down to attitude.

Your attitude towards success and what success means to you.

Some people define success as being hired in a job that offers steady income. Others define success as achieving the highest award at school. Some view success as finally starting up a family.

I am not saying that the definitions I have mentioned above are wrong. People have different views on success but in order to be successful in LIFE as a whole, not just for a month or for a year, we must establish long term goals. Long term goals are goals that run through a decade or even longer.

If you think you are already successful if you've been hired in a job with a steady income, think about how you are going to actually keep the job for yourself. If you have achieved the highest award at school, think about how you are going to perform outside the confines of the university. If you have finally built up a family of your own, think about how you are going to suffice their needs holistically.

And just like what the quote says, successful people never worry about what others are doing. If others are doing better than you, then don't look at them. You have your own record to break. If they are saying bad things about you, allow them. It means that they are behind you and always will be.

I personally have had enough of dealing with people like them and I already grew tired trying to be the one to patch things up. I am not a superhero. But thanks to these kind of people, I have gained some dignity for myself.

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34 comments:

  1. Great post! I myself was never an ambitious person, i pretty much cruise through life. I once had a dream of becoming a fashion designer, that didn't really happen but i once owned a successful fashion boutique for many years that i gave up for a better business opportunity once i got married and have a son. I don't consider myself as a successful person just yet (as in-not quite a billionaire yet *LOL*), but i sure feel contend and more importantly-profoundly happy with my life right now. I've never feel happier ever, and that for me, is success itself

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    1. Hi Mindy! Life really tricks us into doing things and decisions we never thought several years back that we'd actually do or choose. Success really depends on the person. I'm happy that you feel successful in your endeavors. Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

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  2. I did perfectly at school but life was my real teacher. It turned out that my knowledge is only theoretical, not practical, so at first I didn't fit in at all. I agree with you completely.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Vanessa! A person's success in life isn't really determined by how well he/she performed at school. There are lots of other determinants to success and one of which is the common "never give up." Because the fight, no matter how hard, is not over until you do [give up]. :)

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  3. an awesome post from you indeed,in our chilhood parents taught us to learn,to be intelligent.but if you are passionate about something then you can surely achieve your goal no matter you are enough intelligent or not.

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    1. That's right! As long as you have the right attitude, you can be anyone you want to be. Everything else follows! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

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  4. I still treat my life as school. There's too much competition going on so even if I don't get a score in each test, my attitude should stay as persevering so success may be insured.

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    1. Indeed. Attitude is MORE important than intelligence. Thanks for sharing your comment Rochkirstin. :)

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  5. The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength or not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” my husband always reading a lots of books about how to be a successful person it is more on attitude for you to become successful person indeed ..

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    1. Thanks for sharing about your view on success Laarnie! Will is about your courage to pursue success. So it's basically part of attitude too. :)

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  6. I don't think you need to be intelligent to be successful, but it maybe a factor. I agree that we have our own definition of success so we don't need to compare ourselves to others. I may say I am already successful but others who don't have the same definition as I have may think I still haven't achieved success.

    After reading the whole blogpost, I thought, maybe right, that it all ends to attitude. Good attitude can bring us to where we want or need to be. But of course it should be accompanied with passion and determination.

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    1. Attitude is definitely the key to become successful because if you have the right attitude, everything else follows. Thank you for dropping by Mei! :)

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  7. It's never too late to start what you dreamed of before, find a new one that inspires you.

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    1. Nice piece of advice Fernando! Thanks for sharing! :)

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  8. These are great thoughts you have here. I always enjoy long explanations such as this especially coming from a psychologist. :)

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    1. You're right Roch! I was so focused the first time that I watched the video. That's one credible person. I love TED's speakers! They're so inspirational! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

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  9. you don't always need to be intelligent to get success but yes it helps.

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    1. It sure does, Michelle. Thanks for dropping by! :)

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  10. Interesting post. Have you read Robert Kiyosaki's Why A Students work for C students? I have seen so many parents impose on their children (insisting on enrolling them in school and expecting them to write and read and the kid is just 2!). Learning comes through various forms, like play :)

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    1. Really? That's terrible! Poor kids. Those parents are definitely uptight. I agree with you that learning comes in different forms. Besides, children of young age don't only benefit from play by learning how to count or recognize pictures and colors. They also get to develop their social skills. And now that you've mentioned it, I gotta look for that book! I have read other books written by Kiyosaki but haven't seen that one yet. :) Thanks for sharing your helpful comment Marissa! :)

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  11. very inspiring! Its true that you learn most in real life experience but it is education that will help you prepare in facing the struggles ahead.

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    1. Hi there! Yes yes, education can help prepare you for future struggles but it still depends on you - on your attitude. Thank you for your comment. :)

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  12. If you ask me there are a lot of things more important than Intelligence like that Drive that we have. Drive is the most important decision that you make on a daily basis is quite simply what your perspective on things will be. This choice will determine your actions, feelings, success and overall flow of that very day. In order to get the most out of life, especially within your place of work, you must develop an optimistic view of things.

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    1. Thank you for your wise inputs Leira! And yes, drive is really important too, like you've said! :)

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  13. I think being smart and having a nice attitude is more important than intelligence because life is not how we analyze it, it's how we react to it.

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    1. Well said Frank! I agree with you! Thanks for sharing your comment on this post! :)

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  14. This is very inspiring! i actually a subscriber of Ted on YouTube, If only i could turn back old days i would definitely reading my books everyday! Great post!

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    1. Hi Richard! It's alright, it's never too late to learn new things. I hope you're not only talking about your textbooks in your comment, because there are lots of ways to acquire knowledge and skills. Besides, it's your attitude and will to learn and be successful that counts. Thanks for sharing your opinion on this matter! And yea! TED's amazing! :)

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  15. Most failures in school are the ones who usually gets to be successful so I don't buy it when people say intelligence is important. Sometimes, it depends on your view in life, your attitude and what you want to achieve - not everything is by the book or brain.

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    1. You're right Aisha! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

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  16. It's not yet too late. Go and pursue your own dream. Only you can help yourself.

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    1. True that! Thanks for dropping by Irish! :)

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  17. Love this post! Very motivational. I consider myself successful but yes, I'm still working on how to keep or even reach and do more in life. Thanks for sharing this post. And those people "people talk behind your back, they are behind you for a reason" my favorite quote :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your favorite quote Genzel! :)

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