If you’re working at a job you dreamed about as a child, consider yourself fortunate. Many high school students struggle to identify their areas of interest. They attend college because everyone else does and graduate with history or philosophy degrees that are fairly useless in the real world.

A four-year college education is no longer an automatic ticket to success. Advanced degrees – and additional financial obligations – often are required in certain fields. But what if you don’t know which direction you’re headed? What if you’re no closer to choosing a profession than you were before going off to college?


In 2013, former middle school teacher turned psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth gave an excellent TED presentation, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, that focused on the value of commitment and drive. IQ scores and GPA’s are important metrics, but provide little insight into a person’s self-will. Discipline and motivation have enabled countless individuals – some quite famous – to achieve remarkable success even though they may not be as talented or intellectually gifted as the next guy.

Did you know that Walt Disney and John D. Rockerfeller were high school dropouts, Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame never completed elementary school and F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of our greatest writers, was a notoriously poor speller?

“The most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it,” Duckworth says.

In a recent article she wrote for The New York Times, Duckworth addressed the problems facing college graduates in search of passion and inspiration. You have to start somewhere, she points out. Don’t look at your first job as a final destination. The path to professional satisfaction is typically fraught with unusual twists and unexpected challenges. You often move closer to your goals through experimentation and process of elimination – discovering those things you definitely are not interested in.

Duckworth’s research indicates that people who seek meaning and purpose in life tend to more quickly find their calling. Defining your core values – what you want in a career and whether forging positive relationships and helping to make the world a better place is a priority – allows you to pursue certain avenues. Once you’ve decided on your path, you can then apply the principles of hard work to achieve your objectives.

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” says Duckworth. “Grit is having stamina.”

And vowing to never give up.

 Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Lee Duckworth
TED Conferences LLC, 2013

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