My new favorite word came from a keynote speech that I heard earlier this week at the Carnegie Foundation’s 2nd Summit on Improvement on Education. Angela Duckworth is a groundbreaking psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania who spoke on the topic of “grit” — the personality trait that allows you to persevere towards long-term goals.
I had heard of Angela Duckworth before, but I never heard her speak until this week. She was pretty amazing — smart, funny, personable. The woman sitting next to me remarked afterwards, “I feel like she could be my friend!”
She described her studies about West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee champions, and underserved students in Chicago. Angela (I’ll call her Angela because I feel like she could be my friend too) has figured out a way to measure grit. And it turns out that grittiness is a better predictor of success than intelligence or natural talent.
Grit matters. It’s the ability to show up, day-in and day-out, and work towards a long-term goal. So how do we cultivate grit? That’s the million dollar question.
Perhaps the answer might come from Finland. Within her remarks, Angela described of the concept of “Sisu” — which is a Finnish word that translates into “having guts.” It is deeply embedded in the culture and a source of national pride. It adorns flags and inspires people to get tattoos.
Sisu is grit. And by placing so much value on it, maybe the Finnish have the ticket to cultivating it. The story that Angela told was about little kids losing a sporting match, but remarking “at least my Sisu got stronger!”
I love the concept of Sisu. It touches me in the same way as the concept of Aloha. Both seem to be intangible, often discounted sources of strength that permeates a place and the people who live there. I often feel like the world would be a better place if it embraced the Aloha Spirit the same way that Hawai’i does. So I’m going to try to understand Sisu better too.
Trip to Finland, anyone?