"Each year in their junior year of high school, more than 14,000 applicants begin the admissions process. This pool is winnowed to just 4,000 who succeed in getting the required nomination. Slightly more than half of those applicants---about 2,500---meet West Point’s rigorous academic and physical standards, and from that select group just 1,200 are admitted and enrolled. Nearly all the men and women who come to West Point were varsity athletes; most were team captains. And yet, one in five cadets will drop out before graduation. What’s more remarkable is that, historically, a substantial fraction of dropouts leave in their very first summer, during an intensive seven-week training program named, even in official literature, Beast Barracks. Or, for short, just Beast.
Who spends two years trying to get into a place and then drops out in the first two months?”
Who makes it through Beast? Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit, set out to answer this question. She describes in her book how many psychologists tried to develop tests to determine who would stay and who would leave. None of the tests had a correlation with those who would drop out.
Angela continues, “Soon after learning about Beast, I found my way to the office of Mike Matthews, a military psychologist who’s been a West Point faculty member for years. Mike explained that the West Point admissions process successfully identified men and women who had the potential to thrive there. In particular, admissions staff calculate for each applicant something called the Whole Candidate Score, a weighted average of SAT or ACT exam scores, high school rank adjusted for the number of students in the applicant’s graduating class, expert appraisals of leadership potential, and performance on objective measures of physical fitness. …In other words, it’s an estimate of how easily cadets will master the many skills required of a military leader.
The Whole Candidate Score is the single most important factor in West Point admissions, and yet it didn’t reliably predict who would make it through Beast. In fact, cadets with the highest Whole Candidate Scores were just as likely to drop out as those with the lowest.”
Angela began interviewing individuals that were highly successful in business, arts, athletics, etc., to determine what made them unique. She discovered that what set them apart was that they keep going after failure, especially when it is not easy. “Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring. In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful (have) a kind of ferocious determination that (plays) out in two ways. First these exemplars were unusually resilient and hard working. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit."
(Duckworth, 2016, p. 3-8)
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