The influence of IQ
In 1921, Dr. Lewis M. Terman, a Stanford University psychologist and avid supporter of the American eugenics movement identified 1,521 children from across Californian who came to be known as the ‘Termites’. It was Terman’s belief at the time that his Termites, who had scored above 135 on his then new IQ test, would become great leaders in society. For comparison’s sake, Albert Einstein’s IQ was 150. But instead, many of the ‘Termites’ did not accomplish anything of particular note, while candidates Terman overlooked such as William Shockley went on to win the Nobel prize.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell presents an analysis of why individuals who might have known great success fail to do so. Just as Terman concluded, Gladwell asserts that intelligence itself is not the only trait of successful people. This view is also mirrored by Angela Lee Duckworth who in 2013 gave a TED Talk on her experience as a teacher while observing that her smartest students were not necessarily those with the best results. She goes on to describe the trait that did appear to separate students, grit.
Grit 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 week, 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.
Neither suggests that intelligence does not play a role in an individual’s success, but rather that it has a threshold. Gladwell explains that above roughly 120, additional points may not be of much help. At this point, other factors become more important determinants of how successful one will become. While some are in our control, others are not, but working hard seems to be a good start as illustrated by this Chinese proverb.
No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make her family rich.