Ultraviolet Keynote Sessions: Angela Duckworth
Intro: Welcome to the In The Clouds Podcast. In The Clouds is a marketing cloud podcast powered by Lev, the most influential marketing- focused Salesforce consultancy in the world. Lev is customer experience obsessed, and podcast hosts Bobby Tichy and Cole Fisher have partnered with some of the world's most well- known brands to help them master meaningful one- on- one connection with their customers. In this podcast, they'll combine strategy and deep technical expertise to share best practices, how- tos, and real life use cases and solutions for the world's top brands using Salesforce products today.
Bobby Tichy: Welcome to the In The Clouds Podcast. This is Bobby Tichy, along with Cole Fisher. Cole, do you know Angela Duckworth?
Cole Fisher: I definitely do. Especially after, if you've listened to the Ultraviolet breakout session keynote speaker.
Bobby Tichy: Well, if you didn't, you're about to listen to it. So for those of you who don't know, Angela Duckworth is a psychologist and bestselling author of the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. And I think I may have mentioned this to you before, Cole, but the way I read books is I typically read about half of them and then I don't really read the rest of them, and this was one of the books that I read the whole thing, and it was a great book. I really did read it.
Cole Fisher: I was going to say, the reason you put books down is because you don't have the grit to really finish out with them.
Bobby Tichy: Oh man, that was a low blow.
Cole Fisher: But you'll learn about that from Angela here.
Bobby Tichy: Exactly. Maybe it was the book and the topic of the book that got me through the whole thing.
Cole Fisher: I actually took a course mostly on grit in some of the psychological, similar traits and factors at grit. It's super exciting stuff. So really interesting session with Angela Duckworth.
Bobby Tichy: Yeah. And she sits down with Holly Enneking, Lev's VP of marketing. Just a little bit more background about Angela. In a lot of her research and a lot of what the book is about, she reveals the importance of character to succeed in life. And she's pioneered a lot of this work on grit and self- control and how a lot of these characteristics are obviously in high demand regardless of the industry or the position that you're in, but it can also really help cultivate character in ourselves and those around us. So I hope you guys enjoy this session from Ultraviolet, Lev's first user conference back in April, 2021, with Angela Duckworth and Holly Enneking.
Holly Enneking: I'm really excited to be kicking things off with a conversation all around the concept of grit and what that can mean for marketers. I'm honored to be joined today by the psychologist and bestselling author, Angela Duckworth, who wrote the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Now, in her late 20s, Angela left a demanding job as a management consultant to teach math to seventh graders in New York City public schools. Several years in the classroom taught her that effort was tremendously important to success. To begin to solve the mystery of why some people work so much harder and longer than others, Angela entered a PhD program in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania where she is now a professor. She was also the 2013 MacArthur Fellow and founder and CEO of Character Lab. Angela, thank you so much for joining us today.
Angela Duckworth: Holly, as you know, I'm looking forward to this conversation. Thank you for having me at Ultraviolet and welcoming me to the Lev community.
Holly Enneking: Yes, we're so glad to have you here. Now, I have something around a million questions that I'd like to ask, but obviously we only have so much time. I think we should start right at the top. I'd love to hear a little bit more about how your research around grit came to be.
Angela Duckworth: I had this family, and my dad in particular was so obsessed with achievement, and it's all he talked about. He thought a lot about his own achievement and his lack of achievement sometimes, and the same for his children. And I think that growing up in a family like that, you have to think, " Well, what am I going to achieve? What's going to happen to me? How successful will I be?" So, often, my dad would talk about talent in the sense of being intelligent and gifted and everything comes easy, and he had his heroes who he thought were geniuses. And I thought, " Wow what about me?" Because my dad would tell me outright that I was no genius. So I grew up to become a psychologist to study everything that my dad didn't talk about, effort, and also passion, having something that you care about that you're actually voluntarily thinking about it all the time. And so grit is something that I've come to see as a common denominator of high achievers across all performance domains. So yes, Olympics, yes, Nobel prizes, but also visionary CEOs and leaders, civic activists, and more. If you ask the question like, " What is grit and why is it important?" I'll say, it is the nature of a challenge that it takes a long time, and what grit is passion and perseverance over extended time periods, so not just days or weeks, but more like months, years, and longer, decades, to try to do something very, very challenging. And I think that's both what grit is, passion and perseverance for long- term goals, but also a partial answer at least to why it's so important. I just think it's the nature of human achievement that if it were easy, and we all know this and this comes up, somebody would have done it by now. So what's left is the hard stuff.
Holly Enneking: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I think is really great in the book is that you created this grit scale where someone can assess where they fall in their own grittiness. But then also what I think is really fascinating is that it can change over time. So you may be at one place on the scale now, and you may be at one place on the scale at another point in your life. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed the scale and how it can be used and why you might change where you land in it?
Angela Duckworth: When I first started out doing this research, I just did the common sense thing. I hadn't been a McKinsey consultant and I hadn't been trained as a PhD scientist yet, but I was like, "Just talk to people and talk to people who are exemplars." It seemed intuitive and that's what I did. So I'd call up people who had won awards in their domain, who were recognized as world- class, and the grit scale is simply a distillation of the observations of those award- winning Olympic athletes and so forth about themselves, and in particular, and here's an interview tip in case you want to do this, you need to ask people about other people they admire because humility and self- deprecation are not great for an interview when you really want to know what makes somebody special. But when you ask a Nobel laureate to describe their favorite Nobel laureates, they're very forthcoming. And so items on the grit scale, like I'm a hard worker and especially hard worker, people would say that about me, or that I finish what I begin, or that my interests tend to be in some ways, there's a consistency or a through- line over years, I'm pointing in the same direction, I'm not walking away from problems and starting new ones all the time. Those are the items on the grit scale. And I would say exactly to your point that, not only can I say that your grit scale score can change, maybe you're a 4.1 today, but that doesn't mean that you'll be a 4.1 forever. But I can tell you affirmatively that one of the big discoveries in psychological science over the last couple of decades is that personality and character, which people think of as fixed, like, " I'm an extrovert. I'm an introvert. I'm a pretty messy person. I'm really tidy." These things actually change, and they change over the entire life course. So there's never a point in time where you can say like, " Oh, I'm fixed this is like who I am."
Holly Enneking: Yeah. I think that goes so well with the point of perseverance, as far as sticking with something you absolutely have the power to change in and can impact it over time. I feel I would characterize myself as an introvert, but I can push myself into those extroversions, which means I'm not fixed in it, which I think is really insightful. The other thing that I think is really great about your comment that you made around asking other people who they're interested in. One of the things I really felt in your book was this spirit of collaboration in the research that you were doing. You were pulling research from a lot of other existing research studies that were underway or people who had different ideas in the field you were looking at, even competing ideas sometimes. I'd love to hear a little bit more about that spirit of collaboration in the work and what that might be for grit too.
Angela Duckworth: People have different ways to work and collaborate. I find that people who are best at what they do, and I just sidle up to them and I ask them to work with me. And it's for that reason that I have collaborations with people who I think are actually just better than me, like, " Oh, you're a better statistician, can we work together? You're better at personality psychology, can we work together?" I think I'll just say, relative to... I mean, you just said about like, oh, you consider yourself an introvert, but then there are times where you can be more extroverted. Just yesterday. I was talking to somebody who's better than me at personality psychology, his name is Brent Roberts, and he's I guess maybe the most famous personality psychologist working today, he's at University of Illinois, Champaign- Urbana and here's what he would, I think, want to tell you, which is that when we, Brent and I, say that like your personality, your character, your grit has some plasticity to it, we don't want to say like, " Oh, you're going to wake up tomorrow and who knows, it could be a totally different person." There's some stability and there are reasons why people are the way they are that are genetic and there are early childhood influences that have... So we're not saying like you wake up every day, you're totally a new human being, but the point is, and I think especially this point needs to be made, that especially when you don't like something about yourself, you're like, " I really wish I were a little more," fill in the blank, gritty, self- controlled, curious, grateful, empathic, especially when those things are things where you're like, " I would like to titrate this or calibrate it." Research is increasingly showing that it is not only possible, it is possible to do intentionally. And I think that's what this conversation is all about, because if more about grit, for example, then that should give you an edge. It's like a user's manual. You want to change it, oh, here's the inside scoop on what it really is and how it works.
Holly Enneking: Yeah. That's really interesting. One of the things that I was going to bring up later on but I think it makes sense right now is that, for example, I do not love public speaking, there's something that makes me really nervous, but-
Angela Duckworth: Really?
Holly Enneking: Oh gosh, no.
Angela Duckworth: Because I think you're really good at it.
Holly Enneking: Thank you. Well, I'd like to get better at it. And so having an opportunity like this is really a gift for me to really push myself in that way. But at the same time, there's a certain amount of stress that comes with pushing yourself out of that comfort zone and to find ways to grow. Do you have any advice for how you find a balance between pushing yourself and leaning into that perseverance, but also managing the stress that comes with really being outside of your comfort zone?
Angela Duckworth: First I should say that I don't think any of us are at least morally obligated to change everything. And even actually, when you think about things like grit or public speaking, whatever, these are not really moral aspects of your character. Look, if you had an honesty problem, I'd be like, " Look, let's work on this, even if you don't want to," or if you weren't kind, but we're talking about grit, public speaking, leadership. I think those are things where if you want to, then let's talk about advice. So the first thing to say, " I don't think any of us is morally obligated to work on traits that are not inherently moral in character." Now, thinking about grit, and you could apply extensions, think of public speaking or other roles where you're like, " I might have a desire, but there's a little bit of ambivalence because I'm maybe a natural lean is the other way or there are things I like about it, but things that I don't like about it." I think you're doing the most important thing, which is that you're noticing. There's a pattern that I see with people who are very successful and happy, which is that they are metacognitively noticing themselves. They will like, for example, I'll just speak of myself, I will lose my temper. I have actually not a great temper, and I will even lose my temper, I'm embarrassed to say, with my own children. If there were ever a reality TV show where they had like 24/ 7 footage, I'm sure I would cringe to see like, " Whoa, did I really like that to my teenage daughter when she left her coffee cup on the white counter? That's horrible." But, to my own benefit, I will say, I noticed that. And to notice that you lost your temper and to notice that you wish you hadn't. So when you even say like I noticed that I wanted to do public speaking and yet there's something," that's step number one. And the last thing I'll say is, once having noticed that, sometimes you notice an ambivalence and you actually let go of a goal. Sometimes what happens is you say, " You know what, I don't want to go to medical school anyway." And that's a healthy clarity to have, and sometimes clarity means not proceeding. Other times it means, " I recognize the ambivalence, I understand why, and am I am proceeding." And I think just the noticing and owning the ambivalence and being like, " Oh, I see why I have mixed feelings, but no, I really do want to sign up to be the leader in this next project," then at least with that clarity and that kind of noticing, I do think that it makes it easier to manage the conflict. And so much of human suffering, I think is unnoticed human conflict, you have ambivalence, but you didn't take enough time to mindfully own it and look at it. And so you're just having this low level stress without actually having a chance to move forward in a productive way.
Holly Enneking: That makes so much sense. And it goes back to one of the other points that you make in the book around some of the goal setting of focusing in on the goals you want, that if you sit down and really map out all the things you want to achieve, it's probably a pretty long list and being able to narrow it down and then break it down into those pieces and parts was an exercise that I undertook after reading the book, and I would say it was very challenging and I think some-
Angela Duckworth: Hard.
Holly Enneking: And I think what you said in the book too was that, there ended up being so many more than you anticipated, and then really focusing in them was challenging, but beneficial of giving you that focus.
Angela Duckworth: Ambitious people, especially, I think, we want to do so much and we want a long list of professional things to happen. And then also you're like, "I want to be healthy, I want eat well, I want have good relationships. And I want to talk to my best friend from high school. Well, of course I want to have a good romantic relationship." And I do think what this challenging exercise demands that you do is to say yes to some things and then to say no to others. I personally find that really difficult. I think there's no magic to get around the fact that we each have 168 hours in the week. Whether you have$ 20 billion to your name or two cents, whatever position you have at love, in mind, we all have 168 hours, and that's not a lot of hours actually. So this prioritizing exercise of, write down all the things that you want and then... My recommendation is, you can do this with numbers as a kind of Ben Franklin way of doing things, or not if you don't want to. But if you could assign a number of zero to 10, how interesting is this? How important is it? Zero to 10, and you can multiply, you can add, but at least it gives you some way to start rank ordering, and you will realize that you can't achieve everything. So with some reluctance, I think, but I think it's healthy to... And if you want to mentally say, " I'm going to put them on the back burner," you can't do everything on the list and I think concentrating at the top and knowing what's at the top is unhealthy.
Holly Enneking: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely empathize with wanting to say yes to everything all the time. It's very much me too. Now, just changing to thinking about grit when it comes to marketing specifically, one of the things that I find to be really true about marketing is that there's inherently a lot of failure in what we do, campaigns that don't perform well, mistakes across the gamut. I personally have experienced everything from a bad link in an email to a pretty big list, to deleting thousands of contacts in Salesforce when I was trying to do some subscriber cleanups, so across the gamut there. And then we talk a lot too within marketing around A/ B testing, which is inherently one of the options that you've created as going to fail. And I think where marketers can really shine though on the other side of that is taking the learnings from the failure and really applying it to how we're learning something new, doing something better, avoiding those pitfalls the next time around. I'd love to hear your thoughts about how marketers can use that fuel of failure in order to really drive their future success.
Angela Duckworth: Of course every industry or profession has failure, but I agree with you that marketing especially, because it is a creative endeavor and because nothing ventured, nothing gained, and because if you just keep doing the same thing, well, that itself is failure. And that's not true of all occupations, there are some occupations where you keep doing the same thing, or at least you should keep your head above water. So marketing is really fascinating to me from that perspective. The psychology of failure is interesting too, and there's new research from University of Chicago Booth School of Business showing for example, that when we fail at things, there is a real challenge to human beings to learn immediately from that failure. What tends to happen is you make a mistake, you send out the wrong link or you like say the wrong thing in a meeting, as innocuous as somebody asks a question and the first thing you say is wrong, maybe the second thing you say could be... but errors, mistakes, failures, what the ideal response would be is to be like Dr. Spock or of a Vulcan and be like, " Oh, okay, great. What did I learn from it?" But instead, we're human. We're like Captain Kirk, so we're emotionally reacting to it. And what happens is there's a little time where there's a blockage where you should be learning and open to the feedback and what went on and noticing, instead, we're defending our ego and feeling stupid and getting wrapped up in unproductive emotions. And it may be that evolution gave us this negative feelings so that we didn't do really stupid things like continue to stick our hands in the fire or something. It is good to know that it was a mistake and it is good to know that mistakes are not great. But I do think that really successful people have this amazing ability to shorten the amount of time where they're like, " Oh, crap." They really shorten it to a microsecond, and then they go into this Deere where they learn. I'm thinking of three examples that leap to mind, all the people that I've watched them do this marvelously in the last week or two. So I'm thinking of Danny Kahneman, the Nobel laureate in economics who wrote Thinking Fast And Slow. Adam Grant, who's a colleague of mine at Wharton and at Penn, and Ray Dalio who I had to interview. Each of these individuals, interestingly, and by the way, I should think of nonwhite male examples also, there are plenty of them, but I'll just say that these three last conversations that I've had in the last week or so, when they make a mistake or they get feedback... So in one of these conversations, Adam actually gave negative feedback to Ray Dalio and he was like, " Oh, I think you're not being pragmatic enough in this thing that you're talking about." And it was so fascinating for me to watch as a third party observer because Ray just immediately smile and he's like, " You do? That's great. Tell me why. How am I not being practical?" And I've seen Danny Kahneman do this, I've seen Adam model this. So I think my answer to you is that, A, to be defensive is human and it is reflexive, and it's probably hardwired. B, you can learn to minimize that, make that happen quickly and get over it. And then you can actually say, " What can I learn?" I think that's the thing that should be like... " What can I learn?" Send out the wrong link. What can I learn? Learn to get another person to look at my email before I send anything out. Those are the kinds of things. And in life, if you can truly look at your successes and your failures as the same thing, which is information for learning, then I think you can be like the people that I'm studying, extraordinarily productive, and also you can alleviate a lot of your own personal suffering, I think that way.
Holly Enneking: I love that idea of taking both the successes and the failures as opportunities for learning and seeing them both through that same lens. You talked a little bit about feedback there, which I think is another really big piece for marketers. Everyone has so much exposure to marketing that people naturally have opinions about it. And in my experience, people are very free to share those opinions.
Angela Duckworth: It sounds annoying to me. I think that would be annoying-
Holly Enneking: Actually, sometimes it's very constructive and you see something in a way that you wouldn't have seen it because you're just focused on the whatever the campaign is or the task at hand, you just get so tunnel visioned you can't really see the forest for the trees. Sometimes though, it's not super constructive, and it's like, " I'm the expert, let me do my job and trust me to own my space." And I would say one thing that I've definitely gotten better at over time but still really struggle with is being able to balance identifying which feedback is valuable and actionable, and then how to constructively dismiss or at least acknowledge but not necessarily take to heart some of the feedback as well, and finding that balance. I'd love to hear if you have further thoughts around how marketers can use that feedback and get value out of it, when it really is constructive.
Angela Duckworth: Feedback, it really is, I think, the secret to kind of everything. Because you can imagine what if you are talking about a specific marketing idea, obviously, feedback is going to be information. But also just in your own personal development, what if you have a terrible sense of humor or you're a nasty, mean leader? As long as you're getting feedback like, " Hey, you're a nasty, mean leader," or like, " That joke was really off color," or, " You're not being inclusive enough. I don't think you're realizing that you're offending people when you're talking in this way." As long as there's feedback and the openness to that feedback, really, you can get yourself out of any hole and you can get yourself up any hill. So I think the psychology of feedback is elemental to personal development of all kinds, and wherever you are in this conversation, you're listening and you know the things that probably you ought to be working on, just think about it. If you got immediate and informative feedback, which the research on deliberate practice shows is typically the best kind of feedback, not annual reviews, but like, " Today, in that meeting, you... Or, this week, I think it would have been better when... " That kind of immediate and informative feedback, I do think is universal and it's actually I think necessary for personal growth. In terms of then figuring out, what do you do with feedback? So feedback is good in general, but when do you dismiss it and hold true to the things that you're... Because you don't want to be a weather vane, who's like, the wind blows left. That's not what your value proposition is as a professional. On the other hand, you can't be blind to feedback. You have a really good point. I was like, " Oh, that sounds annoying." You're like, " Well, sometimes a perspective is raised." Judgment decision making researchers Danny Kahneman sometimes talk about an inside- out and an outside- in perspective. One way to think about feedback when you get it is, " Is this somebody's perspective who really has a different angle on it, like they're an outsider to the field, or are they coming from the same general place that I am?" That can be helpful, not to say one is always better than the other, but it's oftentimes that where somebody has a different vantage point where they can almost literally see something that you can't see because they're looking at it from this angle and you're looking at it from this one. So just thinking to yourself for a moment like, " Where's the feedback coming from? Where is this person's vantage point?" There's almost always some value in feedback, whether or not you agree with it ultimately, or whether it changes your ultimate decision, so understanding, is it outside- in? Is it inside- out? Is it different from my perspective? And I would just say, to give you this conversational maybe trick for getting feedback, if it's negative, I think the first thing you should just say reflexively is, thank you. No but, " No. Well, let me explain." The first thing you should say is, " You know what, thank you." So after this conversation, if I get an email from you, Holly, that says, " I loved this, but you did this. And I wouldn't do it again in the future," the first thing I will write back is thank you, like, " Thank you, Holly, for pointing that out." That gives me a little time to really listen. And I think it is the right reflexive thing is to be grateful for the gift of feedback, whether or not you want to unwrap it, but you should. It is a gift and you say thank you. And the other thing I'll just say is that I say this to my own graduate students when they're writing something, I was like, a lot of feedback, when you've gotten over the defensive part, you said thank you to it, and you look at it, you're like, " Yeah, I totally agree." That's the easy stuff. So put that in the column of accept the feedback, incorporate it. When you really have a strong visceral reaction against it, and you understand why, you understand their vantage point, then that's probably feedback that you could ignore. And in the gray zone, get another opinion. You're like, " I don't know, well, now I'm confused." Then get another person's feedback that you value. And I think that usually ends up with some clarity about how to value it.
Holly Enneking: Yeah. That's such good advice, getting other input from the feedback as well. And I definitely agree with you around the concept of feedback being a gift. One of my main mentors is a CMO named Daniel Incandela and he says that all the time, that feedback is a gift, so always be grateful for it. Sometimes that's hard, sometimes you don't always feel it as a gift, but you can still be grateful and you should still find a way to want it if you can. So I appreciate him for that.
Angela Duckworth: He's totally right.
Holly Enneking: He's very right, and I love him for it. And I'm very grateful that he's given me that perspective because I would say I'm defensive and that's where I go too.
Angela Duckworth: Samesies.
Holly Enneking: Yeah. And especially if it's feedback necessarily about me, but people I'm working with, my team in any role, then I'm like mama bear and I react and I want to defend. And so it takes a lot of practice to take that reflexive of like, " Thank you, let me process this and understand it better," rather than reacting in the moment.
Angela Duckworth: I'll give you another conversational, verbal trick, it's helped me. I say, thank you. And whether I want to or not, but it's good to have a quick reflexive thank you. You don't have to think to say. And then what's helpful and therapists do this too, they say things like, " What I hear you saying is," and then you give the person the gist. And that's actually an authentic question, like, " What I hear you saying is that I talk too much in the beginning of meetings. Do I have that right?" And then the person might say, " Yeah, that's exactly right." Or they might say, " No, no, that wasn't my point. My point is that you cut people off in meetings." So you're getting real information, you're getting confirmation. And then also you really want to reward people for giving you feedback. Kim Scott makes this point very well in Radical Candor. And she's wonderful. And she says, " The key to being a successful individual, not only is to be hungrily getting feedback wherever you can, not only to be getting over your ego and actually incorporate it, but you have to reward the person for giving you that critical feedback because you want them to do it again." And so there are two, they're like, " Thank you. What I hear you saying is..." That's rewarding them. They feel like they added some value, etc. So I think these like little... The reason why these conversational things were so helpful for me is in the moment I am so emotional and defensive that I really can't think like, what am I supposed to do now? So rehearsing in advance like, " When I get feedback that makes me feel bad, I will say thank you. And then I will say, 'What I hear you saying is...' and then I'll try to just it. And that immediately gets you into a more reflective, productive, grateful mode.
Holly Enneking: Yeah. Another thing that I often find too as feedback is, sometimes I'm open to feedback and sometimes I'm not, that's a great lesson that I learned from man named Russ Hamilton, who I was in a leadership training program with. And we talked a lot about being open to feedback and opening yourself up to feedback. And so one thing I try and do is I try and go seek out feedback. So I will, if I know that I've done something I really want to hear and someone may not know to give me that feedback, try and reach out and ask, like, " What did you want more of? What did you want less of? What can I do better next time?" And just focus on those three questions. Then also I find the people are really grateful that they were asked for their feedback, then it's much more beneficial. It's more actionable, it's giving me something I can work with.
Angela Duckworth: And the way that you ask that is so great, and I hope people listening can take notes because it's like, " Oh, okay. I should be looking for it." But how? And very often, and again, Kim Scott points this out, very often when you say, do you have any feedback for me? People say, " No, everything's great." So that like, " What could I do more of? What can I do less of? And do you have any other suggestions?" Now you're giving people structured questions, so they can't just say, " Oh, there's nothing to say." And then it puts things at an angle too, that they don't feel like they're being critical. So I really love the way that you phrase that. And I really think these are why mentors are so important and helpful is when you say that somebody here listening could be like, " Cool, I'm putting that in my playbook immediately." And again, without those examples, I wouldn't have been able to think of the right questions to ask to get that feedback for myself.
Holly Enneking: Awesome. I want to talk a little bit about one of the other concepts in your book that really struck me, which was this idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. I think a lot of times in marketing we talk about this dichotomy of the way it was always done, and here's what we've always done, but how do we do it differently this time around? And those two can often be at odds with each other. I'd love to hear just a little bit more from your perspective about the differences between the fixed versus growth mindset are and how you can actively get yourself more into that growth mindset.
Angela Duckworth: Fixed versus growth mindset is duality, an idea that Carol Dweck at Stanford University came up with. She's my personal hero, you're like, " Who do you want to be reincarnated as?" It's like, " Carol Dweck." She was a grad student at Yale in a time where there were all these research studies going on, some with the animals, some with people showing that sometimes there was a resilience response to challenge and sometimes there was the opposite, like giving up a helplessness response. And she wondered why, why do some individuals respond with like, " I can do this, I'm going to work harder. I'm going to ask for help, I'm going to figure out another way." And other people fold in the face of the same exact challenge. And what she determined over the course of her career now is that we have theories in our head and they determine what we do and what we think and what we feel in ways that are invisible, but once you start to interrogate and notice your own theories, you can actually change. So growth mindset is the theory that human abilities like intelligence are malleable and they're plastic, they can change and grow. In fact, it's possible to get smarter. Now, other people who are here like, " What did she say? You can get smarter, literally doesn't make sense." That would be more of a fixed mindset. And I had a pretty fixed mindset for a lot of my life, I think it was having a dad who would categorize people into various bins of intelligence. It was also, I was a neurobiology major in college, and I was taught that the brain was pretty fixed at a certain point. In the last couple of decades, it's been very clear that neuroscience on Carol Dweck's side, the brain is plastic, personality is malleable, so is intelligence, you can get smarter. And there's never a day in your life where your brain stops remodeling itself and changing like synapses and even sprouting new neurons. So I think the idea that's applicable to if you're a marketer and you're thinking about maybe a seismic change in a particular dimension of your job, I would say that, it might be helpful to know that a growth mindset about human nature is the more accurate of the two theories to have. And really, even if you just take a moment to notice, look, I for a living study successful people, but we all know people that we personally, you have your own Carol Dweck like, " Oh my gosh, if I could be as successful as this person, I would be thrilled." If you just noticed what I notice about the people that I study, I'm guessing that you'll notice that these are optimistic people who tend to look at positive dimensions of possibilities, not always dwelling on the limitations. And they are people who walk around, with a theory, it's clear when you start to think about that they are people who believe in change, who believe in possibility and who believe that human beings aren't fixed and doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes or always being in the same route. That's the work of Carol Dweck, and I think deservedly, it's probably the most famous research that's been done in psychological science, at least as pertains to marketers and the private sector.
Holly Enneking: But I love so much about what you're saying that I think really resonates is just, there's this general theme of noticing like self- awareness and having that vulnerability to really look inward and be self- reflective and find those places. I think that really goes to your overall conversation around perseverance, if you can take the time to notice and just be aware of what's going on and where you want to make an impact that can really be a good first step.
Angela Duckworth: I know there are a lot of, maybe everybody on this call in this conversation is a leader, certainly we're all role models for other people, and vulnerability is something to underscore. When I started studying these paragons of grit, some of them were football, NFL, quarterbacks, and other ones looked just like scary CEOs who ran global fortune 100 companies and so forth. And I think what surprised me, maybe the most of these individuals is how vulnerable they were really willing to be with the people that they lead. So they weren't modeling perfection, they weren't modeling invincibility, they weren't modeling never making mistakes. In fact, they went out of their way to share honestly in like, " Wow, I totally screwed up Monday's meeting. First, I owe you all an apology. This is what I figured out on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I've got a plan. I'd love your advice." That's what the strongest people do is they're not afraid to show weakness. And usually, they do it in the context of showing the weakness and also what they're learning from it. And I don't think this is accidental. I think it's true, and as a leader, especially, you got to own it. Probably, your responsibility as it were to be vulnerable is greater than anyone else's because you're the person that people are looking up to and scared of and so on.
Holly Enneking: I think that's so true. I know for myself just as I've gone into bigger leadership roles over the course of my career, that leaning more into that vulnerability has actually helped me build so many more allies within my team, within my peers of just owning up to when you don't know something, or when you are-
Angela Duckworth: Or you feel like you have imposter syndrome where you're like, "I don't think..."
Holly Enneking: Absolutely.
Angela Duckworth: I don't have a full explanation for why evolution gave us all this desire to not show our humanity, but it's a wonderful thing. And I think it's a universal that it's helpful to you, it's helpful to everyone. It builds trust, it makes everyone relax. It's like, " Oh God, you feel that way too. Thought I was the only one."
Holly Enneking: Yeah. I think that's one of the biggest things is that it gives other people permission to voice what they need to. If you are willing to, like you said, model that behavior of saying when you don't know something or that you need help with something or something hasn't gone, it gives other people permission to do the same thing, which then sets all of you up for so much more success with being able to really work through it, rather than everyone sitting in their own fear or anxiety or whatever might be going on. I think that's one of the biggest things that I found is I just want to create a space where I can give people permission to do those things. Before we just move on from the marketing proper conversation, the one thing I did definitely want to talk about is creativity and grit. You talk about a lot of really interesting artists in your book, and it definitely made me think about the really talented designers that I've had the privilege of working with over the course of my career. And it takes so much grit to do what they're doing, to be passionate about design and to be dedicated to the design that they're doing, but then also to persevere and stay on top of trends and learn new skills, and always be chasing their next great concept. I'd love to hear a more about how you see grit and creativity interplaying with each other.
Angela Duckworth: Just the other day, I was reading an article about creativity was an essay, written relatively recently by Anders Ericsson, who is a scientist who passed away recently. But he was the person who studied deliberate practice and persevering to over thousands and thousands of hours to become really great. And the reason why he wrote this essay is that people always asked him, is that the same thing, becoming a better chess player or learning how to ski down a mountain better and better and better and getting the note right the next time you play some Sonata, is that the same thing as being creative because maybe they're different? So he wrote this long essay that had, I think, the following point, which is that in creativity, as you pointed out, you can't do it without having an enormous store of knowledge and skill. You can't be five years old and truly creative, actually because you don't know enough. Yeah, you can do things that are original, but they're not always... Creativity has a definition in science of being both novel and useful. So yeah, you can do novel things when you're five, but they're not usually useful advanced for humanity because you don't know enough. So I would agree with that. I would agree that there's a lot of grit to being creative, but I do want to say this, I don't think it's the only thing. I think that there's an element of creativity, which is putting things together that haven't been put together before and bringing your personals narrative to things and seeing things in different ways. And this is not the same thing as grit. So I think grit is helpful to creativity. I think one could argue that at the highest levels, grit is necessary to creativity because you need to accumulate lots of knowledge and skill, but I don't want to say they're the same thing. And I think you'll have a famous culture, I know that grit isn't the only thing you value and I think for example, having an inclusive culture, having a creative culture, a kind culture, these things are different from grit. And that's why I called my nonprofit, Character Lab, not grit lab, because I think super, super company has multiple values. And I think talking about creativity just underscores, obviously you wouldn't just want to think about grit because at least there's creativity, and then of course, there's more.
Holly Enneking: Absolutely. Thinking then too about the company culture angle there, one of the things that you say in the book is that if you want to be gritty, you should find a gritty culture to join, and if you're a leader and you want people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture, what advice do you have around not just nurturing grit in ourselves, but in our teams and in our organizations, where do you start?
Angela Duckworth: Culture is such an interesting thing because we all think we know what it is, but then if I asked, can you write a sentence that says culture is, and then complete it, you were in 11th grade, final exam, and it's like, " Oh." So culture is interesting. I think what culture really is, is a shared values and traditions and beliefs of a group. And the most obvious examples are countries, countries have cultures. France has a culture, Sweden has a culture, Ethiopia has a culture, Japan has a culture, but what's really fascinating to me is every company does have a culture. And it is actually very similar to when you think of a country, it's like, how do people refer to things? What's the language that's used? What are the key values that rise above the others? And what are the traditions like? What are the rituals? What are the inside jokes, like the way we do things around here? And I think that culture is so important because apart from our genes and our family, I think culture, where we are and the way everybody else is acting, talking, speaking, that influences enormously because human beings are cultural animals. So I would say that's what culture is, these shared lease values, traditions, norms, language. And in terms of being intentional about culture, I absolutely believe that it's important that you have choice, both in the culture you join and then also the culture that you shape. And I really mean that not just for the number one leader, but for every person, because the nature of culture is that it is emergent from the people in it. So when you start being grateful and you go out of your way to send somebody an email that says, " This sounds silly, but I just wanted to send you an email. You did a great job in that meeting and I was just watching you. I just figured I'd send that to you." You do that, that makes it more likely that that person is going to send a thank- you note to somebody else, that's going to make it more likely that you have a grateful culture. So I do think there are these ripple effects and we can understand culture as very influential in terms of how we act, but also that we can think of ourselves as basically agents in the culture who then propagate a certain way of believing, thinking, valuing, talking and so forth. So that's not a complete recipe for exactly how you do it, but I think it does leave us all with the idea that we have some responsibility too, if we love the culture of love or we want to change something, we have some agency to do that.
Holly Enneking: Yeah. I think that speaks so nicely to the conversation that Michael Burton, our CEO at Lev, and Scott Dorsey who founded ExactTarget had yesterday, they talked a lot about the ExactTarget culture of being orange and what that meant. And then also for Lev, that it's not something that you can manufacture, you can't just say, " This is how we're going to act," and expect everyone to do it. That it's really best to grow organically out of the team and modeling the behavior like you said from every member of the organization, and setting an example and really living up to the values that you're putting out there, but it has to be organic, it has to grow naturally over time, and it can't be forced.
Angela Duckworth: Yeah. And it has to be reinforced, not forced, but reinforced daily. And I think every leader that I've ever interviewed, you ask them" Well, after how many years can you take your hands off and just say, oh, whatever, now it's good?" Or, " How often do you have to remind? And it's like, " Oh no, this is a forever game, and also it's every day because you don't want the culture to become something that wasn't part of the vision."
Holly Enneking: Yep, absolutely. Now, before we wrap up, I do have one more topic that I wanted to cover with you, which is the other major theme in your book is around passion and having a passion for something combined with that for surveillance. And one thing that a lot of marketers are really passionate about is storytelling. We think about storytelling a lot, how you can craft a message to inaudible someone to take an action that you want them to take. And you delivered a TED Talk, which is very specifically about storytelling and in a very specific medium that's very different from writing a book, or an essay, or a research paper. And you did talk a little bit about it in the book, but I'd just love to hear more about your experience of having to craft that story and how you approached it and what that experience overall was for you.
Angela Duckworth: I'd love to answer that question. I'll tell you a story of how I told that story of TED Talk. I got a call from somebody on Chris Anderson's team, Chris Anderson being the head of TED. I'm actually going to be speaking to him, I think later this week or maybe next. So we stayed in touch. I have no idea really who he is, but I have heard of TED Talks and I know there were the thing that you should be honored to have, but also probably scared to death that you have to deliver. So I say yes, and I go up to New York, I think they had a theater in Harlem that they had rented out. And they had an audience of, it was actually, TED often has a theme for the series of talks that they're about to give. And so this was all on education. I think Bill Gates was there talking about what he thought about education, and Jack Canada and others. And I got coached, and I think for storytellers, all of us, all of us storytellers, I'll tell you what Chris Anderson did for me. I had a little five- minute speech and I was... And he like, " This is really boring." I was like, " Really?" And this is a rehearsal, this wasn't real." And I was like, " I don't know, that was interesting." He's like, " First of all, nobody wants to hear about a regression model." And I was like, " Okay, that I can see, I probably should take out the part about logistic regression." And then he explained to me that when you tell a story, it has a beginning and middle and an end. It has to have some suspense, some conflict, some thing that has to get resolved by the end. So he helped me set the stage, develop the conflict and then resolve it. And then to our earlier point about vulnerability, he said, " You know, this is your story. And the most powerful stories are the personal ones. Not a story that you're telling about somebody you never met, but your emotion." So I told the story of becoming a teacher, and then the conflict was, " Wow. I thought that the students who were really smart at the beginning of the year were just going to end up super successful, but often that didn't happen. What was I doing wrong as a teacher? What was going on?" And then the resolution was to understand that intelligence isn't everything, that it's not just being naturally bright, that leads you to learn algebra, that there's a lot of motivation and effort. And so the vulnerability part was I think sharing that all through my lens and how I had struggled as a human being to serve these kids, failed them, what I figured out. And I actually ended my talk on vulnerability too, because I said, " Now I should be telling you what to do to increase grit, but the true answer is that I really don't know, but I do think we should be grittier about getting kids to be grittier." So that was the whole TED Talk. I gave it, it was... I want to say this, when you said that there are times where you're looking for feedback, I'm sure there are times, Holly, where the door is open for critical feedback like, " Welcome. Tell me all..." But I will say that after I gave that talk, it was so nerve wracking and it was so stressful that I let everyone know that I was not open to negative feedback for at least 24 to 48 hours. I was like, " Just tell me I did great, and then later you could have done better." And I do think it's helpful in this context of vulnerability and grit, passion, and perseverance, feedback, mentoring, that I make sure I say... I think that a productive thing to do is to tell people when you are inviting of their helpful feedback and also it's okay to have do not disturb sign when your ego needs to just celebrate that it survived harrowing six- minute experience.
Holly Enneking: I definitely circled and highlighted that part in the book and laughed because I was like, " That is exactly me sometimes." I just really need you to tell me that I did a good job right now, that's what I need.
Angela Duckworth: Exactly. Mazel tov, that's all I want to hear.
Holly Enneking: inaudible great job, just let me come back down from this, in a week, we can talk about what a crosstalk.
Angela Duckworth: Yeah. That's right. We will get our notepads out, but right now, I need a glass of champagne.
Holly Enneking: Yes, absolutely. Angela, this has been absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for your time today and all of these insights. I really appreciate it. I hope that this was valuable for all of our viewers, and I hope you enjoyed yourself as well.
Angela Duckworth: I did so immensely. I'm so glad to be at Ultraviolet. And thank you for letting me visit your amazing culture.
Holly Enneking: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
This is the third episode of the Ultraviolet Keynote Series where we share the recordings of our keynote sessions from our Ultraviolet conference this year. In this keynote Lev's VP of Marketing Holly Enneking chats with Angela Duckworth. Angela is a psychologist and best-selling author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Holly and Angela discuss the importance of grit and how to change your grit score over time, how marketers can deal with feedback productively, grit and creativity, and much more.