Angela Duckworth: So, my dad definitely looms large in my biography, as I think dads do for a lot of people. Growing up I had a family headed by a father who was singularly obsessed with achievement—his own, and that of others. He was always asking: Who is the bigger genius, Mozart or Beethoven? Matisse or Picasso? These are the type of debates we would have over dinner.
So I did grow up to be someone who is ambitious, but also someone who never had the self-concept of being a genius or someone who is gifted. I think the way he regarded me did actually raise the question in my mind of, “So, if you’re not especially gifted, and you’re ambitious to do something—great, how are you going to do it?”
I don’t think it was conscious, but I’ve always had the identity of someone who is, you know, “I’ll show you.” These are the words that go through my head when people tell me I can’t do something, which is signature self-talk to the kind of people I study.