By Joanna Nakamoto • August 11, 2017•Writers in Residence
A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through my social media feed when I came upon a TEDTalks video from 2013 by Angela Lee Duckworth about her study on the predictors of success. In the beginning of her presentation, she described what she and her team set out to find and where they went looking for it. They tried to predict success across a plethora of activities and professions where they might be doomed to failure. They tried to predict who would succeed after joining the military, or who would do well at the spelling bee. Automatically in my mind, I assumed the answer would be something along the lines of having successful parents, or being smart and charismatic. What she discovered though, gave me hope. Ms. Duckworth found that the people who succeeded had one common predictor among them: grit, which is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.”
Often times either as a single mother, an ethnic minority, and someone who comes from poverty it’s hard to recognize any success when there are constantly so many obstacles to overcome ahead. Yet, I believe people like myself always forget the successes they have already accomplished because the continued hopes and aspirations for the future are so grand, our focus is consitently on the road ahead instead of the road paved. There have been countless times where I have talked to someone about my situation, and that person was absolutely amazed at how much I chose to undertake or how far I have come. Some of these people felt so obligated to try to help me that it has unexpectedly opened doors and opportunities that otherwise might not exist and I am so very grateful for those people and their compassion. This is the reason why I was inspired to tell others about stories of adversity–in the hopes that it will make a lasting impression and a true impact on someone who is fighting to keep their dreams alive and achieve their goals.
It’s no big secret that some of Hollywood’s greatest movies have focused on a person or a people overcoming adversity. This past weekend I finally got a chance to sit down and watch a movie called “Hidden Figures”. It’s an inspiring story about three African-American women who worked at NASA as computers (math checkers) in the 1960s. These women stood against the double stigma of being women who were also colored, at a time when women’s full potential was often downplayed or downright blocked and “colored” bathrooms still existed. It made me cry in so many ways because I could feel the animosity of the world pressing heavily against them as it does against me and other women who have through so much in life, which brings me back to Ms. Duckworth’s finding of the relationship between grit and success.
As a professional woman, it is hard in the world. Many of you might have heard about Professor Lucy Marsh from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, who filed a lawsuit against the school for unequal discrimination. I spent my 1L year at that school, where professor Marsh was my property professor. She was an amazing teacher and her method for underlining cases I continued to use for every course I had in law school. Needless to say, I was shocked to learn about the unfair pay disparity between her and her male colleagues, who were also my professors. Eight other professors from the Denver's law school have joined her fight, and I am cheering them on. She, and so many others, are examples of how tough being a professional woman in the world can be.
I recently took the bar exam in July of this year and in my job hunt, I noticed how some law firms will boast about their treatment of their women employees. Their home pages will contain information about initiatives in recruiting women, or display awards and honors for being great employers for working moms. Likewise, LSAC (Law School Admission Council) has a page dedicated to explaining the value of diversity in the classroom and in the legal profession. In which case, diversity is not only about ethnicity, but includes unique experiences including passion and perserverance through hardships. These are some examples of how the world is slowly working for us and towards us, rather than against us.
Again, my articles are to help empower women who struggle with adversity to get into law school, and stay in law school. I said all of that to say this: you should know that there is something special about you, the things that have tried to break you in the past have armed you to fight the difficulties that may lie ahead. Don’t forget about all the hardships that you’ve been through and how strong of a woman you are; derive power from it. Even if you have a long way to go, your past has given you a very special gift for the present, it is a tool for what you need to succeed…grit.
You can watch or listen to Ms. Duckworth's presentation on predictors of success below: