What does it take to be successful? We live in a society that is obsessed with talent. Take a look at the popularity of various talent shows. Of course, talent alongside IQ play a significant part in our success. But it surely doesn’t stop there, as another key factor also comes into play. Grit.
Your level of grit is your work ethic. Grit is about doing whatever it takes to improve. If you care deeply about what you do, you’re more likely to keep at it. If you keep doing something you love, you’re likely to love it more and more. Each fuels the other. Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance. You prove passion and perseverance by consistently working to hone your skill at a steady intensity level for enough time.
The interesting thing is that because of society’s focus on innate talent, although we commend people who put in the effort, we don’t actually believe it can compete with natural talent. Yet, studies show that efforts counts twice as much as talent. When effort is applied to talent it results in skill. When further effort is applied to skill, it leads to achievement. Science shows that grit, which is the sustained effort towards a long-term goal, is the biggest predictor of life-long achievement. It’s about demonstrating perseverance when experiencing setbacks or disappointments. It’s the grit to keep going.
Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor from the University of Pennyslavania, embarked on several studies to determine what was the biggest predictor of success. She conducted research with professionals across various domains from graduates at the military elite, to sports professionals as well as top corporate sales people, to examine the impact of talent vs effort. No matter what the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways: first, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction.
Now this may be an inconvenient truth for those who choose to blame their lack of success in life on their lack of luck with natural gifts and talents. Yet, for others it can be liberating knowing that they’re not doomed to mediocrity, but that if they put their effort to the test, it can lead them to significant achievements.
As a Confidence Building Coach I constantly remind my participants that with deliberate practice and perseverance we all have the ability to grow our talents. Deliberate practice is purposeful and systematic with focused attention, and is conducted with a specific goal of improving performance. If you want to become a better speaker, a deliberate practice that improves your vocal abilities or stage presence or presentation is what you need. When we embrace a growth mindset and aim for continuous improvement, we reap the benefit of success. The trick is to stop competing against the world and instead compete against yourself. It is about competing with who we were yesterday.
Grit is not a sprint but a marathon. Unless you keep persevering, your innate abilities amount to only unmet potential. It is about pushing your abilities and seeking constant improvement. It’s about getting back up after getting knocked down. Keep in mind that it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest. In the long run, grit matters more than talent.
Knowing your sense of purpose, your meaning in your work, will enable you to further elevate your level of grit. This means that we all have the capacity to also grow our grit. We can develop the confidence to start taking action even if we think we are not talented enough. So, you might have not won the natural talent lottery, yet when you acknowledge that effort counts twice as much as talent, you realise that you can also achieve great things.
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