Do you believe that you need talent to be successful?
You need Grit.
“Grit” is a trait studied by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and the bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Leaving a high-paying job in consulting, she began teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school where she realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. To learn more, she joined University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student and began studying people in different types of environments to find common factors that determine success.
“In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”
Luckily, you don’t have to be born with grit. It can be developed. Studies of world class achievers show they develop grit in four stages:
Interest – This first stage happens when you start to fall in love with an activity and it becomes a passion that drives you to keep getting better at it. Therefore, you should avoid taking on roles or careers in fields that you are not in love with or at least heavily interested in. You must like what you do and be interested in becoming the best at it. Otherwise it will be impossible to become successful.
Practice – The second stage is a period of prolonged skill development and dedicated practice. This is the hardest part because it requires you to keep doing the same thing over and over and over. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve world-class mastery in a field. The Beatles would practice eight hours a day seven days a week and had played over 1,200 concerts before they shot to fame. Kobe Bryant, a world class athlete, would practice shooting from one spot until he made 400 baskets.
Same goes for nerds like Bill Gates. The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the University’s computer and had racked up over 10,000 hours of programming experience before he founded Microsoft.
Beyond-the-self purpose – A “beyond-the-self” sense of purpose gives you a much deeper motivation and can sustain you over a much longer period. This means that you should invest your emotions, your time and your energy into your passion because of reasons other than just being rich or becoming famous or even becoming the CEO of your company. Picking a career just to make money will rarely result in success. Seek a higher purpose, even if it is as simple as being the best at what you do.
Hope – Gritty people are resilient. They have a growth mindset, which provides them with the ability to bounce back and see each obstacle as a chance for improvement. When you lose hope, you fall into a fixed mind set of “things aren’t going to change.” As you look for more and more evidence that nothing is going to change, you’ll prove yourself right because you have stopped trying.
A growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. When people read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.
In the end, success comes down to perseverance. The deep desire to complete what you started. To follow through on your commitments. To keep going even if you fail the first time or the first few times. To keep pushing for your ideas even if they get rejected initially. To keep executing on those ideas though you’re up against a bunch of naysayers or road blockers.
Develop grit. That’s how you keep getting promoted. That’s how you get to the top.