What do you think is more important for success? Is it talent or is it hard work? Or maybe it’s just all based on luck? The answer to this simple question has broad implications within sports, business, and life. Not only can it help us improve our odds of success, but it can also help us recruit better team members, identify better business partners, and help others develop and grow. Well, there are a lot of researchers out there trying to answer this question. Angela Duckworth in her book called Grit, argues that both talent and hard work are important for success. However, based on years of research, she claims that hard work is twice more important. She also gives us some practical ways to increase our chances of success. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.
Key Lesson #1: Grit Predicts Success Better Than Talent or Luck
We usually focus only on natural talent to try to predict if a person will be successful or not. It seems that there is a bias toward valuing innate abilities and it’s tempting to assume that these abilities will predict success. However, simply having natural talent isn’t the same thing as being able to apply that talent productively. As a result, talent alone is not enough to guarantee future success. Through years of research, Angela found grit to be a stronger predictor of high achievement than intelligence, talent, and other personality traits. Grit is actually a unique combination of passion and perseverance. Passion is about a deep understanding of what you want and consistently following it. And Perseverance is about putting in the effort, overcoming challenges, and completing what has been started. So Grit is about moving in a direction with consistency and endurance. While it’s true that people have innate abilities, that alone doesn’t mean they are effective in productively using those talents. Grit relates to how people use and develop their skills. Grit has been found to reliably predict whether military recruits graduate from rigorous elite training programs, whether salespeople stay in their jobs, whether high-school students graduate on schedule and whether adults earn their graduate degrees.
Key Lesson #2: When It Comes To Achievement, Effort Counts Twice
What we achieve in any given area of life depends on two factors: talent and effort. Talent relates to how fast we can improve a specific skill based on innate strengths. Effort relates to the work we put in to develop and apply our abilities. It’s interesting to note that effort counts twice and therefore is twice as important as talent. Consider the following two equations from the book:
Talent x effort = skill
Skill x effort = achievement
What it means is that you must put in the effort to hone your natural talents into tangible skills through practice and improvement. You must also put in the effort to apply those skills to solve real-world problems to attain achievement.
So as we see effort is twice more important as talent. However, those who overestimate talent’s value tend to fixate on the extreme limits of their potential in a given area. As a result, they may be tempted to avoid investing in skills for which they have less natural talent, even though most of us aren’t even close to the outer bounds of our abilities and are unlikely to reach them.
The critical insight here is that talent is of little practical value without effort. Moreover, the effort is the key to developing and benefiting from our abilities. As a result, the power of grit to produce consistent effort plays a critical role in our long-term success.
Key Lesson #3: Grit Can Be Developed from Inside-Out
Contrary to popular belief, our interests, passions, and calling are not inborn; they’re cultivated over time. Grit paragons don’t suddenly discover their passion in a magical, fireworks-filled moment, nor do they fall crazily in love with the perfect job. Instead, they spend years exploring different interests before focusing on one area. As they practice and hone their skills, they also develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of their craft until it becomes a burning passion and a calling. There are four things you can do to discover and develop your grit.
Discovering your Interests. In the initial stages, most people learn and practice something just for fun, not to develop a life-long career. Deep interest emerges over time through a period of interest development and support from others. So spend time exploring and discovering your interest.
Deepening Through Practice. Hard work alone isn’t enough. Cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson found that experts became outstanding not just from lots of practice, but how they practice, i.e. they use deliberate practice. In deliberate practice, you focus on a specific area and try to improve it over time.
Developing a Sense of Purpose. The purpose is the intention to contribute to the well-being of others. Both gritty and non-gritty people seek short-term pleasures, but gritty people are drastically more likely to also seek to contribute to others. They usually spend years developing their skills and interests, before they discover their purpose later in life.
Nurturing Hope. Hope is the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. It’s believing that you can address challenges and make things better. It gives us the strength to get up each time we fall and to keep going.
Fortunately, it’s possible to develop all four assets.
So in summary, the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but grit: a special blend of passion and persistence. And more importantly, it can be developed. Gritty people are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity.