Success got me thinking:
Steve Jobs was successful. Bruce Lee was more successful in his short career span. Mandela by all measures and standards had a successful life. So is the swimmer Phelps Stocks, the marathoner Dibaba and Muhammad Ali in sports.
Maybe you are successful. I don’t know. As for me, I’m not. Not yet.
The knowledge of nothing scribed under my name (Somewhere in Swiss Bank) and no inheritance to look forward to compels me to seek more. And in the process, I ask more.
Most often, I seek the making of the successful people and the true meaning of success. Sometimes, my conscience take me through rounds of internal monologue. In the end, I find answers though blurred, of: Is there a way I can act, behave or think to bring more rewards to my life? Or I can use to realize success fast?
Can there a way I can trade in the very path that made Marathon, the Greek long distance runner’s name a popular sport. And Hero, the Greek legend an attribute for extraordinary works?
Weeks ago, I held a light talk with Joel – a close friend, whom I met back in high school. In a coffee shop, in Orkney- an 8-hour drive archipelago north of Edinburgh.
The weather was cold and our discussion was gaining momentum and not long before it was heated.
Joel was fussing about the making of success.
He was talking of how a few people, a handful of them, were so talented that they seem to take all the ‘good things’ in this world. All the rewards that come with success; to a level that their life achievements make him, an ordinary man, a dwarf success-wise.
Me: … I don’t think so. You speak of talents. Maybe there is more.
Joel: You don’t get it, Lee. Are you? A handful. Like Jobs. He gave us technologies ahead of time. He went further to tell us what the technology was and even taught us how to use it. Tell me if that is not a rare God-sent talent.
Me: It is talent of cos. What if there is more to the very talent? More hidden from the normal eye and we see it not? Have you given this a thought?
Joel: (laughing) Tell me. What that something that is not talent?
And I told him: Grit.
Grit: The making of success
Not far from the coffee shop I held a talk with Joel. A scientist was observing something strange from her students.
It came so often that she gave it her time, not long before a pattern emerged.
In her observation, most of her not so talented students performed at par with the most talented ones. Sometimes, they would beat them.
The findings raised her curiosity to a new new level. She sought a more scientific explanation of it.
In her own words,
I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching. I went to teach seventh graders math in the New York City public schools. I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades.
What followed was groundbreaking discovery. It shook Psychology understanding of success to its roots.
Angela Duckworth again:
What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. Some of my smartest kids weren’t doing so well. And that got me thinking… every one of my students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough.
Now the honey pot.
The very concept she used to build the book Grit, the power of passion and perseverance. It got published and earned the bestseller spot almost instantly earning her millions, recognition and a several awards.
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.
What is grit?
In Angela Duckworth own words: Grit is passion and perseverance for a long-term goal.
The epitome of effort, and stamina, and ability to stick with your future. Having the power to make it interesting even when you feel bored. Pushing it hard not for days, not weeks, not months or years but all time even when odds stacked against it.
Through effort, grit (1) transforms talent into skills. And, (2) make those skills productive. Talent, on its own, is futile. Like a fertile garden left unattended to, over which weeds thrive and crops edged out slowly.
Is it Talent over Grit
Often in life, we tend to glorify talent, IQ, height as sole causative agents of success. In the process, we undermine the impact of effort in developing the every talent to fruition and this is where we go wrong.
We hear of how talented silicon valley nerds are.
How company X sales team are good in closing sales.
How talented sportsmen and women are.
And at no given point have we taken a moment to check the records for ourselves of how much resources and time are expended every year to make a top-notch sportsman like Phelps Stock reach that level of excellence in swimming.
Instead, we take comfort in the shade watching the God-sent talent do the swimming and get chickened out in the process. Wow! He really is a god. I wonder if there will be another Phelps, ever.
I don’t infer that talent, 200+ IQ, 7’40’’ height, by no means add value to success. Perhaps they do. But, research has shown that there is very weak correlation between them and success.
For instance, Britney Spears was the highest paid female musician in 2012. She has released several albums and worn over 310 awards including Grammy award in 2015. With only an IQ of 104, she was able to break out of an industry creatively demanding as writing.
It points to the fact that, an inept person trying as hard can be at par with the talented or be better if they are grittier enough.
Having Blessed talent and ability to be grittier gives you a double chance of scaling up your skills twice faster and achieve more success in a short time.
The ability to endure and consistency of effort separates those who make it in life and those who don’t.
Focusing on talent alone stray us from doing what is right.
A genius! For 37 years I’ve practised fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!
-Pablo De Sarasate
Conclusion: The Way Forward
A talented person, twice skilled but half hardworking will end up achieving the same level of success as an ordinary person striving harder.
This stems from the fact the talented are less willing to commit to a course that could bring them most rewards.
Similarly, those who strive for excellence improve their skills continuously over time. They end up producing more and accumulate more rewards not by sheer luck or gift of their talent, but by working harder.
It follows that the more they endure the more likely they are to meet their goals.
Have an interest in what you do.
Have a purpose.
Curate the vision of your future.
Make it a culture to be firm on your goals. Find people better than you and join them. The way things are done in their cohort becomes they way you do it on your own.
Talent distracts us from the simple truth that, on its own, without efforts, it remains an unmet potential.
Put one foot in front of the other.
Try more. Fail more. There is nothing wrong with trying and failing. It only means you are trying hard enough.
If you stumble and fall, fall forward. Fall 9 times and still rise for the tenth.
Know your place in your future life. Have a vision of it engraved in your notepad and somewhere in your heart.
If you become grittier enough, then, you are halfway between your current state and meeting your potential future.
Do you have a big dream? Do you want the good things life has in offer? Perhaps, disrupt the flow of an industry or change the course of humanity? Forget about the talent.