Grit – A Key Trait That Will Increase Your Potential
One thing that many of us may ask is: what is the key to success? What is the secret ingredient for becoming a Rockstar in whatever you do? Is it luck? Talent? High IQ?
For a long time, IQ was considered the number one ingredient for success. However, according to Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth grit may be just as important. Grit, according to Duckworth, is a personality trait that can be defined as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” And here is an interesting note: Duckworth studied a number of Ivy League students and found that the “grittiest” students were those who had scored lower on an intelligence test compared to other students. Yet, the “grittiest” students still had the highest GPAs; they simply made up for their lower test scores by working harder and with more determination. And just to clarify: grit and high IQ are not necessarily trade-offs (there are also people who are exceptionally smart and gritty at the same time). The message here is that a higher IQ does not inevitably mean that a person will be more successful. It takes a bit more than that – maybe much more.
To shed some more light on this, here is great quote by the actor Will Smith: “The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”
So how do you know then if you are “gritty” or not? To begin with: if you have overcome obstacles to master a huge challenge, are not discouraged by setbacks, are hard working and can maintain focus on long-term projects, you are certainly on the right track. There is even a way to get a specific “grit score” if you like. The “Grit Scale” was developed by Duckworth and how it works is that you get a score based on how you rate yourself on a number of items. Of course it is then possible to answer in a way that makes you appear more gritty than you actually are, but what good does that do you?
Grit has become a “hot topic” and is now part of an emerging area of psychology research focused on something called “non-cognitive skills”. That includes motivation, adaptability and self-control, among other things. The goal is to identify and measure these skills, which play an important role, apart from intelligence, in human development and success.
But just to be clear: grit and self-discipline should not be regarded as interchangeable terms. Self-discipline is an important trait when it comes to getting up on time in the mornings or staying on your diet (you know…things that are relatively easy to manage). However, if you want to be successful in a highly challenging environment where you have to step out of your comfort zone to identify your weaknesses, grit is what comes into play. That is of course easier said than done, as we all know that getting out of your comfort zone typically means increasing the risk of failure. But hey, failure can be good for you! And that is important to emphasize here. Just take Richard Branson’s word for it, the CEO of Virgin Group. According to Branson, “Few first ventures work out. It is how a beginning entrepreneur deals with failure that sets that person apart. In fact, failure is one of the secrets to success, since some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shuttered business.”
Furthermore, according to Duckworth, it takes 10 years to reach world-class performance from the time that you initiate your “discipline path.” In other words, success will not be handed over to you on a silver platter. Forget that. Duckworth gives emphasis to the fact that “the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.” Just take Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz as an example. He starts his day at the office at 6:00 a.m. and stays until 7:00 p.m., to then continue conversations with overseas employees even later at night from home; or the owner of Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, who, when he started his first company, typically stayed up until very early mornings to read about new software, and went seven years without taking a vacation. Then there’s also Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, who, for the last 24 years has worked 100 hours per week. Apart from that, he also takes time for a daily cardio exercise at 5:30 a.m. Talk about exceptional work ethic!
With that said, the message here is not that you need to force yourself to become a night owl like Cuban or have a machine-like stamina like Immelt, but that these leaders can hopefully inspire you to push yourself a little bit harder. And remember: it is not only about the hours that you put in, but how you actually choose to spend those hours. It is obvious that spending countless time chatting by the water cooler, organizing pictures on Facebook, or watching funny videos on YouTube does not count towards the hours that will become the building blocks for your success.
So you may ask, is grit all is takes then? Maybe. At least we can be certain about one thing: it is not just about talent or luck. So continue to aim high and work hard in order to get where you want to be. The sky is the limit…with some grit to help you propel even higher.