Grit: The One Trait All Successful People Have
Contributed by Natasha Oliver August 8, 2017
“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm” and “Never, never, never give up” – Winston Churchill
Why do some people succeed and others fail? We spend so much of our lives focusing on cognitive learning to build IQ, knowledge, skills, and capability; but we don’t consciously work on the trait that truly propels us towards success – grit.
In her 2013 TED talk, Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that grit is a very strong predictor of success. Duckworth defines grit as the passion and perseverance to work towards long-term goals. Grit is having stamina and resilience, not just for a month but years.
We often think when someone is good at something they have a natural or innate ability – you either have it or you don’t. But the truth is, success is less about ability and more about attitude. Sheer persistence, determination, and the willingness to work hard at something for a long time without giving up is what really matters.1
Why Maths Is A Strong Indicator Of Future Success
Maths has been found to be a strong predictor of future income. Not so much for the numeracy skills it gives us but rather how it teaches us to think and be tenacious. Maths is a linkage of skills such as logic, reasoning, and probability; and it is an effective way to learn problem solving and discipline. These skills are highly valuable in the digital/innovation economy.
Being good at Maths is also a proxy for certain character traits. What we’re seeing in the corporate world, and in life, is the predictive power of five character traits: conscientiousness, hard work, diligence, effort, and persistence. In Western society, we overplay the importance of innate talent and underplay the importance of hard work.
The fundamental difference between the high performing Maths countries is a psychological one. In the countries that are best at Maths such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Singapore, if you fail at something it just means you need to work harder and get more help. In Western society that’s our attitude in sports, but not so much at school or work.2
Success is not so much ability as attitude. You can master something like maths if you’re willing to try. So success is a result of doggedness, persistence, and working hard over the long term.3
Success Is Not A Straight Line
Duckworth’s research found that high performers process feelings of frustration, disappointment, and boredom differently. Where others took these as signals to quit, high performers did not because they know life has its ups and downs. It’s as if high performers are conditioned to believe that struggle was just part of the journey.
On a day-to-day basis, grit looks like this:
- The ability to overcome setbacks, to keep persevering and influencing others even when the odds seem stacked against you
- “Not batting an eyelid” when things change unexpectedly; the ability to lead team members through change calmly and reassuringly
- Understanding that success is not a straight line – there are ups and downs, and goal posts move all the time; it’s essential for employees at all levels, but particularly leaders, to accept this with grace
- Not quitting just because something is hard
There’s a long list of successful individuals who failed not just once or twice but repeatedly before eventually making it big. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishing houses. It’s also been said that KFC founder Colonel Sanders was rejected 1009 times before finding a taker for his special herbs and spices recipe.
Lastly, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes from the baseball movie “In a League of Their Own.” Here’s how Coach Jim Duggan (Kevin Costner) tells Dottie Hinson (Gina Davis) not to quit baseball:
“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. Hard is what makes it great.”
Written By Fiona Jury, ChapmanCG Director
Fiona Jury is a Director with ChapmanCG and is based in Sydney. She works closely with the team to identify high-quality HR Talent across the globe.
Fiona’s executive search and recruitment career spans over 10 years working in the Australian and New Zealand markets. She has held a variety of leadership and senior consulting roles at Talent2 and at Morgan & Banks/TMP and possesses broad industry experience across financial services, professional services and IT & Telecommunications.
Fiona originally qualified as a Chartered Accountant and spent her early days as an Accountant with Coopers & Lybrand. She has a Bachelor of Economics (Accounting) from Monash University in Melbourne. Outside work, Fiona enjoys health and fitness (particularly Zumba Fitness) in addition to spending time with her husband and three sporty children.
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