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"Grit" The true predictor of success

​Talent isn’t everything. Being hardy and being able to preserve can help you succeed in business. This learnable trait was the focus of a title that was discussed at a recent We Read for You presentation.

To have a talent is great, but it is what we do with it that counts. Talent alone is not that one thing that guarantees success in life or in a business. Passion and perseveranc - or grit as it is called - also produces success.

Grit is that something that keeps you going when others give up. It is encapsulated in that very descriptive Afrikaans word - vasbyt.

Grit is also seen as the best predictor of success, not only in life but also in all levels of the business wold. It is a passion for what one is doing and then keep on doing it with perseverance.

This was recently highlighted at the USB Executive Development (USB-ED) and finweek’s regular We Read For You (WRFY) presentation held in Cape Town. The book presented by Sarah Babb of USB-ED was Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, Duckworth asks the important question of what really drives success. As a pioneering psychologist, she writes that it is not “genius” that drives success, but rather a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance.

According to Duckworth there is an over emphasis on natural talent only. However, what is mostly overlooked is what’s behind the talent - the deliberate and intentional work it takes to develop it.

Society has a natural bias towards natural talent and people who just popup as fully-fledged superstars, but we should rather look at the “strivers” and those people who succeed because of passion and perseverance.

Effort counts twice as much as talent, and anyone can learn to have grit. You can practice being resilient and continually improve on this.

Grit is not about just sticking to something. It might involve adopting a wrong strategy, focus or talent, realising your mistake and then starting afresh. It is about trying again and again, but there must be clarity about a final goal and you must always believe in yourself.

To grow grit one needs the following factors:
  • Interest – passion without an interest does not work and is unsustainable. Questions to ask: What do I like to think about? What do I really care about? What matters most to me? How do I enjoy spending my time? What do I find absolutely unbearable? Interests are not discovered through introspection, but triggered through interactions with the outside world.
  • Daily practice – make it a habit to build towards a goal. This should be done deliberately to improve performance.
  • Purpose – ask what contribution you are making to the bigger picture. The intention should be to contribute to the well-being of others and to your personal development.
  • Hope – learn to be an optimist. Optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent pervasive causes are to blame. Work on the expectation that your own efforts can improve your future and that it is nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again when you experience setbacks.
Duckworth gives a first-person account of her research, looking at teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history – showing what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. She shares what she’s learnt from interviewing dozens of high achievers - from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, to The New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, to the coach of the American football team the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll.

She has also found scientific evidence that grit can grow. In this personal, insightful and life-changing book, it is about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that – and not talent or luck – makes all the difference.

Duckworth appropriately sums up grit as follows: “We all face limits - not just in talent, but in opportunity. But more often than we think, our limits are self-imposed. We try, fail, and conclude we’ve bumped our heads against the ceiling of possibility. Or maybe after taking just a few steps we change direction…. To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”

Published in 1 June 2017 issue  of finweek ​magazine – submitted by Mediavision

Sarah Babb is an ad hoc faculty member at USB-ED. Her areas of expertise include leadership in transition, changing leadership identity, organisational change, leading in complex times, personal leadership, women in leadership, the emergence of new leadership and leading into the future.



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