To be truly great at something, we need grit.

Elite tennis player who have grit: Basic (left) vs Djokovic

Grit, or perseverance, is not the only factor for greatness in one area, but success doesn’t “just” happen. We have to make it happen, one small step at a time, with years of dedication.

We may compare ourselves and think that others are just naturally talented, or were given numerous good breaks, or were born super smart. We don’t see the effort they’ve put in, the failures they’ve learned from, and the insecurities they’ve endured on their road to greatness.

If we decide we want that level of success, how do we know what to be gritty about? Psychologist Angela Duckworth says we should look at an intersection of three things

  1. Our interests. Generally, what we liked to do when we were about 12-13 years old, when we were gaining our own way of thinking.
  2. We need to have purpose. What we do needs to be meaningful for us to stick with it.
  3. Reality. Not everything we want to do has opportunity, and persevering in the wrong area can be gut wrenching.

Even when we have these three elements, grit still does not supply a direct line to greatness, nor offer any guarantees. But, we can only get there if we keep taking steps toward it. If we do find a passion that has meaning and is realistic, it may be worth persevering.

Take action: If you find the thing you want to be great at, consider what level of greatness will fit the lifestyle you want. That will give you a better idea of how much grit you’ll need. That is, how many hours per day and for how many years.

:: Inspired by Angela Duckworth’s Talks at Google, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.



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