Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success

Have you wondered why some people succeed over others despite coming from or dealing with identical situations? Are talent and intelligence really everything? And, whether giving up on a passion project was the right thing to do or did you give up too early?

Angela Duckworth’s Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success deep dives into finding answers for these and more questions.

Duckworth, a MacArthur Fellow and Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, presents her case through research and anecdotes of grit paragons and her own personal experiences. She talks about how critical grit is as a characteristic to succeed in life.

Duckworth has created a Grit Scale that measures the extent to which one approaches life with grit. It covers questions pertaining to passion and stickiness to those passions or interest areas.

She raises some important questions in the course of the book:

  1. At what point achievement trumps potential?
  2. Which is more important to success – talent or effort?

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 talks about talent and grit while Parts 2 and 3 talk about how one can nurture grit internally and externally. Essentially, the book is a sort of an exploration in finding out how talent, effort, skill and achievement fit together.

I liked how the author busts the myth that only talented or “naturals” succeed in life and that it takes more than just luck and intelligence. Let’s face it, there is no such thing as overnight success. It takes years and years of perseverance and grit.

There is one important equation that sums up the book well:

Talent x effort = skill

Skill x effort = achievement

It really is about how much effort you are willing to put in and for how long that defines your accomplishments. We may either have a natural talent or may develop inclination towards an area, over time with due effort and practice, we will become skillful in that area. And when we continue putting in more effort, we make it a habit due to deliberate practice, which eventually leads to achievement and over time success. In short, perseverance against initial setbacks or failures and willingness to keep at it are key.

This brings me to my favourite quote from the book is “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

Duckworth outlines four key traits gritty people have in common – interest, practice, purpose and hope. Parts 2 and 3 delve into each of these traits. Of these, I believe, identifying interest and practice are still easier but where one might struggle is defining purpose and being hopeful even in times of adversities.

Personally, I think I have yet to discover my purpose in life and this is where I found the book helpful. Duckworth recommends three routes to finding your purpose in life – 1) reflect on how the work you have done or are doing can make a positive contribution to society; 2) think how you can make small changes to your current work to align it with your personal values; and 3) find inspiration in a purposeful role model.

I will highly recommend the book to those who want to get better or want to find their purpose in life. It guides you to not only excel on the professional front but also personal. And if you are, or hope to be, in a leadership position, the book also gives tips on what constitutes wise mentorship with examples ranging from JP Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon to Jeff Bezos’ formative and early years. The book also contains a couple of exercises that can help you find answers to some of the questions mentioned above. More importantly, it will help you find out where you stack up on the Grit Scale!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Bhavya Sharma
Bhavya Sharma is a Communications Strategist with 13+ years of experience.

She specialises in storytelling, streamlining unstructured thoughts and conversations into content (prose, graphics or videos). She likes to meet new people, forge friendships and have conversations on just about anything.

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