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5 minute read

Grit vs Talent: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Exceptional performers at the workplace may leave you wondering if talent or grit matters more. Does the world favour the talented? How important is grit to high achievers? This article series on Grit will unravel insights on achieving success, remaining successful, and the impact of true passion and perseverance.

When seeing someone perform a task almost effortlessly, we often conclude they’re extremely talented. But most of us don’t get to see the hours they have arduously invested in preparation and practice.

Academic Psychologist Angela Duckworth, who wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, did extensive research on thousands of individuals spanning diverse professions, from military cadets to salespeople, from students at a public school to spellers at Spelling Bee contests.

Duckworth’s research has unveiled the ingredients that enable ?high achievers to succeed and remain successful. She concluded that a combination of passion and perseverance is what makes these people stand out from the rest; in other words, they have grit.

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Grit – does it matter?

Showing grit is to demonstrate exceptional perseverance and effort to strive beyond excellence. It’s a ‘never-give-up’ attitude.

Our passion for certain interests often declines due to a lack of commitment and perseverance. If we hope for success yet only invest minimal effort, chances are, we will miss out on making gradual improvements that take time. Worse still, our impatience might make us give up just as quickly as we had started.

When we start something, the goal is always to get the job done. But for high achievers, they don’t just want good; they want to produce the best work. The key ingredient that separates them from the rest is this: High achievers don’t get complacent.

The talented vs the gritty

Some might argue that those who are naturally talented are just as capable of producing equally excellent results. So, what factors set the gritty and the talented apart?

Harvard psychologist William James declared:

“The human individual usually lives far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum.”

James was trying to convey that most of the time, we humans use only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. Hence, those who merely have talent without investing an ounce of effort, discipline, and perseverance will remain stagnant — never reaching their fullest potential. It’s almost as if there’s a gap between potential and actualization.

Therefore, talent alone is no guarantee of success.

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The problem with worshipping talent

Journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell suggested that talent promotes narcissism in some—it could encourage short-term performance but discourage long-term learning and growth. If we place talent on a pedestal, we risk undermining everything else that matters—including grit.

A German philosopher, Nietzsche once wrote, “Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of genius. If we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare and find ourselves lacking…To call someone ‘divine‘ means: ‘here there is no need to compete.'”

Nietzsche calls out the hidden prejudice against high achievers – such individuals may have worked hard to attain success. Still, we would prefer to think they had reached their destination by being naturally talented and feel better about our own lack of effort in so doing.

Grit behaves oppositely; it challenges our fixation on talent and perceived limitations of our capabilities.

Read More: 5 Things That Destroy Employees’ Passion in the Workplace

The golden formula for success 

By now, you would have understood that grit is not something built but practised—it’s a high level of consistent effort and discipline. It involves acknowledging your weaknesses and finding ways to improve. It is to remain unyielding in the face of setbacks and to press on despite unfavourable circumstances and challenges that come your way, and to take rejection as a mere stepping stone towards greater achievements.

Grit or talent – one is no better than the other – but instead, they go together because they ultimately produce skill. 

Duckworth’s theory of achievement is condensed into these two equations:

talent x effort = skill 

skill x effort = achievement 

To develop a skill is to spend hours upon hours ?beating your craft to create something refined. A skill is produced when talent and effort intertwine, and at the same time, effort makes a skill valuable. Without talent, your effort merely becomes your unmet potential. Without effort, your skills become what you could have achieved but didn’t.

It’s no secret that there are no shortcuts to excellence. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

With grit, we can consciously pivot a ‘This is all you can do’ mentality to ‘Who knows what you can do?’

This article is contributed by Good Job Creations.

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