Talent + Practice = Achievement, but Extraordinary Practice Requires Grit

by | Mar 2, 2009 | Career, Career Transition, Leadership, Talent Development | 0 comments

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers, invites a thoughtful conversation on factors that differentiate those that have achieved greatness, such as the Beatles, Bill Gates and Mozart. Gladwell cites research which shows that besides raw talent, an important factor in those with remarkable achievements is the incredible amount of time that even the most gifted have to put towards their craft for extraordinary success to be achieved. What sets apart the good from the very, very good? Practice . . . lots of practice, in fact 10,000 hours of it. Gladwell calculates that to achieve the 10,000 hour mark, we would have to practice 3 hours per day for 10 years.

In thinking about this tremendous amount of time, I began to consider another concept that would be operating within a person that possesses the drive to practice and work toward their goals with a dedication that surpasses most … that of grit. Grit, as defined by researcher, Dr. Angela Duckworth, is the “passionate perseverance toward a very ambitious and long-term goal.” It has been found that the amount of one’s grit is as or more important a predictor of achievement as IQ, talent, and character strengths, such as optimism and social intelligence. In fact, Duckworth was surprised by one finding in her study: Grit was not highly correlated with IQ. This may be a hopeful finding for those that are not naturally brilliant; Duckworth notes that while there may not be a way to teach people how to be smarter, there are qualities of grit, such as self-control, that may be teachable. The implications of Gladwell and Duckworth’s work are manifold. For executives that pride themselves on being “the sharpest tack in the box,” they should consider their grit and develop strategies to help increase their grit quotient.

For further reading:

1. Psychology Today Magazine on GRIT http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-20051017-000003.html

2.Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101

3. Grit: It’s what separates the best from the merely good, E. Packard, Monitor on Psychology, Volume 38, No. 10 November 2007,

4. The Grit Scale:

(by Daniel J. DeWitt, PhD)