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Grit: The Number One Skill You Need to Succeed

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

There's a good chance that you checked your social media today.

Probably more than once.

Most of us follow a combination of our friends, acquaintances, and professional network.

Chances are you’re also following and seeing posts by famous people.

Those who have ‘achieved great things.’ Those who live aspirational lives and are doing things you wish you could so someday.

We tend to follow people who are at the top of their game. Those who have mastered their craft. (Aside from the recent trend towards celebrities with no particular talents).

Sportsmen and women performing at an elite level. Creatives pushing the boundaries of their industry. Entrepreneurs who know the business world inside out and always seem a step ahead of the game.

The Cult of Genius.

When we see what they achieve and how they live we often call them gifted, blessed, a natural talent. We’re all guilty at times of believing their talents and the things that put them there were almost predetermined.

They had a natural advantage right from the start and they’ve pursued it to the top.

Creating this ‘us and them’ distinction leads to what German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche called The Cult of the Genius.

It’s something we’re often guilty of doing without even knowing were doing it. By placing others on a pedestal, we are accounting for their talent as if it’s some invisible, indescribable substance.

Something they were gifted with, and you were not.

If you find yourself lacking in the same talents, then it’s tempting to find comfort in that discrepancy.

As Nietzsche said, “…to call someone divine means: ‘here there is no need to compete’” and you are absolved from feeling inferior.

How could you possibly compete with them anyway? You may ask.

Talent Versus Effort.

It would be silly to state that we are all born equal and have an equal chance of success. But that’s definitely not the same as saying we are not born equal and only those born with an advantage will succeed.

Not many people are born with the body proportions and long limbs of Michael Phelps which no doubt helped him achieve his greatness in swimming.

Not many people are born with Muhammad Ali’s sheer athleticism combined with frame which made him arguably the greatest boxer in history.

Not many people are born with the musical ear and lyrical speed of Lin Manuel Miranda which has made him one of the most successful composers and playwrights of the 21st century.

But that’s them and you’re you.

So, does that mean you’ll never get good at what you’re doing?

Does that mean that unless you are born with a gift you’ll never be as good as other people?

It does not.

An Angela Duckworth wrote in her book, Grit, ‘Effort Counts Twice’.

We love to be impressed by these inhuman feats of greatness.

Ali’s domination in the ring.

Phelps crushing world and Olympic records every 4 years.

Miranda’s inhumanly fast monologues and lyrical play that the average guy or gal just couldn’t summon up.

In short, we like to see mastery in action.

What we don’t like to see is the progress. The process.

“With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be. We rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic. No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become.” Wrote Nietzsche.

But let’s use our imaginations for a second. Imagine the very first time Muhammad Ali laced up his boxing gloves to hit a bag, or spar in the gym. Imagine those clumsy movements as he tried to learn how to throw a punch correctly or to evade being hit himself.

Imagine his slowness of movement as he began to learn how to build up combinations of punches without overextending, keeping his guard, maintaining a steady base with his feet and so on.

He would look clumsy. He would make mistakes. He would get hit long before his punches would ever connect with his opponents.

And this is Muhammad Ali we’re talking about.

Did Michael Phelps just get into a pool and glide from one end to the other? Or do you think he might have splashed around a bit first?

If there was a video a diary it would certainly show failure after failure, followed by tweaks and modifications, followed by incremental progress.

So-called natural talent isn’t enough. It will not bring success.

Effort counts twice.

How to ‘Acquire Greatness’.

Greatness and success are complex things. They may not mean the same thing to one person as they do to another.

That’s why there is no definitive spot for ‘The greatest…of all time’ despite all the polls and articles you may read.

Instead, we should reframe it to define what success means to us.

What does it mean to you?

Once you have an idea of what your success looks like (and this is an ever-evolving vision) the task is to do the work itself.

There is no replacement for this.

You have to get in the pool to learn how to swim.

You have to lace up your gloves to learn how to box.

You have to create music to be a composer.

If you’re not doing it then you’re not doing it.

Action is action and effort is effort and anything else is just talk.

Let’s go back to Nietzsche one final time.

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it) …They all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.”

Translated – break the process down in to small pieces. Do the work that’s needed rather than thinking of the end result.

1% better with every effort.

Greatness and success in any given field is doable.

It’s the result of many, many individual feats. And when completed individually, every one of those feats is doable.

If you’re looking at inspirational ways to connect with your customers, then let’s talk.

Whether it's mindset, fitness, nutrition, or wellbeing, I craft copy that connects.

Contact for a consultation—let's make your story impactful!

Gavin Williams

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