Personal Development

Talent is overrated – Grit is the true differentiator

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Amy is a millennial real estate agent living and working in New York City. As a result of the substantial competition for real estate properties in the area, Amy has been struggling to acquire clients. Throughout her life, she's relied on her tenacity and fire to get her through difficult situations. Although most subjects didn't come easy to her in school, she worked hard and fought through adversity to achieve her goal of graduating from college. However, now she's faced with a unique challenge and feels as though she's completely outmatched.

She's met many of her competitors and she feels that they are smarter and more competent than her. She's created an inner monologue about how she's not good enough to compete with her competitors and it's seriously affecting her performance as a real estate agent. What can Amy do to improve her outlook and begin working towards building her business so that she can achieve her financial goals? In this article, we'll go over a few strategies:

The difference between "Talent" and "Grit"

We live in a society where talent is praised above all else. We look on in awe as we hear stories about prodigious musicians who learned to play the violin at age 4 or the coding geniuses that start the next big social media company. Although there are people out there who fit this bill, talent is not the only part of the success equation. In the book "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth, Professor Duckworth explores how "Grit" may be the key to unlocking your full potential.  You may be asking, what is "Grit"?

Grit is passion and perseverance towards a set of long-term goals. Grit is having the stamina and approaching each challenge as a marathon, not a sprint. It's consistently sticking with one idea, one goal or one objective for years. She contends that putting a substantial amount of effort into acquiring skills and then those applying those skills to achieve your goals is the formula for achieving lasting success in any industry. Below I've provided each formula discussed in the book:

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

When someone starts out learning anything, they need to dedicate the proper time and effort to acquire their desired skill. If the person is talented, they may be able to learn the skill faster than those who are less talented. However, since "effort" is accounted for twice when someone is looking to achieve something spectacular, it's actually a much more important variable for whether a person achieves the level of success that they desire.  By applying more effort to learning your craft and then applying more effort to applying that skill to achieve a goal, you can compound your results over time. My football coach would often say "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" and he couldn't have been more right.
How to develop "Grit"

Now that we've determined how important "Grit" can be to achieving long-term success let's delve into how you can develop more of it over time. In the book, Angela goes over the parable of the bricklayer. In the story, 3 bricklayers are building a church together. When each bricklayer is asked about their role the first bricklayer says "I'm laying bricks" (a job), the second says "I'm building a church" (a career) and the third says "I'm building the house of God" (a calling). In this example, each bricklayer was performing the same action but the third bricklayer viewed his role as extremely important and was driven by a higher calling. Research shows that people, who view their job as a calling missed on average 1/3 fewer days of work, were more engaged throughout the day and on average put in 20% more hours of work per week.

If the average person works 40 hours per week, this extra 20% translates to around 400 extra hours of work per year. That's almost 3 months of full-time work! If this effort is applied consistently over a decade, the individual who puts in 20% more hours will have amassed 2 more years of experience (4000 more hours) in the same time frame. The moral of the story is that even if you don't currently view your work as a calling, try to figure out how your job lines up with your bigger purpose in life. The more passionate you are about the work you do every day, the faster you'll achieve mastery and fulfillment.

Develop a growth mindset

What would your answer be to the following question: "How do you view setbacks in your life?" If your answer relates to how you hate setbacks and how they've never helped you achieve any goal, you may currently be suffering from a pessimistic mindset. In order to achieve your full potential, you'll need to break away from pessimism and shift your mindset to be more growth focused. What do I mean by growth focused? I mean that you should view negative stimuli in your life as an opportunity to grow and improve. For example, if you get passed over for a promotion that you've been working towards, do you throw your hands up and say how the world is unfair or do you objectively look at what you need to improve on and then begin working towards that objective?

In a study conducted by Stanford University, elementary school students were taught how the brain responds to negative stimuli. When kids read about how the brain changes and grows in response to a challenge, they were much more likely to persevere when they failed because they didn't believe  that failure was a permanent state.  Have you been down on yourself because of a previous failure? Try to reframe your failure as a learning experience and envision how your brain is changing to respond to future negative stimuli. By viewing failure in this light, you'll be much more resilient through tough times and be more willing to push through adversity when the going gets tough.

Bringing it all together

After  reading this article, Amy felt a new sense of purpose and committed to changing how she approached her day to day life. She knew that if she was willing to put in the effort to outwork her competitors and refine her craft, she could succeed in the long run. To start, Amy resolved to eliminate the negative self-talk that she'd been subjecting herself to over the course of the last few months. Instead of calling herself "stupid" and a "loser", she replaced these phrases with "I'm willing to learn and grow" and "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going". By replacing these negative phrases with more positive ones, she began to experience a boost in confidence and was more determined than ever to work towards her goals.
In the following months whenever Amy faced a setback, she would objectively look at the situation, determine what the best course of action was and began working towards a solution. After about 1 ½ years of this practice, her hard work began to pay off. Her old clients began referring her to their friends and family members because of the fantastic job she had done for them. She began hiring other real estate agents to help her with the increased demand and now 5 years later she manages a team of 8 real estate agents.

She has never been happier and still keeps her focus on achieving her long-term goals. Life will throw you curve balls from time to time. There will setbacks, detours and bumps that will leave you questioning yourself and your abilities. In order to achieve your long-term goals, you'll need to fight through these obstacles and continue along with vigor. Be willing to fail, be wrong or start over again. Using this formula, you'll be well on your way to achieving the life you desire.

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About the author

Raphael Collazo

Raphael Collazo is a millennial blogger, author, coach, professional keynote speaker and software consultant living in the Louisville area. His mission is to empower and inspire Millennials to reach their full potential. Website: