For the most part people succeed because of their discipline.
Not because they are particularly smart or talented, but because they stuck to what they did.
Malcolm Gladwell touched upon this in his book Outliers, quoting the magic 10,000 hours. To get really good at something, like expert level good, go spend 10,000 hours on it. This TED talk also talks about something similar – success lies with the gritty ones, those that don’t give up even when the going gets tough.
Discipline and grit come up again and again in success stories. JK Rowling kept writing her first book amid poverty and a slew of life problems, including raising her baby daughter as a single mother on welfare and sometimes having no heat in the winter. That’s grit. Going to the same cafe nearly every day, nursing that same cup of coffee, writing steadily. That’s discipline. My cousin Damien got really good at piano and cello, not because he was a YunDi Li, but because since the age of 8 he kept going to classes and practiced his instruments at the insistence of his mother. Unwillingly at times – yes – but never missing a class. I see it here in the blogosphere – many of the bloggers I follow post regularly, despite having jobs, family, every day stresses – and often I find their writing compared to their earlier pieces more sophisticated and fluid as time goes by. It’s usually the same topics, and similar treatment of the subject matter, but the ideas get communicated in a more effective manner.
What about talent? Does talent matter?
Yes, depending on what you do. If your dream is to be an actor but you have debilitating stage fright and stutter at every other sentence, then there will be problems. To be a great actor you also need empathy, understanding how someone else would feel despite never having been in their situation before. Some are gifted at this, natural-born observers of people and imitators of emotion, some aren’t. It doesn’t mean you don’t need grit and discipline to become an excellent actor despite the talent – study any successful movie star that made it and they often share a common trait – they’re extremely disciplined when it comes to learning their scripts, preparing for their role and getting into character. But talent is what makes one great.
Thankfully for most jobs you can succeed solely by discipline and grit. I was having a conversation with my attorney friend who told me his success story in the legal field. Not particularly good academically, having failed most of his subjects in the open exam, he managed to secure internships and eventually get certified. He was disciplined about his networking and didn’t become complacent or lazy even in his early days when he had little business (he runs his own business). “The key,” he said, “is to never treat yourself like you’re not employed by someone, even when you are self-employed.” He went into his rented office every day, even on days when he had no cases. He constantly prepared himself and armed himself with market knowledge. He doesn’t have the fancy university degrees many attorneys out there have, but he does very well for himself and comparative to others in the field.
Discipline and grit. Keys to success.
How are you going to apply these two qualities to your life? What skill have you chosen to hone? What do you think are the keys to success?
Feature image credit: Alan Levine | Creative Commons