Discipline and grit

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.


YunDi Li. Not my cousin…

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.

Discipline-is-the-silentThankfully 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


8 comments on “Discipline and grit

  1. One of the things that I applied myself to early on in my life is being a Renaissance Man… The Jack of all Trades and Master of None… This often makes me a know-it-all (that people often dislike) because I have a little knowledge in everything. While I might not have a mastery in anything, I have enough in every little thing to make me either invaluable, or the pain in the ass no one wants to be around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great – society needs all-rounders too along with experts. Maybe not too many pain in the asses 😉
      I think I’m an all-rounder too. I dabble in a many things and feel “balanced”, but like you, no trade am I master.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post pixie, and I agree. I also remember the movie Amadeus, who had no discipline or grit, much to the chagrin of Salieri. Salieri’s grit and determination, coupled with envy, drove him mad. Amadeus rose to the top in spite of himself. I’m just lazy enough to want to be Amadeus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bravo. I have to watch that movie sometime, thank you for introducing it here! Perhaps the take home message is to accept that some people are just talented. A stroke of genius, God showing a portion of his brilliance through the gifted hands of Amadeus. And just see that as something beautiful instead of letting jealousy devolve into insanity…but to envy is to be human. I suspect we’re all more like Salieri naturally unless we’re taught to keep our envy in check. Like through religion, parental guidance, or education.

      Me too, I’d take being Amadeus any day! If only I could see formulas like John Nash, or construct complex equations in my head like Stephen Hawkin…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The whole concept of “success” is riddled with challenges, of course, but understanding success and how it happens and, to a greater extent, how it can happen to you? That’s difficult.

    The Hollywood ideal often sells us success through ‘fate’ or some in built ability or promise. This is generally false (as well as pernicious) and something best ignored. Even talented people have to apply themselves with determination, hard work and elbow grease to reach as high as they can.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this, Pixie, thank you for sharing your thoughts! In one of my posts, I admitted I lacked the discipline to achieve my full potential when I was in school and now as a working adult. Perhaps it was because unlike JK Rowling and a lot of my fellow Filipinos from the lower class, I don’t have to work because I would lose my home or my family would starve or my brothers won’t be able to go to school. My parents gave me everything I need that all I have to live for now is myself, that I have to work to make MY dreams come true. That is what I’m working on now: I am looking for something that I am actually desperate for, something that will make me work hard to get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad it resonated with you Nelle! I think it’s a common problem … not having the discipline and grit. I have much respect for those who do and have the tenacity to just press on. I feel similar – I’ve never been pushed to a point where I have to work to survive, where another person’s life depended on my grit. Perhaps when I become a parent, that will change….
      Hope you find that ‘something’ and I’m sure you will work hard for it when you’ve found what you love!

      Liked by 1 person

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