The Pulse

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When we’re young, we’re told if we study hard and pay attention in school, we’ll be well off. We also know that some people simply possess a natural aptitude for certain things, which can lead to success as well.

But according to psychologist Angela Duckworth, the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t necessarily intelligence or talent – it’s grit.  

Duckworth describes grit as a blend of passion and persistence for long-term and meaningful goals. It’s a measure of your tenacity and resilience – your resolve to move forward after suffering a setback.

Leo Babauta, author and creator of the popular online journal Zen Habits, has another name for grit. He calls it “Overcoming the Urge to Quit.”

Babauta claims it’s a habit, and that he learned it when he finally succeeded in quitting smoking for good – after quitting not-for-good seven times before that.

The good news is, according to Babauta, “Overcoming the Urge to Quit” is something you can develop. And you do that by putting in the effort and committing to do it over and over and over again.

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “It’s always darkest before dawn.” Indeed, some of our greatest triumphs come to us on the verge of failure. Our best ideas are often last minute, when our backs are against the wall. In fact, some of our best ideas often come after we’ve already failed.

How many times have you submitted something you struggled with, only to then have an epiphany that – had you had it just a few days earlier – would have made your project a breeze?

Of course, it’s frustrating – but it’s the people who take those frustrations in stride and persevere with their newfound knowledge that accomplish amazing things.

In her book titled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth says any effort you make ultimately counts twice towards your goal, and that is why effort is worth more than IQ. She uses two simple equations to explain this concept.

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

As you can see from her math, effort counts twice. And because of that, she claims, grit will always trump talent. In her words, “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

Let me give you an example of how grit leads to effort, and effort leads to success.
 
In September of 2013, Diana Nyad attempted to swim more than 100 miles from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. Nyad called the stretch of water “Mother Nature on steroids.” The Florida Straits are filled with whitetip shark and box jellyfish – famous for their aggressiveness and deadly venom respectively.
 
After nearly 53 hours in the water, Nyad became the first person to ever complete the swim from Cuba to Florida. She did it at 64 years old, on her fifth attempt. Her catalyst for completing the swim? The death of her mother, four years earlier.

Nyad could have quit on her fourth attempt, which came to a screeching halt after she was stung by a jellyfish. She could have quit on that first night, as she carved through walls of freezing seawater, vomiting into her mask and struggling to keep afloat. But Nyad and her team had a motto they recited back and forth, from the Marina Hemingway in Havana all the way to the beaches of Key West: “Find a way.”

Nyad had grit. And she put in the effort. And that’s how she achieved something so great.

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