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The Marathon of Success: Grit's Triumph Over Talent

Only Through Failure Can We Eventually Succeed

There once was a man who, at 65 years old, found himself bankrupt after his restaurant failed. He drove around to over 1,000 diners and restaurants pleading with the owners to use his recipe. He was rejected over 1,000 times until one restaurant agreed to use his recipe. That man was Colonel Sanders and the recipe was for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"Best predictor of success in a person’s life is grit." (Angela Duckworth)

Time and time again, I would look at successful people and think, “I don’t have their talent, so will never be able to do what they do,” but hearing their stories made me realize that talent is only a small part of the equation. Perseverance, and grit are what lead to success. Are these qualities ones we can learn and develop? And if so, how?

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • Perseverance and grit, what they are, and their role

  • Growth mindset and how to develop perseverance and grit

Perseverance and Grit Above Talent

"I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Can you guess who this is? I couldn’t! This person’s current net worth is estimated at $3 billion, he was named the 20th century’s greatest North American athlete, and holds the NBA record for career regular season and playoff scoring average.

Ok, Michael Jordan has talent but did you also know that he didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team when he first tried out. It’s so easy to look at successful people and think their talent is what got them to be where they are. But when we hear their stories, talent alone didn’t get them to where they are.

So, let’s talk about what leads to success because who doesn’t want to be successful, right?! And as a side note, success will look very different for everybody. For one person it may be achieving the top of their career so they can have financial freedom to travel. For another, it may be spending time with the people they love. Whatever your ‘Why’, your drive to be successful, perseverance and grit will be your fuel.

Even The Research Is Into Grit

In 2013, Dr. Angela Duckworth did a TED talk about grit. She was studying children and adults in challenging environments such as West Point military cadets, national spelling bee participants, and first-year teachers in difficult schools. For each environment and for each person, her team asked the question “Who is successful, and why?” What came out from their research was, you guessed it, GRIT.

Students with the most grit were the most likely to graduate from high school. Cadets with the most grit were the most likely to finish their training. Duckworth and her team developed a grit questionnaire, and asked people questions such as, “Setbacks don’t discourage me for long.” and “I finish whatever I begin.” If you’d like to take the grit questionnaire, click here.

Another study out of Stanford University found that perseverance is key to children’s intellectual growth. When children are praised for the process they engage in, their hard work, their persistence, they are more motivated to learn.

The Power of Believing You Can

So, now that we know a bit more about grit and its positive impact on our lives, the next question is , well, ‘How can we build grit?” And the answer is a growth mindset.

A growth mindset has six key elements:

Key Element

Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset


Intelligence can be developed

I can learn to do anything I want.

I’m either good at it or I’m not.


Embrace challenges

Challenges help me to grow.

When I’m frustrated, I give up.


Persist in the face of setbacks

Failure is an opportunity to grow.

Failure is the limit of my abilities.


See effort as a path to mastery

My effort and attitude determine my abilities.

I stick to what I know.


Learn from criticism

Feedback is constructive.

Feedback and criticism are personal.


Inspired by others

I am inspired by the success of others.

I’m not good enough.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, a growth mindset can be developed:

  • Create resilience: praise the process, effort, focus, improvement rather than the result.

  • Build confidence: Use words ‘yet’ and ‘not yet’ rather than success or failure.

  • Try new things: when you go outside your comfort zone, your brain produces new, stronger connections over time, and you become smarter.

By transforming the meaning of effort and difficulty, we can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, difficulty is viewed as meaning ‘I am dumb,’ and makes me feel like giving up. But with a growth mindset, difficulty is viewed as essential to growth and ‘It makes me smarter’.

Embracing Growth

Someone who is talented may have the capability to be successful but without the will to achieve it, success won’t be achieved. And as we’ve seen, being successful means failing ALOT! We can’t succeed without failure. And to keep going in the face of failure, we need grit, and perseverance.

Just like a drop of water eventually breaks rock, when we keep trying we build strength, courage, we become smarter and we grow.

C.S. Lewis, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”

So here’s to ‘not yet,’ to falling down, and to getting back up. May your day, week, and year be gritty!

If you’re not sure where to start, simply start small. Every drop of water makes a difference. When you take that first step, the other steps will naturally start to unfold. And if you’d like some personal guidance, why not try meditation!

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