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Aim for Better

Years ago, for my birthday, I was given 3 copies of Sheryl Sandberg’s (Facebook’s COO), ‘Lean In’, which advocates women ‘keeping their foot on the gas’ of their careers. At the time I was pretty horrified. If I leant in that much I’d be sick on my shoes and fall flat on my face. And in any case, with small children and working full-time, I was far too busy leaning the hell in at home and work to read about exactly what trajectory I should be leaning in at. Nevertheless, I did lean and lean and lean a bit more.

Now that the small people have grown into medium-sized people and the leaning-in no longer involves leaning on things to stay awake, I can now make more time to read. Which is how I found myself recently with the Now Book Club reading the psychologist Angela Duckworth’s book, ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’. Like Sandberg, Duckworth knows that it’s the grafters in life who succeed. People like to believe that talent is born and genius is magical, but Duckworth proves that’s a myth. By studying everyone from hardcore marines to primary school spelling bee champions to CEOs, Duckworth discovered it’s ‘grit’ that predicts success more than talent or IQ.

So what’s ‘grit’? Well, Duckworth is a psychologist with her very own TED Talk, so she has her own pseudo-scientific equation:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

In other words, “Effort counts twice”.

Some people (Gladwell, Syed, etc.) have even tried to put a number on it. 10,000 hours of purposeful practice leads to success. So that cute violin prodigy isn’t a genius, she’s a grafter. And Serena Williams hasn’t won 23 Grand Slams because she’s gifted, it’s because she’s worked for it.

So if you want to succeed, stop worrying about whether other people are more talented than you or cleverer than you or more gifted than you, and simply try, try, and try again. Aim high, dig deep, and lean in.

The effort that grit requires isn’t glamorous or magical, but it works like magic. It means you can stop fretting about whether you are good enough and just be good.

As the formidably successful Under Armour campaign shows us, will trumps fate. ‘Will what you want’ by grafting for it.

(And if you’re too busy grittily leaning in to read a book, watch Duckworth’s TED Talk here)


Written by Laura Chamberlain, Managing Director at Now

Read: Be Curious