This is the One Quality you Need to Be Successful in Life

Well, at first I wanted to write: Don’t fall for click-baiting headlines, but that’s not the whole secret (though it’s certainly a small fraction of it). What I´d like to say is:

Don´t believe in easy solutions, or, to quote Lt. Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds:

Long story short, we hear a story too good to be true – it ain’t.

Most things in life – at least those that are worthwhile pursuing – require a lot of guts, smarts, and plain hard work. That certainly goes for:

  • building a successful company;
  • becoming a star in sports or music;
  • writing a bestseller;

but also for more mundane issues such as:

  • leading a functional long-term relationship;
  • raising healthy and pleasant kids;
  • coming to terms with your own flaws.

Yes, there are things that just work faster or better. But these “life hacks” are, without exception, just tiny pieces of a very large puzzle. Those people who sell easy solutions try to tell you that, by putting together two or three puzzle pieces, you´ve solved the whole thing.

Sorry folks, not true – unless your life equals the complexity of a puzzle made for a two-year-old.

Nico Rose - Penn Commencement

Grit: the Key for long-term Success?

When scientist look for the difference between (largely) successful versus not so successful people (across a multitude of different situations), the most important predictor so far has been overall intelligence. But there are – potentially – more important things than being the brightest kid in the room.

In 2007, Angela Duckworth and her colleagues first described a non-cognitive character trait by the name of “Grit”. Grit is described as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. It is supposed to have an orthogonal relationship to general intelligence – meaning they are by and large independent aspects of our personality. One can be intelligent but not gritty, gritty but not intelligent, both at the same time – or neither intelligent nor gritty.

What makes gritty people successful?

Grit is hypothesized as a stable characteristic. A person high in Grit does not seek immediate (positive) feedback. He/she is able to maintain his/her enthusiasm for a specific goal over very long periods of time despite experiencing adversity. In this context, long-term typically means “many years”, e.g. the time it takes to finish a doctoral thesis, become a grandmaster of chess or the like. The person´s commitment towards long-term objectives is the principal element that provides the determination essential to overcome challenges and set-backs.

Abraham Lincoln may be a good example of a gritty personality. He lost his first job at the age of 23 as well as his first election campaign.  At 27, he lost his second election campaign and had a nervous breakdown. Two of his sons died while still in their infancy. He lost at a race for Congress at 34, and once more in his 39th year. At 47, he failed to become the Vice President of the USA. Then, at the age of 52, he finally managed to become one of the most popular Presidents of all time.

If you want to find out how gritty you are – you´ll find short test here.