I have been re-reading Angela Duckworth’s New York Times bestseller ‘Grit’ recently. In it she explains why passion and resilience (the components of grit) are the secrets to success and not talent. She doesn’t deny that some people are talented or that it can lead to success, rather, she postulates that if we focus solely on talent we ignore and, worse, write off the majority of us who are not talented. She explores competitive swimming and athletics to show how excellence and success is really an accretion of small mundane acts.
It struck me how often we describe successful athletes as being talented but, in reality, when you dig beneath the surface you discover something far more prosaic and mundane...superlative performance is most often the coming together of dozens of small skills or activities, each one stumbled upon through analysis or hard work and the drilled into habit and pieced carefully and laboriously together into a synthesised whole. There is nothing superhuman about this. Instead it is painstaking, often boring and always hard work. However, for the majority of us who are not talented, there is hope in this message - given the passion and the determination, we are all capable of achieving excellence.
For our children there is a great message in this - if they are passionate enough about something, willing to commit to it and, importantly, willing to tolerate the almost inevitable boredom that this kind of success requires, they might just be able to achieve anything that they put their mind to. Good luck!
John F Gilmour