Much has been written these days to debunk the ‘talent myth,’ the pervasive notion that exceptional people, such as Tiger Woods, Mozart and Shakespeare, are born with their talents and that we (mere mortals) are simply not gifted or talented like they are.
But according to expertise researchers like Anders Ericsson, no one is born with talent. Mastery, as it has been shown repeatedly, is developed through purposeful practice over an extended period of time (10,000 hours or ten years research shows). Authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Matthew Syed have written elegantly on this emerging research in their books Outliers and Bounce, respectively. Our Eureka article, “How We Learn a Skill,” touches on the topic as well.
But knowing you need 10,000 hours is one thing; actually putting in that time to improve performance is another. The question remains: What personality metric allows you to do the hard work?
In this article, science writer Jonah Lehrer, author of the New York Times bestseller Imagine, explores new psychological science on grit–the stick-to-it-iveness trait now thought responsible for helping you practice deliberately to improve performance and ultimately succeed in the things you do.
Lehrer presents research led by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Ducksworth. In a study published by her and her team this March in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, which explored grit in 190 spelling bee participants, Ducksworth implicated this trait as the drive it takes to practice for long hours in pursuit of mastery.
According to Ducksworth, those with grit can single-mindedly focus on their goals, are often obsessed with activities that interest them, and are more successful due to their persistence in the face of struggle.
Check out Lehrer’s full article on the Wired Magazine website.