The Best Predictor of Future Success
Wonder just what it is that best predicts your future success? Passion and perseverance are more important to success than talent or intelligence. But there’s something else that may be the best gauge of your future success.
In a series of studies at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that “gritty” people are more likely to achieve success in school, work and other pursuits—perhaps because their passion and commitment help them endure setbacks. In other words, it’s not just talent that matters but also character.
How Much Does Talent Count?
So… if effort is the bedrock of success, what roles do intelligence and talent play? Many large research projects suggest that intelligence accounts for about 25 percent of one’s success. While persistence, or pure grit, accounts for at least 50 percent, and creativity an additional 25 percent.
Neurobiologist Angela Duckworth and positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, known for his groundbreaking work on optimism, interviewed high achievers in various fields to identify their common distinguishing characteristics.
There were a number of people in their study who were brilliant, ambitious and persevering, Duckworth reports. But there were also a lot who were not geniuses, but were really tenacious and could endure setbacks. The researchers began to refer to this tenacity as “grit”—the determination to accomplish an ambitious, long-term goal despite the inevitable obstacles.
And for those who may not be ranked as having a genius IQ, Duckworth and Seligman have an important finding: Grit has value for people at all levels of raw intelligence and ability.
In fact, their initial studies show that grit and intelligence are completely independent traits. Duckworth says regardless of your ability, it’s important to be focused and able to bounce back from setbacks.
The Power of Passion
There is strong evidence that passion fuels persistence. Although extremely persistent people are usually passionate about their work, that doesn’t mean that the passion always comes first.
Perseverance, notes Duckworth, can itself foster passion. Often the most fascinating aspects of an area of interest only become apparent after deep immersion, to a level where you understand it and are enlivened by it.
For others, persistence may grow from a desire to test their limits. Consider endurance athletes, for whom challenge isn’t merely an obstacle to accomplishing something but often the spur to action in the first place.
Also in the Mix
Passion may be the linchpin of grit, but it’s not the only element. Truly gritty people tend to set especially challenging long-term goals. Self-discipline is probably also important, and studies have shown that gritty people tend to be highly self-disciplined.
Then there’s optimism, a trait that Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis finds is extremely common among high achievers. They just really believe in the end that they’re going to win, and they just keep on pushing, he says.