What’s More Important: Talent or Grit?

May 10, 2013

In your career, your education, your life in general, what is more likely to bring you success: your natural aptitude and skill or your resolve, stamina, and hard work? This was one question that University of Pennsylvania psychology researcher, Angela Lee Duckworth was determined to have answered. Through the course of her research, she discovered that no matter what area people were trying to succeed in–whether it be students endeavoring to graduate, teachers working in disadvantaged schools striving to make a meaningful difference in their pupils’ lives, West Point cadets determined to make rank, or corporate salespeople attempting to earn the highest paychecks–a clear tendency became apparent:

Grit was the undisputed winner.

Taking a variety of professions into account, the question “Who was successful and why?” was answered quite clearly: gritty characteristics like passion, perseverance, and a dedicated work ethic spanning over years ultimately proved efficacious.

“Our data showed very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent,” Duckworth asserts.

In the acting profession, it’s tempting to believe those who seem most talented will be the ones who ultimately land the big, desirable roles. And certainly, sometimes they just might. But overall, talent is not a shoe-in. These research conclusions read as both a fair warning and a flagship of hope to actors looking to succeed in an undeniably challenging industry. To those naturally gifted actors, the data suggests that being gifted will not open all the doors in your career. And to those actors with perhaps less talent but a heap of true grit, it encourages you to keep persisting, keep working, and resolve to do so for the long run. “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Duckworth insists.

Doesn’t this remind you of the tale of The Tortoise and the Hare?

To hear Angela Lee Duckworth speak about The Key to Success, click here for her six-minute talk.