The One Thing That is a Better Indicator of Your Success Than Talent

The trait that takes you from average to spectacular is not your IQ!

You are unique, and so is everyone else. Success means a lot to every person. It’s a weighted combination of power, status, money, family, and work. You can define success in your own terms, because what brings you fulfillment and meaning is not the same for everyone.

People pursue success for different reasons. The fortunate few with a high IQ advantage may find it easy to pursue specific careers in life. And what could take you twice as long to learn and achieve will be an easy pursuit for them.

Deliberate practice, self-discipline, and perseverance have a lot more to do with your success than you think!

“I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times.” —Bruce Lee

Talent is overrated. Thousands of hours of hard work can compensate for what you think is a weakness. You can master any skill if you put your mind to it and commit to relentless practice. Embracing repetition means changing your mindset; instead of viewing it as a chore, view it as your most powerful tool.

In Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin argues that deliberate, methodical, and sustained practice is the way to achieve true mastery.

“Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance,” Colvin writes.

You could argue that a set of genes give rise to some particular skill and that Einstein had the physics gene and Mozart had the symphony gene. But guess what? Even those with some kind of talent have to work hard to reach the peak of their selected careers. Einstein and Mozart had to work damn hard to achieve greatness.

Mozart once wrote to a friend: “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

You can easily attribute insane success to talent. But the ability to keep plugging away despite any setbacks or failures can significantly improve your odds of succeeding at any skill you choose to master.

Daniel Coyle, author of “The Little Book of Talent” explains:

“From a distance, top performers seem to live charmed, cushy lives. When you look closer, however, you’ll find that they spend vast portions of their life intensively practicing their craft. Their mind-set is not entitled or arrogant; it’s 100-percent blue collar: They get up in the morning and go to work every day, whether they feel like it or not.”

Researcher Dr. K. Anders Ericsson of the University of Stockholm has found that talent is really about deliberate practice. The mix of passion, perseverance, and self-discipline that keeps you moving forward in spite of obstacles can contribute to your success more than your IQ.

Your ability to stick with and pursue any goal over a long period of time is an important indicator of achieving anything worthwhile in your life and career.

In an article on LinkedIn, Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, argues that the trait that takes you from average to spectacular comes from your measure of cognitive control, not your IQ.

“The abilities that set stars apart from the average at work cover the emotional intelligence spectrum: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social effectiveness,” says Daniel.

He references studies from the University of Pennsylvania to exemplify the importance of these skills: The students who earned the highest grades weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs, but rather those who kept trying despite setbacks and failures.

These studies suggest that one of the most crucial skills you need to succeed is having a talent for working hard. The ability to persevere and maintain goal-focused effort for extended periods is important for your success.

The good news is, you can cultivate the perseverance and mental toughness success requires. Your response to a challenging situation is more important than the obstacles you face, hence the need to develop powerful motivation to help you achieve your goals. Tenacity matters more than talent.

I originally published this post on Inc.com

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