Grit Makes the Man

Jonah Lehrer has an excellent post about a recent paper’s exploration of the nature of success and how it relates to talent in the National Spelling Bee.  From Duckworth, et al:

Our major findings in this investigation are as follows: Deliberate practice—operationally defined in the current investigation as the solitary study of word spellings and origins—was a better predictor of National Spelling Bee performance than either being quizzed by others or engaging in leisure reading. With each year of additional preparation, spellers devoted an increasing proportion of their preparation time to deliberate practice, despite rating the experience of such activities as more effortful and less enjoyable than the alternative preparation activities. Grittier spellers engaged in deliberate practice more so than their less gritty counterparts, and hours of deliberate practice fully mediated the prospective association between grit and spelling performance.

In the music world the most often used descriptor for a new artist is “talented,” but anyone on the inside will tell you that it’s perseverance that makes the difference. With the extreme competitiveness of music jobs big and small, every recent winner will tell you that they “got lucky.”  What they won’t tell you is that they’ve been runner up the last 8 times, and keep going to the auditions, rejection after rejection.  Talent will get you in the door, but the ability to sustain the grind, day in and day out, is what produces success.