Why Talent and IQ ≠ Success

How many of you have run into a very intelligent and/or significantly talented friend from high school or college that just never reached their goals? Knowing their ability, you are left wondering- Why did they never reach their potential?

Alternatively, how many of you know someone that didn’t make the top ten percent, didn’t win a talent show, and didn’t at all seem to be a “born success.” Maybe they even dropped out of school. I know someone like that. He’s working at Tesla now.

Intelligence and Talent  Don’t Equal Success

As much as we value them, intelligence and talent just don’t equal success. Angela Lee Duckworth explained in her 2013 TED talk that, according to her research, grit was a better predictor of success than either talent or IQ.

What is Grit?

Grit is that life inside you that keeps you pushing with excitement and determination toward goals that others would have long since let go. Duckworth defines it like this:

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Success, then, has a lot more to do with your perspective than your perceived potential.

Grit Perspective- Do You Have It?

Grit has a lot to do with your perspective. You might be wondering- Do I have that perspective?

Ask yourself this question: How do you think about unreached goals?

Do you see them as a disappointing loss, and you are moving on to other goals? Or do you see them as simply not reached yet? Do you feel like you failed or that you are still on your way to success?

The Power of “Yet”

I have some a number of pretty important goals to me that I am working toward. I was recently in awe of a comment someone made to me. It seemed to indicate that person just naturally thought I’d given up on them. I just wondered at it at the time. Why would me not being there yet indicate I’d given up? Because it was years in the making? No matter how long it takes, I still see those as not yet. 

Likewise, if you have a problem you haven’t been able to solve, you could see it as something you can’t solve or that you just haven’t solved yet.

The difference is just a difference of perspective.

Get Your Grit Score

If you feel that you are still capable, still working toward, still progressing toward success that just is not yet, then you have that stick-to-itiveness that we refer to as grit.

Want to take a quick test and see just how gritty you are? Take the free 10 Question Grit Scale Test here.

How Do You Get Grit?

This is the question that needs more research. However, Duckworth and others believe that grit can be developed by having a growth mindset. Carol Dweck talks about what a growth mindset is in her Stanford Talk and TED talk.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Having a growth mindset means that you take the perspective that:

  • Problems are opportunities, not unscalable hurdles.
  • Intelligence and talent are not fixed.
  • Managers are not born.
  • Failing is part of learning.
  • The brain can develop new connections.
  • You can actually get smarter.

All of this is opposed to the fixed mindset idea that you are simply born with so much talent and intelligence. If you don’t have it, you never will.

You Are Capable of Success

If Dweck and Duckworth are correct, then that means that you are capable. You are capable of focusing, sticking to what matters to you, and working hard to reach that which is for you not yet.

Sip Life Slowly and Enjoy It

This blog is designed to inspire you to work toward that which matters most to you. It is designed to encourage you to work toward and delight in those relationships, projects, and passions that you value most- even when the going gets rough.

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Photo Credit: Photo by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash


6 thoughts on “Why Talent and IQ ≠ Success

  1. Great post, especially in describing in what grit is and how it applies to success! I think grit is very important to consider in long-term success. I think this also ties into the individual finding meaning in what they do on a day-to-day basis. These are all topics pertaining to positive psychology, which asks what it means to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Feel free to check out my content at any time and leave any contributions that you would like. I really enjoy writing from a positive psychology perspective, so I think that you would greatly enjoy the content. Great post, keep up the good work!


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