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Is Talent Enough to Make People More Likely to Succeed?


To master anything – from baking bread to becoming an opera singer, from finance to science, lipsticks to politics – effort is essential.

One of the most respected authorities on motivation, drive and willpower is Swedish psychologist and Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, Anders Eriksson. He researched what’s termed ‘deliberate practice’ and it’s more than likely you have come across what Eriksson wrote: ‘many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years.’

As creativity specialist Dannie‐Lu Carr points out, we don’t always know the stories behind people achieving their ambitions and attaining huge success. Sometimes it’s because they conceal their vulnerability and what they went through to achieve their ambitions. Sometimes it’s because people see what they want to see – and the myth of quick success seems more alluring.

‘Brad Pitt didn’t come out of nowhere as an actor,’ says Carr who is a former actress herself. ‘When you look at his audition tapes you can see how he developed. He too made his mistakes and worked hard.’ In fact, one of Brad Pitt’s first jobs was dressing up as a chicken for restaurant El Pollo Loco.

Getting good at something takes time and involves putting in the hours required. People who achieve their ambitions find the time to do so.

‘People don’t realize that musicians, for example, practise for several hours a day to get good,’ says Professor Fortlouis Wood. ‘A lot of creative people working on their skills continue to do so for decades – it’s what matters most to them so they’re not attending to conventional middle‐class achievements.’

This awareness of time and effort needed of course requires another quality – perseverance.

True Grit Paves the Way

One of the most exciting areas of current research in psychology is perseverance. Why do some people persevere while others give up? We know from Dweck’s work that people with a growth mindset believe they can learn and change any situation.

Based on Dweck’s theories, people who achieve their ambitions are not people who see failure as fixed. If there’s a hiccup along the way, they tend not to see it as failure, they continue with their growth mindset.

This article is an adaptation of the excerpt from Real Ambition: Quit Dreaming and Create Success Your Way by Psychologies Magazine. To learn more about the book, click here.

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