When people think about genius, the word is usually associated with some natural excess of talent or ability. But research and data strongly suggest that genius is more a product of effort than luck. Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book Grit, which examines the power and development of perseverance, spoke about the subject at the Qualtrics Insight Summit, held in early March at The Grand America Hotel. She said while talent is still an important factor of success, a far greater one is the passion and work ethic a person brings to whatever craft they're engaged in.
"Grit is sustained passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals," she said. "There is something about people having different gifts. But without effort, without working at something, you'll never develop skill. Skill is talent multiplied by effort."
For her research, Duckworth has looked at high achievers in a number of different fields, including professional athletes, academics, West Point students, spelling bee champions and even middle-schoolers. What she found was that one of the key differences between those who succeeded and those who fell short was not just that the person put in hard work, but that the effort was targeted and the practice was deliberate, citing a fallacy in the idea that working for 10,000 hours on a skill will make a person an expert.
"It's misleading to think that 10,000 hours is the secret to success. You'll meet countless people who have put in 10,000 hours and are mediocre. What makes a difference is not so much the quantity of effort as the quality of effort," Duckworth said. Deliberate practice, Duckworth said, means setting a specific goal of a way for a person to stretch themselves in one way--for example, a world-class swimmer might set a specific goal to shave a few seconds off of a set length. The person must also be focused on what they're doing, she said, and fully dedicated to improving themselves during that time of practice. And when they have made an effort, successful people get feedback on how they did--and then seek to improve based on what that feedback showed.
"Human beings like every other living organism only learn from feedback--ideally immediate feedback. What happens when you do something with your whole heart and it didn't do what you wanted to? Well, that depends on if you do the fourth goal. World-class experts truly listen [to feedback] and refine...