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Y Combinator is the legendary tech incubator responsible for Reddit, Dropbox, Airbnb, Scribd, and scores of other notable startups. When asked what made the difference between profit machines like Dropbox and catastrophic startup failures, Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham had this to say:
“Several founders mentioned specifically how much more important persistence was than intelligence. ’I've been surprised again and again by just how much more important persistence is than raw intelligence.’” - Paul Graham, Co-Founder of Y Combinator
He’s obviously not alone in his assessment that grit (persistence … perseverance … whatever you want to call it) is a more accurate predictor of success than intelligence.
“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
- Roger Bannister
In retrospect it’s obvious. ”We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take,” as Wayne Gretzky said. Simple, right?
But isn’t this just sports and startup folklore? I thought so as well, but it turns out science has been corroborating the notion.
While this is intellectually interesting, what’s really exciting is the practical application. How fortunate that grit is, as Duckworth mentioned, a trainable skill. (See: The Grit Habit - free PDF that teaches Grit in a single page).
We can’t control how much “talent” we have. We can’t change the genetic cards we’re dealt at birth. But we can learn to persist in spite of all limitations. And now we know: that’s what really matters.
“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough. Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long Term Goals, U Penn. Flourish, Martin Seligman. etc. ↩