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Dreams set the course for our lives. How we navigate the journey toward them can determine if we succeed or fail.

What does it take to accomplish our goals? What sets high-achievers apart from ordinary people? Is it talent? Hard work? Luck?

Talent

High-achievers often appear to have a special gift or ability that gives them an advantage over “ordinary” people. This can seem especially true among athletes and artists. But extensive research has busted the myth of talent. In his book Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin writes, “… you are not a natural-born clarinet virtuoso or car salesman or bond trader or brain surgeon – because no one is.”

Hard work

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule in his book Outliers. Anders Ericsson developed the rule when he studied musicians and their level of achievement. The runaway success of this concept has led Ericsson to clarify his findings: It’s not only hard work and 10,000 hours of effort that will make you an expert, deliberate practice during those hours is what leads to real achievement.

Luck

Our culture celebrates overnight success. Lottery winners give us hope – hope that we might be picked someday, too. But it’s unlikely that fate will intervene to help us realize our dreams. What we can do is consistently risk becoming more than we are today. We can put forth our best work. Try, fail, learn and put forth our best work again. You control the hand of fate!

So if talent, hard work and luck aren’t the keys to being a high-achiever, what is?

Grit, a combination of passion and long-term perseverance, is the best predictor of success, says Angela Duckworth in her brilliant book, Grit.

The four elements of grit are:

  1. Find an interest that can grow into a passion.
  2. Engage in deliberate practice.
  3. Connect your goals and your purpose.
  4. Believe that your efforts can create a better tomorrow.

To get gritty, don’t go it alone. If you have ever found a new interest or attended a workshop only to find yourself slipping back into old habits, you know the danger of flying solo. Find a support and accountability group to keep up your momentum. Keith Ferrazzi provides a blueprint for achievement through relationships and groups in his classic book Who’s Got Your Back.

Break your dreams into bite-sized pieces. You won’t achieve them by putting on your cape and leaping to the finish line in a single bound. Establish 90-day goals. Each milestone will consist of specific, individual tasks. Write them down, carry them with you and look at them several times a day to stay focused.

Grow you grit, and you’ll find yourself among the high-achievers.

Live a Bold & Authentic Life

Matt

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