It’s a long game

A friend just passed her PhD viva and another friend just earned his MBA. We gathered to celebrate their incredible milestones. One of our friends said, “Gosh, I could never do that. You guys are lucky to be born smart!”

They’re lucky, or smart? Really?

Yes they are smart, but the real secret of their success is stamina. As their friends, I got to witness how much time and effort they committed into their goals.

Getting a PhD is a lonely journey filled with countless failures and rejections. She’s constantly solving problems and overcoming hurdles.

The guy who got MBA is a full-time engineer who battled with his health issues while planning for his wedding at the same time.

Learning from them and other people who I admire, I realize that it takes very little talent or IQ to accomplish anything big. Instead, what it takes are

  • resilience
  • patience
  • self-control
  • self-aware
  • courage
  • efficiency
  • and a bit of luck (when preparation meets opportunity)

I like this TED talk by Angela Duckworth. She introduced the word “grit” which means the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. According to her, grit is a better predictor of achievement than intellectual talent (IQ), because grit serves as the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” despite challenges and setbacks.

It’s the courage to try, fail and rise back up, again and again that makes the difference.

It’s the determination to keep going even when you are unsure of the outcome.

In fact not only professional success, personal projects such as overcoming a bad habit, maintaining a relationship, or parenting also need way more grit and effort than you’d imagine.

Case in point, recently my friend becomes a working mum. She has to juggle between her career and parenthood for the rest of her life. Imagine how much stamina that would take. Now I don’t even complain that I’m busy anymore.

By looking at the journey as a long marathon, instead of a short sprint has been really helpful. Each hurdle is just a small pebble on the road, I will rise and move on. It’s a long game.

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.