Grit to Great | Linda Kaplan Thaler

Summary of: Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary
By: Linda Kaplan Thaler


In ‘Grit to Great’, Linda Kaplan Thaler dispels the myth that talent alone can ensure success, arguing that perseverance and passion are the keys to extraordinary achievements. The book summary delves into various case studies and examples, demonstrating how hard work and determination have led to miraculous accomplishments for many individuals, regardless of their inherent talents. Prepare yourself for impactful insights on calculated risks, overcoming failure, maintaining motivation, and the power of helping others. This easy-to-follow summary will focus on breaking down complex topics and themes for an instructive, engaging, and user-friendly reading experience.

Talent is Overrated

Talent alone will not lead to success; hard work and dedication are the keys to achieving greatness. People who seem to excel effortlessly may rely on their natural abilities, but those who strive to improve and put in the work often reach the top. Talent is not enough – consistent effort, passion, and determination bring real accomplishments. A study in New York supports this idea: graduate students focused on hard work and not just dreaming received more job offers and higher salaries. This principle is also proven in real-life business scenarios, like the authors’ advertising agency experience with landing a major client through focused commitment and effort.

Ever had that perception that some people simply excel without putting in any effort? It’s a common sight in schools, where certain students get great grades without studying while others struggle to keep up. However, talent alone won’t guarantee long-term success.

Talent is overrated because it can create a false sense of security. Many talented people believe they can skate through life on their natural abilities and avoid dedicating themselves to hard work. Meanwhile, less-talented individuals are often more driven to succeed and committed to self-improvement. This leads them to choose subjects and careers they’re passionate about, rather than ones that come easily.

Ultimately, it’s those who work harder, not the “naturals,” who climb the ladder of success. Simply possessing talent means nothing if there’s no action to back it up.

A study by psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen demonstrates this. Comparing the habits of graduate students in New York, it revealed those who daydreamed about their goals without putting in the effort received fewer job offers and smaller salaries. Effort, not talent, paid off in the end.

The authors of this book, who run an advertising agency, provide another example. Desperate to secure a massive client, Wendy’s, they dedicated themselves to 70- and 80-hour weeks for months. They even worked at Wendy’s to learn the company inside out. Their hard work paid off when they won the contract as Wendy’s recognized their unmatched determination and effort.

Embrace Risk and Rejection

Success often requires stepping out of the safety nets provided by one’s comfort zone. Navigating calculated risks and learning from rejection are vital to achieving greatness both personally and professionally. Using grit and passion to propel yourself forward can lead to incredible growth, just as entrepreneurs like Jia Jiang demonstrate with their inspiring stories.

Like highwire artist Nick Wallenda crossing the Grand Canyon without a safety net, there comes a point in everyone’s career when they must embrace risks to achieve heights they never thought possible. Those with grit and passion see their careers taking off, requiring them to leave their comfort zones and dive headfirst into uncharted waters.

Taking risks doesn’t mean jumping blindly into any situation. As a business leader, it’s crucial to assess potential dangers and competition before entering new markets. Failing to evaluate these factors could lead to negative consequences for the entire company.

Nevertheless, if you face setbacks, grit will enable you to learn from and embrace rejection. As an aspiring entrepreneur, acknowledgement of potential rejection by investors is essential for growth. Rejection may sting, but it can be reframed as a learning experience.

Consider Jia Jiang’s story as an example of this transformative power. Jiang left the security of a tech job to pursue entrepreneurship, inspired by Steve Jobs. Despite numerous rejections, he refused to give up, launching the “100 Days of Rejection” project to face his fear. Each day, he set out to perform an unusual task designed to help him overcome rejection, such as ordering a quarter of a shrimp at a restaurant or attempting to borrow money from strangers.

Jiang documented his journey online, garnering widespread fame in the process. As a result, he secured a book deal and has been featured on TED talks. His story demonstrates an inspiring lesson: by embracing risk and learning from rejection, anyone can unlock untapped potential and achieve success.

Grit, Age, and Achievement

Achieving success often takes time, dedication, and perseverance. By celebrating small milestones and staying motivated, we can accomplish incredible feats, regardless of our age. Notable examples, like Vincent Van Gogh and Captain James Henry, remind us that it is never too late to pursue our passions and reach our goals.

Van Gogh’s impact on the world of art is immense, yet he sold only one painting during his lifetime. How did he manage to create over 2,000 artworks without much recognition? The answer lies in his unwavering determination and persistence. Maintaining motivation throughout long-term projects can be challenging, but we can gain inspiration from individuals like state attorney Mike Moore. Despite numerous rejections, he managed to rally a team and receive support from other state attorneys during his case against Big Tobacco. Years of relentless effort finally led to a massive $100 billion payout from tobacco companies to cover medical costs.

Over the years, some people may develop the misconception that less is achievable as they get older. However, the key lies not in settling with age, but in renewing motivation and maintaining a proactive mindset. A surefire strategy involves consistently planning and utilizing time productively. It’s essential to avoid adopting a “not-yet” attitude and to cherish the belief that age should never limit our aspirations.

Captain James Henry’s inspiring story is a testament to this notion. Raised on a farm and having spent most of his life as a fisherman, he learned to read only at the age of 92. Undeterred, he authored an autobiographical bestseller, “In A Fisherman’s Language,” at the astonishing age of 98. His journey serves as a powerful reminder that age should never be a barrier to achieving our dreams and pursuing our passions.

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