Why Grit Trumps Talent Every Time

Learn the 5 Easy Ways You can Become Grittier

We often think that great students are geniuses, born with wicked math skills and the ability to slay any problem thrown at them. They could write in utero, learn a new language over night, and maybe bench press the weight of their car, right?

grit will get there walking through desert

Sure, great students definitely have some innate gifts, but getting amazing grades likely isn’t one of them. I mean, how would nature really have selected for earning good engineering grades in the millennia of human existence before school?

Instead, there is likely something else at play. Some call it grit.

Grit is the determination and perseverance shown in the face of difficulty–especially repeatedly difficulty–when working toward a goal.

It’s what keeps elite athletes waking up at crazy hours to train even harder than the day before, why some people keep trying after everyone else has stopped, and a quality that is learned—not innate.

Even people who go on to make things look effortless, like a former pianist who hasn’t touch a piano in 15 years but can still play well enough to pack a symphony hall, at some point had enough grit to get where they are.

It turns out that grit is the best predictor of success, and there’s even a book dedicated to the topic.

But enough about gritty athletes and musicians, what about engineering school?

grit will not quit woman studying at university

Engineering school is a Superdome of Grit.

Who hasn’t heard or said how difficult it can be to do well or just pass an engineering class? It isn’t like history or political science—engineering school is mind-blowingly, white-knuckles hard as F.

Not only that, but students drop out of engineering school like flies at an aerosol Raid party. Because that’s how to boost morale: have people vanish every quarter.

Is it because they are short on grey matter? Are really only the gifted few destined to become engineers? Or is this really a question of grit?

Let’s take you for example….

Chances are good that you were a pretty stellar (or at least respectably decent) high school student, so I think we can both agree you’re far from a mouth-breather.

And yet we’re guessing that you might have had a bit of a wake up call on your first engineering exam or first year of engineering school. What happened? Maybe you’re still struggling through your engineering classes and increased workload, and the easy-peasy successes of high school are a faded dream. Why is that?

grit will survive camping in tundra

Listen, we know. Lacy’s been there: sucking hard to get a breath of air after my first semester of engineering school. You might be thinking, but didn’t you graduate as the #1 student in your engineering school? Yep, but I sure didn’t start there.

I pushed through, learned how to become the student I wanted to be, and kept coming back. Even when I sucked.

It would be a lie to say that I didn’t quit. I did quit. But then I showed up. Again. And again. And again. And I learned a buttload (an actual unit of measurement, btw) in the process.

So, what is this grit stuff all about?

How to Develop Your Grit

1Make sure you’re doing what interests you

Grit is near impossible without passion. We know, it’s hard to be passionate about linear algebra, but think about the end game. Are you passionate about solving problems? Are you excited about inventing new things? Does the idea of engineering stuff get you randy?

If you’re in engineering just for your parents and a solid paying job, we’re not here to tell you whether that qualifies as passionate or not. Instead, think about what your shade of passion looks like. Is it the joy of making your family proud? Is it the comfort of knowing you’ll be able to earn a living to do the things you really want?

Whatever it is, there has to be something that gets you excited. If there isn’t, find something that does.

2Find a higher purpose beyond yourself

Doing stuff just because you like it is cool and everything, but being able to help others is the human part of life. Is engineering your dharma? Is it your gift to share with the world?

Evidently, gritty people are rarely if ever in it solely for themselves. They generally have a bigger purpose that keeps them going through their lowest times.

“I tried” is a grit-less person’s “I kicked butt.”

Do you want to be an engineer to improve things? How does your finishing engineering school relate to improving the well-being of others? There are a million ways that engineers improve our world—what’s yours?

3Practice to get better every day

No one woke up one morning with amazing dentistry skills or the ability to design engines. Nope. They worked at it every. single. dang. day.

Take a surgeon. You think that on day one they’re given a scalpel, living person on a gurney, and told to go nuts? Uh, no. Thank goodness no. Instead, there is a process that builds one day at a time up from “Where’s the liver exactly?” to “Retractor, please”. There is a huge learning curve to know how much pressure to place when cutting an organ so it’s just the right depth that, you know, not death.

Engineering is no different. Being a student is no different. Work to get better every day. Rehearse for your exams. It just won’t happen on its own.

4Believe that this is possible

You can become an engineer. This, we promise you. (We’ve seen worse cases than yours, so trust us.)

Hard is not the same as impossible, friend. You got this.

5Surround yourself with grit

Misery loves company. If you want to whine or drop out because it’s so hard then by all means be with others who feel the same and throw yourself a grand old pity party. Wear ballgowns and tuxedos. It’ll be fun.

grit ant carrying leaf

But if you deep down want to become an engineer (or earn the degree or get a high-five from your hypercritical grandpa or whatever), you need to surround yourself with people who have higher grit standards.

You need to be around the people who say: Yesterday kicked my butt, so I’m gonna try something different today.

Being gritty also means finding resources to boost you towards your goal. Great athletes don’t train alone. Train with us.

Access your course Crammable to get you to exam grade greatness without the struggle, and learn a ridiculous amount of helpful tricks along the way.

Consider finding a mentor to help you strategically reach your goals.

Why are you in engineering school? If you’re already an engineer, what’s your grit story?

You got this!

One comment

  1. Now, I don t say all this to suggest that talent is irrelevant: one reason why people practice football or music for long periods is that they feel they might be good at it – although this feeling isn t sufficient for success. Instead, I say it to reinforce something I said recently. I suspect that most jobs – maybe not all but most – are like Gerhards and Gravert s anagram task; they require grit at least as much as talent. And, therefore, perhaps intellect is over-rated.

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