Eric Schmidt links success to courage – but it’s a misunderstood trait

  • Successful people have courage, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC.
  • Grit – a mix of passion and persistence – was invented by psychologist Angela Duckworth in 2013.
  • It’s often hailed as a successful tenant, but others argue it’s overly simplistic and overrated.

What makes a person successful? Eric Schmidt, the billionaire and former CEO of Google, thinks he knows.

“High performers have a lot of skills,” Schmidt told CNBC Make It. “They also have courage. In other words, they are ready to endure the inevitable setbacks and challenges that people face in their own lives.”

Schmidt became CEO of Google in 2001. He stepped down in 2011 and served as executive chairman and then technical adviser to parent company Alphabet until 2019, before leaving to focus on philanthropy and investment firm Schmidt Futures.

With a fortune of $26.3 billion, he is the 51st richest person in the world, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, although his close ties to the Obama and Biden administrations have drawn criticism.

Speaking more broadly about ambition, Schmidt said he had always wanted a “seat at the table,” even though he didn’t understand that goal at the time. “I just thought it was really interesting what we were working on,” he said. “Anyone who’s a workaholic has this idea that you’re missing out — you have FOMO.”

Ever since it was coined by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, after her pivotal study of West Point Academy graduates – and her 2016 book – the psychological trait known as courage is often presented as a key element of success.

Courage is essentially a mixture of passion and perseverance in pursuing long-term goals. “Gritty” people stick to their guns and are unfazed by any obstacles or difficulties they may encounter.

The concept has been so influential – and has even been adopted in some schools – because it essentially proposes that talent and IQ come after dedication, and that achievement is attainable through hard work.

But over time, scientists have begun to question the concept, arguing that it is too simplistic and does not take into account social, economic and emotional factors, which impact people’s career opportunities and paths. people.

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A study found that grit has little impact on the academic performance of students considered to have lower IQ levels. Others suggest that there is a correlation between the quality of schools a student attends and the perceived level of support offered by an employer and courage.

In the latter case, American academics judged to be very courageous progressed less towards their professional goals if they felt neglected by their employer, and vice versa.

Whether the idea of ​​courage is even applicable to most standard career paths is also debatable. Just working hard at one thing is not a guarantee of moving up the corporate ladder quickly. Other personality traits, including agreeableness, adaptability and conscientiousness, as another study found, are just as important, if not more so.

Simply put, grain is often misunderstood

Duckworth herself argues that the idea of ​​courage is often misunderstood, with many examples often relying too heavily on the idea of ​​perseverance. Effort is important, but it’s equally important for a person to have a direction they’re passionate about, she told Melissa Dahl at Science of Us.

His own follow-up article, a 10-year study of 10,000 West Point graduates, found that the most important indicator of physical performance was physical ability.

Finding a singular motor passion can often be a long and complicated process. Instead, people should “explore their many interests and values” as a starting point for achieving their goals, Duckworth told Harvard Crimson in April 2022.

This does not mean that the notion of grain is without value.

Courage helps us break the idea that some people simply possess superhuman talents. It helps cultivate the idea that “success” in any field rarely comes without setbacks and discomfort. But there are other factors at play. Not a chance.

“Birth luck, upbringing, interest, timing and the company I was in,” Schmidt told CNBC. “I also worked hard, but luck is just as important, if not more important, and as you get luckier, you create your own luck.”

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