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The secret of success – sheer hard work

  • April 20, 2017

Very few people go into the law because they see it as some sort of ‘soft’ career option (and if they do, they very quickly get disavowed of that notion). Yes, the rewards, both financial and professional can be very attractive but it calls for a level of commitment and dedication that can make other alternatives look rather easy in comparison.

But how do you make the most of the opportunities open to you? Is it down to academic brilliance, social skills or, as a study by UCL school of Management seemed to suggest, how physically attractive you are? According to a new book by Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, the answer to all these appears to be ‘no’. Instead, she argues, the secret of success is what she calls ‘grit’.

Resilience, determination and never give up!

Grit (as anyone who has seen the John Wayne film, ‘True Grit’ or its recent incomprehensible remake, will know) embodies the qualities of hard resilience, determination and a refusal to give up. Yes, folks, although unfashionable in this age when reality TV suggests that the route to fame and fortune is a quick and easy one, the message from Professor Duckworth is that there are few things more powerful than a willingness to work long and hard.

Having made a sustained examination on what gets people to the top in a wide variety of sectors including education, the military, commerce and industry and the professions, the common factors are motivation and, crucially, stamina. Or, as the American professor with the suspiciously British surname puts it, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

How do you succeed?

So do you have what it takes to succeed? If you have a spare few minutes in your busy day (although we do have to ask why you have a spare few minutes if you are serious about this) then Ms Duckworth provides a quick self-assessment questionnaire on her website which might either cheer or depress you. But what can you do to get more of this elusive ‘grit’? And can it really be taught and developed?

One of the key findings of the professor’s extensive research is that natural talent is not necessarily essential. And in all too many cases, it may actually prove to be a handicap. The justification for this seemingly odd assertion is that the so-called talented can develop a sense of entitlement and, as a result, not put in the effort to achieve their full potential while those with something to prove to get on and prove it. Consequently the key may be to cultivate what she calls a ‘growth mind-set’ which embraces new experiences and treats failures, not as an end but stepping stones to greater effectiveness. Yes, it all may sound a bit ‘American’, despite the fact she picked up one of her prestigious degrees at Oxford, but underneath the transatlantic jargon the message is a common sense one that should speak to us all – life is tough so get on and do something with it.

Do you think grit and determination are crucial factors if you want to be a success in the legal sector?

For more insights from the team take a look at our other blog posts. And if you’re looking for a new role check out our latest vacancies.


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