Talent or Persistence – which one would you choose?

While reflecting on my own childhood, my thoughts turn to the work of well-known author, founder of Parenting Ideas and one of Australia’s leading experts on parenting - Michael Grose.

Often parents are asked about this choice, between talent or persistence. They will typically respond with ‘both’, but when pushed to select one, most parents choose talent, which according to Michael Grose, reflects the way society currently views achievement. 

Whether it is intelligence, sporting prowess or musical ability, Grose states that, “talent is purely potential. They need more than this to achieve sustained excellence in anything they do.” The real difference is made when the talent is harnessed and developed through the character traits of hard work and their ability to persist with a task. 

I can definitely attest to this in my childhood as I had talents in particular areas, but talent alone will not get you through!

American Psychologist, Angela Duckworth, through her research, found that, “character, not cognitive ability is the single most reliable determinant of how a person’s life will turn out.” Duckworth identifies three important traits in determining long term success. The first of these is grit, which she defines as the willingness to persist at a task, even when it is boring. The second is self-control which is the ability to delay gratification and the third is conscientiousness, which she identifies as the tendency to follow through with a plan. All three of these traits are invaluable in both a school and workplace setting. 

In his book Spoon-fed Generation, Grose highlights that when children continually experience easy success, we are essentially setting them up for failure because when they are actually faced with challenging and difficult situations, they will lack the capacity to actually persist and push through the tough times. The current trends of Participation Awards and ‘every child wins a prize’ in each layer of games such as Pass the Parcel, are testament to this trend of easy success and the expectation that, just by simply showing up, your efforts should be rewarded. One of the greatest challenges facing contemporary parents is encouraging students to step out of their comfort zones and to take learning and social risks. Grose states that, “overcoming setbacks and pushing through difficulties are how character is formed.”

Schools provide numerous learning opportunities and occasions for the development of character. Each week, during the Junior School’s online assembly, students’ musical abilities are demonstrated through musical items which have been recorded. To hear these students play so effortlessly and with increasing precision is a testament to the development of character. This is also intrinsically linked to the College focus of developing character strengths through the A.B. Paterson College Wellbeing Framework. The development of this framework is an ongoing process. It is a way of being and an environment of positive education in our College. It is learned and modelled by our caring and dedicated staff, embedded in all we do and lived through our actions.   

The various bands, choirs and troupes we have as part of the co-curricular program at our College is outstanding. To show dedication, persistence and perform in front of your peers can be particularly daunting. It is these experiences which develop that essential character strength, Perseverance (persistence). It is critical that we challenge children and young people to attempt activities where failure is a possible outcome. Through failure we learn and modify, and through persistence we succeed. I implore students to look for opportunities to become involved and challenged, so that growth learning opportunities are experienced.  

Simon Edgar – Head of Junior School 

Michael Grose’s parenting blog on parenting ideas https://www.parentingideas.com.au/parent-resources/parenting-books/spoonfed-generation
A.B. Paterson College Wellbeing Framework