By Oscar Santos



Success is a topic that, for many (including myself), is fascinating and intriguing. Most of this fascination is focused on questions like: Can success be created? Can it be built? Is there a formula? A ritual? A step-by-step plan?

The reality is all of us have experienced success in our lives. We have also experienced failure. Some of them have been royal failures, and others have been insignificant ones. So, the new question becomes: What is it – specifically – that will make me (or has made me) successful in life?

Grit-bbt-perspectivesRecently, a book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was introduced to us at BB&T by our chairman and CEO, Kelly S. King. Written by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and teacher, it highlights qualities of successful people and includes a decade of research on the topic. Duckworth finds that genius is not a requirement for success. What’s more important is a person’s grit, or perseverance, in the face of setbacks. After reading her book and learning from her research and analysis, here are my key takeaways based on my own experiences.

Where Talent Counts Once, Effort Counts Twice. Consistency of Effort, Through Time, is the Key Ingredient to Success.

One of the most recent examples I experienced was with my 11-year-old son. Early in the school semester, he told me math was not one of his strongest subjects. I told him about Duckworth’s philosophy on talent and effort and asked, “What do you think that means?” His answer was straightforward. “Maybe if I study and practice twice as hard as the talented math whiz kids, I may be able to improve,” he said. When this clicked in his mind, he soared!

Passion Can be Developed, But First We Must Begin with Interest. If You are Willing to Practice and Get Better at What Interests You, Your Passion Can Grow.

In my own experience, working with so many professionals, I can tell the ones who truly succeed in their careers are those who have a sense of curiosity in everything they do. These individuals are poster children for the adage “love what you do and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” I’ve been very attentive lately to the topics I’m drawn into. I’m hoping I can continue developing interest in new areas so that passion can follow.

You Need a Growth Mindset.

So many of us (myself included) have been pummeled by feelings of shame, fear or guilt at some point in our lives. A growth mindset, according to Duckworth, is one of optimistic self-talk and the ability to choose perseverance over adversity. Think about this for a second: How many times have you considered quitting to be an option? Many times! However, we can choose to keep working hard and persevere. This is not possible without a growth mindset. The foundational belief that effort leads to understanding and skill mastery is critical. I tell my children that failures are investments in our development, and the only way we can truly grow and be fulfilled is to be unafraid of making mistakes. As a matter of fact, we have a celebration on Thursdays at our dinner table where we talk about what went wrong during our week and what we learned from it. At the end of the day, it’s about effort. If we’re not failing, it means we’re not even trying.

When Gritty People Encounter Rejections, Setbacks, Dead Ends or Failure, They Are Disappointed and Even Heartbroken – But Not for Long.

I can compare this takeaway to one of my favorite hobbies: cycling. I rode a long-distance event a few years ago. With three days and 375 miles in front of me, I was so worried and doubtful. The environment was very tough, the climate was very warm, and the hills were very steep. Some riders were pessimistic, so I had to control my mind for that as well. I learned very quickly that it wasn’t a race; it was an experience. If you are a runner, another good example for understanding this takeaway is that grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We all know many times the hardest circumstances in life are the ones that come to us unexpectedly. By accepting those tough challenges with grace, we choose to transition to a better state mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m sure many of you have gotten through such challenges and have asked yourself, “How did I do that? How did I make it through such a tough time?” This book explains in science-supported detail that the sustained application of effort toward a long-term goal is the biggest predictor of lifelong achievement. Success is what we all desire, and now we know without grit, we cannot succeed.

By Oscar Santos



Success is a topic that, for many (including myself), is fascinating and intriguing. Most of this fascination is focused on questions like: Can success be created? Can it be built? Is there a formula? A ritual? A step-by-step plan?

The reality is all of us have experienced success in our lives. We have also experienced failure. Some of them have been royal failures, and others have been insignificant ones. So, the new question becomes: What is it – specifically – that will make me (or has made me) successful in life?

Recently, a book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was introduced to us at BB&T by our chairman and CEO, Kelly S. King. Written by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and teacher, it highlights qualities of successful people and includes a decade of research on the topic. Duckworth finds that genius is not a requirement for success. What’s more important is a person’s grit, or perseverance, in the face of setbacks. After reading her book and learning from her research and analysis, here are my key takeaways based on my own experiences.

Grit-bbt-perspectives

Where Talent Counts Once, Effort Counts Twice. Consistency of Effort, Through Time, is the Key Ingredient to Success.

One of the most recent examples I experienced was with my 11-year-old son. Early in the school semester, he told me math was not one of his strongest subjects. I told him about Duckworth’s philosophy on talent and effort and asked, “What do you think that means?” His answer was straightforward. “Maybe if I study and practice twice as hard as the talented math whiz kids, I may be able to improve,” he said. When this clicked in his mind, he soared!

Passion Can be Developed, But First We Must Begin with Interest. If You are Willing to Practice and Get Better at What Interests You, Your Passion Can Grow.

In my own experience, working with so many professionals, I can tell the ones who truly succeed in their careers are those who have a sense of curiosity in everything they do. These individuals are poster children for the adage “love what you do and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” I’ve been very attentive lately to the topics I’m drawn into. I’m hoping I can continue developing interest in new areas so that passion can follow.

You Need a Growth Mindset.

So many of us (myself included) have been pummeled by feelings of shame, fear or guilt at some point in our lives. A growth mindset, according to Duckworth, is one of optimistic self-talk and the ability to choose perseverance over adversity. Think about this for a second: How many times have you considered quitting to be an option? Many times! However, we can choose to keep working hard and persevere. This is not possible without a growth mindset. The foundational belief that effort leads to understanding and skill mastery is critical. I tell my children that failures are investments in our development, and the only way we can truly grow and be fulfilled is to be unafraid of making mistakes. As a matter of fact, we have a celebration on Thursdays at our dinner table where we talk about what went wrong during our week and what we learned from it. At the end of the day, it’s about effort. If we’re not failing, it means we’re not even trying.

When Gritty People Encounter Rejections, Setbacks, Dead Ends or Failure, They Are Disappointed and Even Heartbroken – But Not for Long.

I can compare this takeaway to one of my favorite hobbies: cycling. I rode a long-distance event a few years ago. With three days and 375 miles in front of me, I was so worried and doubtful. The environment was very tough, the climate was very warm, and the hills were very steep. Some riders were pessimistic, so I had to control my mind for that as well. I learned very quickly that it wasn’t a race; it was an experience. If you are a runner, another good example for understanding this takeaway is that grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We all know many times the hardest circumstances in life are the ones that come to us unexpectedly. By accepting those tough challenges with grace, we choose to transition to a better state mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m sure many of you have gotten through such challenges and have asked yourself, “How did I do that? How did I make it through such a tough time?” This book explains in science-supported detail that the sustained application of effort toward a long-term goal is the biggest predictor of lifelong achievement. Success is what we all desire, and now we know without grit, we cannot succeed.

About the Author

Oscar Santos

Oscar Santos

Senior Vice President

Oscar manages the Leadership and Professional Development department within the BB&T University. He leads the team responsible for providing development solutions that enhance manager’s performance, including: interpersonal awareness, managing diversity, building high performance teams, leading change and many others.