While on a plane to Hong Kong last semester, I read what is one of my now favorite books: “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth is a psychologist who has spent the last few decades of her life attempting to disrupt.

In Silicon Valley terminology, to disrupt means to be innovative and create new meaning to markets and products. It breaks people’s understanding of what factors make someone successful.

The traditional understanding is that success is based on natural talent. You either have it or you don’t and the “gifted” students will go far in life. However, Duckworth’s research has found that what is actually a much better indicator of success is the trait of grit. She defines grit as a combination of passion and perseverance. This brings me back to Silicon Valley.

Failing is the First Step to Succeeding

During the week we had in Silicon Valley, we have met countless individuals who have demonstrated incredible magnitudes of grit.

These individuals were told time and time again that they were not qualified. That their ideas would never work, or that they had no business in the field they were attempting to break into. Yet, they persisted through it all and found incredible success.

A prime example of this is Jordan Kretchmer, the CEO of Livefyre, which was acquired by Adobe. Jordan told us his story very candidly of his failures, his scrapped ideas, the debt he acquired trying to pursue his passions. However, through all of it he never faltered.

He continued relentlessly pursuing his goals because he believed in them that much and he has seen tremendous success because of it.

Stay Annoying

Dan Jung is a recent SU grad who works in strategic finance at Uber.

Dan was dedicated to the idea of working for Uber. So when a potential manager told him that he could not have an interview, he was not dissuaded. He continued to email, to the point that she asked him, “if I give you an interview, will you stop emailing me?” He aced the interview and has been working there ever since.

At the end of his first internship this same manager emailed him the simple advice: stay annoying.

Finding Inspiration in Silicon Valley

As someone who was never told they were naturally talented or that they would go as far as someone in accelerated programs taking dozens of AP/IB classes, meeting these people and hearing their stories has been beyond inspiring to me.

With a lot of passion, a lot of persistence, and a little bit of stubbornness, I am now confident that I, as well as anyone else who is willing to work for it, can thrive in Silicon Valley.