#1632 Areté +1° #317: Effort Counts Thrice

Emerson on Mastery

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, a micro-chapter from my new book Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.

451 ideas, many of them feature my beloved son Emerson.

This is one of my favorite ideas in the book, biased but I like the way he extended this idea from Angela Duckworth. I hope you do too.

The idea is called…


In the first microchapters of our book, we had fun using Emerson’s passion for chess and the inevitable glitches he faces on his quest for Grandmastery as the context for us to explore some important themes of our work together.

We talked about conquering fear and laziness while closing the gap between who we’re capable of being and who we’re actually being as we remember the fact that, as per the discussion about my tattoos on the trail… ARETÉ = HEROIC!!

I repeat: The moment we choose to do our best and live with Areté, we are Heroic. Period.

We don’t need to wait twenty-five years until we check off all the “Heroic” things on our vision board.

One more time: THE MOMENT we close the gap and do our best to live with Areté (right in that moment!) we ARE Heroic. That’s a really powerful truth that I hope you can feel, my dear friend.


Let’s focus on another chat I recently had with Emerson.

This one was after Emerson played in the San Antonio City Chess Championships.

It was an amazing weekend. We had fun going on one of our epic boys-only adventures.

Stayed in a hotel—which is always epic for Emerson. Fell asleep holding hands—which is always epic for me.

Worked out at the Alamo before the first match of the weekend—which was amazing.

And… He did really well. In fact, he won his division and not only became the San Antonio City Champion but became a professional chess player—earning his first $200 playing the game he loves. (I just laughed with pure, proud dad joy.)

So… On the drive home, he and I had a great chat about how he is cultivating mastery in chess. I leaned on some Angela Duckworth wisdom from her classic book Grit.

Angela tells us that there’s a formula for achieving great things. It goes like this:

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

Angela tells us that “Talent” (which she defines as the speed with which you can pick up a skill) definitely matters.

And… EFFORT counts TWICE.

You can have all the talent in the world and still never develop any skill and never really achieve anything.

I repeat: EFFORT counts TWICE.

After sharing that with Emerson, I wanted to create a little video with him in which he shared the formula so we could share that with our community as we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that parents really love sharing wisdom featuring Emerson with their kids.

We did a take. Oops. Goof.

We did a second take. Almost there…

Then we did a third take.


Emerson spontaneously came up with an additional line.

He said:

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

Then he continued, adding:


To which I say… “What he said!”

Effort, my dear Heroic master, counts not once not twice but THRICE.

Here’s to maximizing our Heroic potential by leaning into our natural talents with a ton of joyful effort.

It’s time to move from Theory to Practice to Mastery.


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