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How do we motivate employees to achieve their goals? We replace talent with grit.

Grit expert | Former NFL player | MBA, and Psychology PhD

Danny Southwick | Grit Expert | Former NFL Player | MBA, and Psychology PhD Candidate
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Why You Should Stop Using the Word “Talent” at Work (3:35)

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Want to Be Successful? “Deliberate Practice,” Not IQ, Is the Key (3:34)

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This “Motivation Formula” Can Help You Achieve Your Goals (2:01)

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Is hiring the best talent hurting our companies more than it helps? Grit expert and football star Dr. DANNY SOUTHWICK says that we can motivate people to grow, persevere, and meet high-level goals by simply changing the language that we use to describe their skills. Danny’s pro football success, business insights, and research alongside New York Times bestselling author Angela Duckworth led to his discovery that what we see as natural talent is really grit: a combination of hard work and practice, as well as taking advantage of every opportunity you have. When we change our understanding of talent, we’ll help employees be more confident, innovative, and prepared to tap into the unique skills that they already have.

“Are we mistaking situational advantages for talent? And are we overlooking what happens when we spend time practicing the right way?”— Danny Southwick

Danny Southwick has been a pro football player for 15 years; he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and has been a star quarterback in arenas all over the country. His football heroics led him to think deeply about what it means to have “talent” and when it’s really about just sticking to it and putting in the work. People picture a lot of different things when they hear the word talent—some imagine a fixed and innate ability, a gift, that you’re either born with or you’re not. Others see something variable, something which can grow, develop, and strengthen over time. For Danny, it’s about what he learned as a football player: practice.

Danny deepened his expertise in grit by studying for a Ph.D. in Psychology under Dr. Angela Duckworth, New York Times Best Selling Author of Grit. He realized that his insights about talent and grit were right: Danny discovered that there are proven links between using the word “talent” and lack of motivation and resources for employee development in a business.

Now, Danny uses both his football experience and his psychological research to teach the mechanics of grit and to help companies support their employees. He gives clear, actionable steps that organizations can follow to use the right tools—and the right language—when they want to motivate employees and teams, achieve top-level goals, and instill a growth mindset in absolutely everyone. Danny’s business sense was honed by earning an MBA from the University of California at Irvine, and he holds a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Psychology.


Danny was wonderful and his talk really resonated and engaged the crowd. Many guests were hurriedly taking notes. Such a nice person, conscientious, well prepared and we were so glad you recommended him. Great fit for our group.

Carlton Werremeyer

In a word, Danny was awesome and a perfect choice to close out our Day 1 sessions. His personal story is a testament to finding strength through adversity—which is the heart of “grit”—and relevant to how we must manage investments and finances through good times and bad.

Truist Bank

Speech Topics

What’s Wrong With Talent?How to Ditch the Buzzwords and Develop a Growth Mindset

Companies talk about hiring talent all the time, but when they try to define talent, things get murky. Some people see talent as an innate gift, others see it as something which can be grown and developed. Tom Brady, for example, doesn’t consider himself talented—to him, his success comes from being consistently focused on a single, clear goal.

Grit expert and pro football star Danny Southwick is a specialist in how people and organizations define talent and the consequences of those definitions. He says that much of what we think of as natural talent is really a combination of strategy, focus, and environmental advantages. In his clear, actionable talks, Danny reveals how people and organizations can avoid the “talent trap” and develop the skills needed to win in the 21st century.

He teaches the psychological mechanics of grit and helps people connect their work to their personal top-level goals. A leading thinker on the role of grit in organizations, Southwick provides clear takeaways about how organizational leaders can craft cultures of grit, rather than getting bogged down by talent terminology.

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