Short answer: if you are smart enough to get into grad school, you probably have all the talent required to be successful in science.
Supplement to short answer: if you were objectively accepted into grad school, but think you might be the exception who isn’t talented enough, you may have imposter syndrome, which is very very common, and straightforward enough to deal with.
Long answer: I have been closely watching grad students for 12 years now, and I have formed some opinions on what predicts success. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think the single biggest factor is persistence.
Being smart helps, but in my experience, that effect saturates quickly, and most people who have made it into grad school are plenty smart enough.
Being creative helps, but in my experience, you can always befriend creative people who have more ideas than they have time to test, and are happy to give you their good ideas.
Being good socially helps surprisingly much, and remember that standards are very low in science. In the land of the blind, the one eyed graduate student is king.
Being hard working helps, but if you are smart about it, you don’t have to work more than 40 hours a week. Although most successful people enjoy their science enough that they choose to do more. Enjoying it is much easier once you get a little success and you dont feel like a wannabe. But, fake it til you make it.
Being good at math helps, but this is a skill that can be learned and is not, in my experience, something that divides the successful from the failures.
Having depression or other mood disorders, or personality disorders, is a surprisingly common cause of failure. Even if you don’t have these things, people you know and like will, so you should learn the symptoms and the basic approaches to treatment.
Perfectionism slows a lot of people down. I don’t have this one so I can’t offer any advice there. But I’m sure there are some resources on the internet.
Persistence. There is a lot of rejection in science, a huge amount. I think getting 80% of papers rejected to the first journal you go to is not unusual. Having 80% of the data you collect the first time not work the way you expected it to is the standard. I have been rejected on perhaps 70% of the grant applications I have submitted. I think these numbers are common and they are even more common at the beginning, when you have less practice. If you have the kind of sunny personality that can bounce back quickly from rejection, that’s a big help, and if you don’t, it can be learned with some basic self-CBT. Even the most successful people will get depressed for 3 days, but if you’re still beating yourself up 2 weeks later, then it’s time to cultivate some optimistic thought patterns.
With all this rejection and failure, one of the hard parts is knowing whether you are on the right path. This is where having good mentors is important. Not just your advisor, who often has countervailing incentives, and not just your committee, who often see you as a chore. It’s ideal to get someone you trust who doesn’t mind if you nag them over and over. It’s worth the effort to find one or several.
When you look at yourself, you need to have a built-in shock proof shit detector*. You need to be able to look at yourself honestly and see what needs to be changed and then figure out how to change it, and then not get depressed that something about you need changing. (I spent a large chunk of the last year of grad school learning how to write a scientific paper b/c I knew I sucked at it).
It’s called Phish Food and it’s worth trying. I’m eating it right now cuz I got a grant rejected today, myself.