Do you have true grit?

Photo credit: Instagram @JohnWayne

Do I have grit? It’s a question I often ask myself. In my head, I conjure up the classic movie depicting John Wayne with a weathered smile and an eye patch. I see the resiliency of the 14-year old preteen Mattie Ross. She is gritty, and the one who hires John Wayne’s character US Marshal Rooster Cogburn to deliver justice for her father’s death. Mattie chooses him because she believes he has “true grit”.

Over the years, I’ve consumed books about people accomplishing remarkable things: heroic expeditions, scientific breakthroughs, artistic creations, and brand dynasties.  I’ve read countless texts about men and women who have failed and failed again, only to achieve an otherworld kind of success because they persevered, they followed through with a constant focus. Against all odds, they broke through and created something life-changing for themselves and for society.

Talent is one thing, genius is another. But talent and a genius IQ won’t necessarily get you far if you don’t possess grit. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, grit is defined as “firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”

Turning the concept of grit outcomes into a mathematical equation:
“Talent × effort = skill. Skill × effort = achievement” (source: Angela Duckworth).

I just finished the New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by psychologist Angela Duckworth. It’s a compilation of stories that share keen insights on what it takes to have a path towards outstanding achievement. She tells accounts of ‘grit paragons’ who broke the ceiling of what was expected of them, including national spelling bee champ Kerry Close, Cinnabon president Kat Cole, legendary 49ers QB Steve Young, Will Smith, and UK comedian Francesca Martinez.

One of the major takeaways of Duckworth’s book is her stance on education and parenting. As parents, we can be gritty role models for our children. If children fail at something, encourage them to get up and approach tasks with tenacity. If they lack goal-seeking focus, help them understand and aspire to long term goals. It’s OK to be demanding and to have high expectations, as long as its balanced with unconditional love and indefatigable support. I see nothing wrong with setting a high bar because I do so out of love and consideration for their bright future.

I have had continuous lessons in grit, largely due in part to my own gritty parents. Under their wing, I was able to grow academically and I learned the value of tenacity. I’ve been knocked down, only to get back up, ready for the next round. When someone tells me I can’t do something (and I have heard this before in various contexts), I possess even greater resolve to persevere.  Because that’s what gritty people do.

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