Grit: What it Gets You


Listening to the radio on the way to work recently, they were doing a piece on “true grit”, defined for the discussion as Persistence, Determination and Resilience — and a rise of said attitude in the context of education.  Really though, it’s applicable across environments.

They had me at the introduction when they mentioned John Wayne’s film by the same name, “True Grit”, about a teenage girl who partner’s with Wayne’s character to find her father’s killer in the old west.  Great movie, great theme.  

The more I think about it, “grit” is one of those qualities I want to do everything possible to instill in my kids. To do so, I need to model that attitude for them at every opportunity.  it’s a trait that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What makes this trait an iron quality for life is that is not just for survival, but for happiness throughout our lives that we do well to be steeled against the inevitable adversities that life will deal us.

Webster’s New World Dictionary (1971) defines grit as “stubborn courage; pluck.”  These traits really get at the heart of what fuels the persistence, determination and resilience mentioned above as additional defining terms.  All these together describe a trait all of us would do well to identify and cultivate in ourselves as we go through life.  And the sooner the better.

After all, having determination, long-term fortitude, and the ability to bounce back from failures cause by our own doing or circumstances beyond our control are fundamental to successful…well…living!  

Consider educational situations when we’re students trying to memorize multiplication tables, or learning how to play the piano, or stepping on the soccer pitch or baseball diamond to practice — and there are countless other examples — where if we have the traits mentioned above, if we have grit, we’ll persevere through difficulties to improve, and maybe even succeed at our goal.  

Without that trait, without grit, we run the risk of mounting frustration, disappointment, and even diminished self-esteem as we struggle at any given task or objective.  And of course, when we enter the workforce as adults, having the grit to find a job, learn skills, seek promotion, develop professionally, makes ALL the difference.  

With the turbo-pace of work, how often people change jobs (either by choice or necessity),  the number of workers that are “1099” (contractors) versus “W-2” (full time employees with benefits), versus “laid-off and looking”, it’s clear that grit can help you cope with the stress and anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of today’s work environment.

Grit also is critical to parenting.  Being a father or mother is a 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365 days-a-year job.  Whether you’re feeling a 100%, or under-the-weather, or somewhere in between, your kid(s) need you. You’re the role model, you’re the source of support and direction and consistency. It’s up to you to come through for them.  Sometimes you have to dig extra deep, but that’s the job.  And it’s worth it.

It starts early, developing the life skills to be resilient, focused, and just plain not-willing-to-give-up.  Whether it’s learning to tie your shoes, graduating from high school, finishing an advanced degree in night school while working full time, or parenting when you’re feeling crappy, grit will help you be successful, and ultimately, a happier person.

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