Monday, September 23, 2019

Grit ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Becoming successful is a mysterious journey. Many would explain success by saying someone was at the right place at the right time. There may be some truth to this, but I think more often than not, it’s because of grit.

 Some people are born into affluent families that nurture, educate, and mentor children. For these fortunate few, success should be a foregone conclusion. But even with a leg up, some young people languish in mediocrity.

 Children from families with few advantages sometimes do remarkable things and become successful. I’m reading more and more about one trait that can be a predictor of success — grit.

 During my Army basic training, there was a skinny kid in my platoon. He probably weighed less than the duffel bag of clothes given to him upon induction. During the hand-to-hand combat training, everyone expected him to come up on the short end of the pugil stick fight. We were wrong.

 One of the biggest guys in the platoon chose the smallest as his opponent. He grinned at the smaller soldier as they circled the dirt ring looking for openings to attack. The stronger guy prevailed at first and knocked the little guy down. He wouldn’t stay down. In the end, the drill sergeant called the match a tossup. 

 Later in the mess hall when our table rehashed the day, we all agreed that the little guy won the match because he refused to lose. To me, his refusal to quit made him a winner in our eyes. He had grit.

 Grit is a trait that is hard to measure. Angela Duckworth wrote a book released in 2016 entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

 Duckworth wrote, “…grit is a driver of achievement and success, independent of and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute. Being naturally smart and talented are great, but to truly do well and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. It is only with effort that talent becomes a skill that leads to success.” 

 Thomas Edison could have written a book on grit. He invented a motion picture camera, a storage battery, wax paper, and the light bulb. I read that he failed over 10,000 before finally succeeding in making the light bulb. Not many people have that kind of grit.

 Grit is not something they teach in school. I think there were a lot of people in the previous few generations that had grit. They had to have grit to survive those lean years of The Great Depression.

 As a mentor for our nieces and nephews, I try to instill the value of perseverance.

 This much I know for sure – worthwhile things rarely come easy. Almost every guy I knew growing up wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Many of them tried, but it didn’t come easy. They worked until the steel strings made their fingertips raw, and then they quit. It’s painful and takes grit to play with blistered fingertips, but the music that follows makes the effort worthwhile. I think the same holds true for sports, education, and business.

If you truly want to be successful in your life, you have to study, struggle, and persevere. You need some grit.


  1. Listening recently to a woman speaking about children and how in this age of instant gratification learning patience might be a useful attribute, she then went on to say there was a new word for patience.
    No, that is not a new word for patience. As you say in your post, grit relates to perseverance. Both patience and perseverance go hand in hand when trying to achieve a goal.
    I'm loathe to admit this but when the woman mentioned the word grit my very first thought was John Wayne and the movie True Grit.
    Such is the power of word association!

  2. Grit, patience and resilience NEED to be taught. And I would sign up for lessons in a heartbeat.

  3. In my years on this earth I can say your column is 'spot on'. I have witnessed GRIT in the underdog. You said it well just because one has a 'leg-up' on life doesn't guarantee success. I think we all noticed that in school, the ones who had to struggle for good grades did well in life. They got by on pure GRIT!
    VERY GOOD column, the readers will appreciate that one for sure.
    Sherry & jack

  4. Never thought about grit being a trait, but after reading your story, I'd have to agree. It does day a lot of grit to be successful in anything we do. I think it was Thomas Edison that said Opportunity often comes disquised in work clothes.

  5. The willingness to power through when things get hard is admirable. It will take one far.

  6. This post made more sense when I stopped saying gift instead of grit

  7. I just read an article that talked about this very thing. They called it "resilience"....many kids today don't have it and it's becoming a problem for the military as kids can't take it and drop out, or go home..same with college. Many kids drop out after a few months and head back home. Yes, grit is the factor that makes success happen. As my Father-in-law used to say: "The harder I work, the luckier I get" true!


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