Making things happen: the nitty-gritty


I've got some projects on the go here that are taking some serious work. They're not finished, not even close, and when they are, it'll be years in the making. Some of the best stuff is. 

You know what I'm talking about. The hand-crafted table one of my mate's has re-done over and over to get the carving just right, so it shows off the best in the wood's grain. The flat loaves of bread baked, until you hit on the perfect method - the perfect loaf. The fledgling veggie garden, the art, or sewing, or poetry you chip away at, alone, late at night at in the back room.

It might be a job, your thesis, finishing school, running that half-marathon. Think of something in your life - hard fought and hard won. What carried you over the line? 

What carries kids over the line, to finish school, to go on and achieve in life? Regardless of socio-economic factors, education, health, literacy levels, I.Q or social ability?

Angela Lee Duckworth has spent years researching this exact question in the United States, and she thinks it's 'grit'. Not a word we use so much in Australia I think - but here's how she sees it:

"Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."

I love this. We live in a fast world of fast food, fast social media, 'reality shows', and snapshots of 'famous' people's lives bombarding us from all angles. 

In all of this I wonder if its easy to lose sight of the beauty of our own unique lives and dreams, and of the sheer hard work it takes to achieve these dreams?

I think there's something to be said for persevering. For sticking things out. For putting your shoulder to the wheel and working at something you care about - for months, for years. Quietly chipping away.


It ain't pretty. You stumble. You fall. You get up and chip away some more. At some point, hands deep in the dark earth of your garden, or late at night in the back room, you realise it's not an option to stop. To turn away, even in the face of falling, is to fall much further than you'll ever fall by continuing to try. Pressing on becomes the only option.

In my teens, sleep deprived and facing down final school exams, my Dad stuck this on my desk one day. I still have it. It's been eaten by bugs, the paper creased by years of travel and the ink faded to a light grey. 

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

I'm going to humbly add a postscript to Calvin Coolidge's words (apart from making them gender neutral, people!) 

Find someone who believes in you, and hold them close. Be that person for someone else.

Press on. Always. 

Has grit and persistence played a part in your life?

Angela's TED talk is excellent and well worth a listen, here.

*photo courtesy of Kuster and Wildhaber photography - Albumarium.


4 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if my last comment worked, if it did please ignore this one. I enjoyed thinking about grit. I think I must have some grit, if I really want something I will work really hard at it. Grit is something I hope my daughter's have. It's not something you can impart, but maybe demonstrate? Great food for thought Pia.

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  2. I agree Emily, I hope my boys have grit too, and I think it has something to do with not seeing experiences as 'failures'. I'd never thought about how they might learn it though! Your idea of demonstrating is such a good one, thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

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