When I first went to college in 2000, I was irresponsible. Sure, there were certain things I was great at staying on top of, but livings aren’t made solely atop drinking beer and half-assed school work. I failed out of college twice.
You know the friend that is always unreliable? Whenever you make plans, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll bail at the last second? That used to be me.
I’ve been a hard worker all my life
The baffling thing was that before college, I’d been a hard worker my entire life, and that’s something my family, friends, and employers will unequivocally tell you. My preferred mode has always been passionate action and hard work. I’m a doer.
What a difference time makes
Fast-forward to 2014. I had just graduated Magna Cum Laude from a local university (yes, after 14 years), and a few days later found myself at my parent’s house staring down the barrel of a ridiculously arduous task. I needed to assemble a wheelbarrow (more difficult than you might think), use said wheelbarrow to move a dump truck of dirt, and spread the dirt around an entire front and back yard. I volunteered (nay, asked) for the work, and it was brutal. While it was a task I may have abandoned during my less responsible days 14 years prior, the thought of giving up was only a passing mental joke, and nothing more. It took two days (and plenty of water) to move all the dirt.
Is grit about growing up?
So, what changed between the unreliability of college, and my adventure a year and a half ago with a dumptruck of dirt? Some might call it growing up, but I think they’re wrong.
After 14 years of struggling, I cleaned up my act, fixed my finances, built the start of a great career, and was working for the same great company I work for now. Some of my friends argued that I didn’t need to finish my degree, and certainly most people wouldn’t have blamed me if I had negotiated with my parents to hire someone to finish the dirt-hauling job. I didn’t though. There was some nagging urge to finish the job– to power through it, no matter how long the hours or how dastardly the task.
I had become more focused. Specifically, I had learned to focus my will to succeed (or grit) on specific outcomes.
I learned about grit from my parents
Ever since I was a little kid, a nagging feeling to be reliable, honest, and hard-working has been a part of who I am. Through the power of example, guidance, and time, the concept of grit has been baked into my psyche.
There wasn’t a year that went by during the fourteen prior to my graduation that I didn’t think about creating an outcome in life that resulted in completion of my degree and unqualified success in life. Surprise! Even though I was un-reliable in my early college years, I was gritting my way through adverse conditions that I had created for myself, and learning incredible things about myself along the way.
There were so many times I could have given up, not gone back to school, declared bankruptcy, but I didn’t.
I didn’t because there was something inside me that kept telling me to conquer the obstacles. There was something inside me that told me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.
The lessons of grit I’ve learned from my parents are what kept me going through the fog of adversity. My ability to target outcome with sheer force of will and be honest with myself and others about priorities is what has made me reliable.
Can you learn how to have grit, or is it innate?
Some say grit is innate, but what we think of as innate grit is really an acceptance reaction to extreme circumstances that accelerates the lessons required to understand how to have grit. Grit can be, and is taught. That’s how it works… and there’s a formula you can follow to drive yourself harder, be more reliable, and achieve those things which you didn’t think were previously possible. I know, because I’ve lived it. But, the formula is in my next post.
Until then, do you think grit can be learned?