Spit & Grit with a Side of Optimism

“You have to have faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
-Admiral James Stockdale

This week I started my annual Army Reserve duty, teaching 26 cadets the Fundamentals of Engineering Design and Systems Thinking. It’s an introductory course to the engineering major cadets, and so far, it has been an awesome experience (at least for me)! Interacting with the cadets, both as a group in class and one-on-one in “additional instruction” has me thinking back to my own cadet days. Everything at the academy is designed to challenge the students – physically, emotionally, mentally – to come out a better version of themselves – smarter, stronger, more resilient. As I was thinking about what to write about this week, the word “grit” kept coming to mind.

Grit. The ability to persevere through setbacks, navigate obstacles and keep faith in the goal. And while I have some thoughts on the topic, I think Angela Duckworth is more eloquent in her TED Talk on the subject.  Below are some of my favorite quotes from her book on the same subject:

“Without effort, your talent is nothing more than unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.”

“One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. “

“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

“At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.”

“I learned a lesson I’d never forget. The lesson was that, when you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them.”

“Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.”

So how do you deepen grit?  

Be willing to fail. Get uncomfortable. Try something new and stick with it until you figure it out. Most of all, as Jimmy Valvano said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

BJ Kraemer, President