"Grit," by Greg Landsman

{Greg Landsman is the Executive Director of the  Strive Partnership  & one of the principle people behind the  Cincinnati Preschool Promise }

{Greg Landsman is the Executive Director of the Strive Partnership & one of the principle people behind the Cincinnati Preschool Promise}


When you think about it, most people never talk about grit.  

It doesn't come up in a casual conversation, is all I'm saying.  

It's not a word people use often.  Or ever.      

But it's everything.  

Every successful person I know that wasn't handed their success, got it through grit.  

We overlook grit, and focus on the other things that helped those who achieved success get that success - such as being smart or having talent, or both.  

She's the CEO because she's smart.  Okay.  I'm sure she is smart.  But that's not why she's the CEO.    

He's president of the United States because he can give a good speech.  I know he can give a good speech.  Obama has talent.  But that's not why he's the president.  

The difference between someone with talent or a big brain and real success is grit.  Determination.  They wanted it more.  

Maybe they got lucky along the way.  Of course they did.  But luck happens here and there...randomly.  Grit is what keeps you moving forward.    

A fierce and unwavering commitment to a goal.  That's what keeps you in motion.   

The persistence to fight through adversity - no matter how big or small.  That's what motivates you.  

That's grit. 

Lincoln had it.  Ali has it.  Serena Williams has it. 

Start with Lincoln.  

Lincoln had a once in a generation mind, but that's not what made him president or got him the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  He simply refused to give up.  That's why there is a statue of him, and that's why his face is on the penny (once a big deal, I imagine).  Lincoln lost a lot of elections before he became president, and when he won the White House, half of the country left his and tried to form their own nation.  But he kept at it, fought a war (which he lost for years before he finally wore the Confederates down), brought the nation back together, and masterfully ended slavery.  And while ending slavery seems like a slam dunk today, it was virtually impossible when Lincoln did it.  Even those who opposed slavery, many at least, just wanted the war to be over.  If they could end the war and keep slavery, so be it.  But not Lincoln.  He wanted slavery gone.  And it was determination, or grit, that made it so.  

Ali had game, don't get me wrong.  He was fast.  He could dance.  His combinations were epic.  But he didn't beat Foreman with speed.  He didn't even dance that night.  Ali regained his championship belt against Foreman, and defied the odds, with grit.  He wanted it more.  Ali was willing to let Foreman use him as a punching bag for seven rounds, or nearly thirty minutes, just so George would tire.  And George did tire.  He ran out of gas.  Ali didn't.  And in the 8th, Ali dropped George Foreman and got his belt back.  Ali had lots of fights like that.  

Serena Williams is insane.  I mean, she might be the strongest, most talented athlete ever.  But she's nearly 35 years old, breaking records, whooping up on 20 year olds, and there is no end in sight.  The difference between Serena Williams and everyone else is grit.  Others have it, for sure.  But not like Serena.  She's not messing around.  She'll fight through anything.    

What's great about grit is you can pick it up whenever you want.  It's not like talent, or a skill people are born with or learn after years of practice.  It's not like being really smart either.  I don't really understand what it takes to be really smart, I just know I'm not.  I know what I know, and I know what I don't know.  And I don't know much.  But no one will work harder.  

I have grit because people believed in me, and, eventually, I began to believe in myself.  

And I've faced adversity.  Very bad things happened to me and my parents when I was only a few years old.  I also got sick a lot as a kid.  I was bullied in school.  I lost my first election.   

I've never been homeless.  And I've never been truly abused.  I've never seen things that many who have been homeless or abused have seen.  I don't know what that's like.  I don't.    

But I know people who have been through adversity worse than me.  And they fought back.  They didn't do it alone.  Someone stepped in.  But they fought back.     

The thing is, we get to decide if we have grit or not.  It's not like talent or being smart.  We decide.  

We also get to decide if we want to help someone else find their grit.    

Every young person has some talent, and many of them are smart.  I believe that.  Most of them have a lot of talent, actually, and more than most are very smart.  

Someone just needs to remind them of that.  Lots of people do really.  

Then they need to be told that no matter what, talent or no talent, smart or not, learn grit.  And never forget you have it.   

Grit is everything.  And it's the one thing everyone can have.