The Power of Grit

What do Colonel Sanders, Michael Jordan and Dr. Seuss have in common? It’s not what you might expect. Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel) had a rough time getting his first children’s book published. He was rejected by 27 different publishers before he gained any traction. Yet to date, his books have sold over 600 million copies.

Colonel Sanders (real name Harland David Sanders) famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it. And yet, you can find 18,000 KFC’s worldwide. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time was cut from his high school basketball team. Here is what he said about that, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Failure did not have the final word on these three, grit did.

Angela Duckworth, researcher and psychologist has spent the last 10 years of her life wrestling with the question: “what makes people succeed?”

In her research across a wide spectrum of vocations she found that the most exceptional people in every field were not child prodigies—-what set them apart was that they worked hard day in and day, they demonstrated consistent and persistent focus in the same direction, and after doing this for 10 to 15 year they rose to the top of their fields.

In all of Duckworth’s research one characteristic consistently emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t social or financial status. It wasn’t good looks, physical health or IQ. It was grit—defined by Duckworth a perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit is the ability to keep pushing, keep pressing, to transform failure into fuel, to get up time and time again after you have been knocked down.

Failure is full of possibility, sometimes the greatest character transformation comes out of the most unwanted experiences.

Absorbing the Pain of Others

Compassion at heart is to suffer with someone, to enter their pain, shoulder their suffering and walk with them in their valley. Stanley Hauerwas hits the nail on the head in his discussion on the appropriate posture of Christians toward the problem of evil…we need a pastoral posture rather than a philosophical stance.

“For the early Christians, suffering and evil . . . did not have to be ‘explained.’ Rather, what was required was the means to go on even if the evil could not be ‘explained’—that is, it was important not to provide a theoretical account of why such evil needed to be in order that certain good results occur, since such an explanation would undercut the necessity of the community capable of absorbing suffering.”

This gets to the heart of the matter, how are we genuinely going to help one another on the journey of faith? Answers can only go so far in the service of a suffering brother or sister. Putting your arm around a limping friend and walking with them, sweating with them, hurting with them, crying with them, having no answers with them…that is a completely different story.

The goal on the journey of faith is to stay on the path and make it to the end. Analyzing the roadblocks will not ultimately accomplish this objective. Sharing the journey and being present to one another through the roadblocks will move us toward perseverance on the road.