True Grit

I’ve recently discovered an interesting and useful bit of news: one important ingredient—perhaps the most important—to being a successful leader. And as you well know, “leading” is enmeshed in so much of our lives, especially when it comes to being our own CEO, making those pivotal decisions over our own lives. This magical and secret ingredient is “GRIT.” Yep, folks, you heard it…GRIT! That unremitting and ever-determined protruding chin that says “that’s okay” after any derailment, believing WHATEVER obstacle that stands in front of a dream can be overcome. That one thing—GRIT—IS, in fact, a differentiator to success.

The more I think about this, the more I realize how important GRIT is in all of our lives and moreover, just how crucial it is in the lives of the marginalized. I think of the grit it will take for our Pharaoh’s Daughter moms to succeed. It’s Grit that will keep them forging ahead when they are denied jobs and other opportunities to advance themselves. Grit is what will enable them to make good choices for themselves and their children. Grit is what will keep them off the streets and out of a repeat performance of a life of crime. Grit is also what our Pharaoh’s Daughter kids will need when it seems like forever before their moms will come and get them, and Grit is what will help them overcome the innate difficulties of having an incarcerated parent. Come to think of it, Grit is what it will take to get this thing called Pharaoh’s Daughter off the ground! The road blocks are real and potential setbacks are stupefying and unthinkable. So often I feel like Moses at the burning bush looking around, “You talkin’ to me?”

Problem is…I’ve never seen “Grit” listed on any syllabus or as the featured product on the shopping channel. Sooo…is this Grit the privilege of the few lucky ones born with it? Contrary to popular belief, it just happens that this stuff is actually producible—but not by channeling our inner Rooster Cogburn--AND, it’ll cost you. As it turns out, there is a perfect fertilizer for cultivating that coveted steely determination, that perseverance and passion for staying in the game, no matter what; and the will to use up every spare ounce of human energy to cross the finish line…THAT, my friends is only developed through difficulty. Adversity winds up being the incubator for the kind of intestinal fortitude that begets the undefeatable, successful person.

We have a love/hate relationship with this idea of Grit—true, it does get our red-blooded American hearts pounding to think about it. On the one hand, it’s the substance of our favorite feel-good movies—the ”little” man who wins in the end…the victim who trumps the villain…why, it’s the bedrock of the American Dream. However, on the other hand, while we idolize those who have come from nobody to somebody, WE don’t want to be that nobody—and we don’t want our kids to be those nobodies. We tend to want to have “it” but not have to work for it—and certainly not suffer for it! We look for ways to smooth the path for ourselves and for our loved ones, thinking we are rescuing them. But perhaps we are rescuing from the wrong thing…??? They say if you help a chick out of its egg, you will shorten its life in the long run…hmm…something to think about. I’m surely not saying we should conjure up for ourselves and others hard situations, I think they’re already built into life…like Somebody KNOWS how badly we need Grit. Maybe there really is something to that abominable “School of Hard Knocks” after all, and perhaps it’s this “diploma” that bears the greatest fruit of all.

Strange as this sounds, this gives me hope. Hope that not only do the difficult times in our own lives end up counting for something, but hope that when hard times come for those we love…and they will, or for those we are rooting for, that we will have the courage to know that this will somehow, magically produce in them another installment of this important ingredient for success. GRIT is what we hope our girls will already have a healthy dose of when they come to Pharaoh’s Daughter, and GRIT is what we endeavor to help them have more of when they leave.