Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Your Grit Can Always Outdo Your Talent

Determination & grit during a
high school volleyball game
I have often wondered, especially in the past year, how much of my success in life is due to my grit versus my talent.  I can honestly say that my self-developed grit will outperform my God-given talent every day of the week.  If you aren’t familiar with “grit”, it is defined as “indomitable courage, toughness, or resolution; firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”.  When a difficult situation stares you in the face, do you rely on your talent or your grit?  If you are one who thinks that your talent is the sole measure of your success, allow me to provide a few facts and stories of real people who have used their grit to reach colossal success. 

Have you ever heard of Jim Abbott?  Chances are you have seen references about this baseball phenom in movies.  Jim Abbott is a former Major League Baseball pitcher, who played despite having been born without a right hand.  He was drafted in the first round of the 1988 MLB Draft and reached the Majors the next year.  He played for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and the Milwaukee Brewers, from 1989 to 1999.  He threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in 1993.   

How about Bethany Hamilton?  She is the inspiration for the recently-released movie, Soul Surfer.  She is known for surviving a shark attack in 2003 in which she lost her left arm, and for overcoming the serious and debilitating injury to return to surfing.  Just eight weeks after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. In 2004 Bethany won the ESPY Award for Best Comeback Athlete of the Year.  She still aspires to become a professional surfer.

I can’t imagine daily life without one of my limbs, much less pitching in the MLB or surfing waves in Hawaii.  The success of Jim and Bethany can truly be attributed to their grit.  They face extreme adversity, yet they managed to seize all their talent and ability through their gritty fortitude.  Grit has proven that many people can be tremendously successful despite being labeled with so-called disabilities.  For example, Pablo Picasso, Leonard Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Jay Leno & Whoopi Goldberg all thrived despite living with dyslexia. 

Even for those of us who aren’t facing quite the adversity and challenges, grit can still outlast our talent and intelligence.  Did you know that more top CEO’s hail from state schools than from the Ivy League?  Also, the University of Pennsylvania has developed a Grit Scale to rank an individual’s level of perseverance, then used it in studies to measure the significance of grit and talent on a person’s lifetime success.  In one study, they found that of Penn students, those who tested higher on the Grit Scale earned higher GPA’s (despite scoring lower on SAT’s) than those who scored lower on the Grit Scale.  The Penn study also found that the grit measurement was a better scale over class rank, SAT score, & physical fitness for determining whether West Point cadets would make it through their first semester. 

Focused & driven - true grit on the mound
I know I have certainly used my grittiness to get me through some very tough situations.  I played sports from the time I could hold a bat.  I still have scars from diving catches, being hit by balls, sliding into bases, and digging shanked passes from the bleachers.  I can even remember one time in high school – I was pitching and I was hit by a line drive directly to my ankle.  I was only about 30-35 feet from home plate and just did not have time to get my glove down.  I actually picked up the ball and threw it to first base.  My coach and my dad both came on to the field, which was very unusual since my dad was always very subdued during games.  My ankle immediately swelled to about twice the size and they both wanted me to come out of the game.  My dad said I simply took the ball and said “No, I’m pitching.”  I was in pain, but when I was on the mound, I was focused and driven.  And that day I had every intention of finishing what I had started. 

I always tell my clients that our minds quit long before our bodies.  Even if we think we are done or the world is telling us we’re done, when everything else shuts down, grit doesn’t.  Despite failure, adversity, and plateaus, those with true grit accept the challenge, maintain effort & interest, and stay the course. 

Are you allowing your success to be limited by your talent?  Today is your day to tap into your grit.  If you need help developing grittiness, I am here to offer encouragement, advice, and hope for you.  When everything else shuts down, your grit won’t, and neither will I.  Together we’ll stay the course and find a lifetime of success.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you or those you love.  Also, subscribe to my weekly newsletter to get weekly seasonal recipes and heath tips! 

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