Friday, May 20, 2016

Grit: The Best Four Letter Word

A girlfriend just introduced me to the concept of "grit". I knew the word well, although in my family it's termed sticktoitiveness, what I didn't know is that a curious woman is researching it. Angela Lee Duckworth has evolved into a scientist (she was corporate, then became a teacher, then went back to school to become a psychologist), and her work focuses on determining what is "grit". She did an amazing Ted Talk, sharing what she had learned, and at that time she didn't know if grit could be taught. Here's the cool part, one day, probably not too long after her Talk aired, Coach Carroll happened to turn on the tv to the Ted Talks, and listened to Angela. The subject so moved him, especially the part where she wasn't sure how to transfer or teach grit, that he immediately got in contact with her.

It was fateful that Coach caught Angela's Ted Talk (of all the days to turn on a Ted Talk, and for all the TT's out there, it had to be this one), but it was grit, that drove him to reach out. See, Coach has been living a gritty life, full of purpose, and drive. With strength, and humility, and he's been teaching it. 

So tonight, my girlfriend invited us to attend the Town Hall Meeting at Seattle University to listen to Angela and Coach talk about what it means to have grit, how you can foster it in yourselves, how we can nurture it in our children, and in those around us. And good God it was powerful. And it was just what I needed. 

You see, even though I'm not convinced I'm dealing with a recurrence, I still have cried quite a bit about this turn of events. At first, I thought to myself, I can't possibly handle a fourth brain surgery. Not all that pain again, not with the danger of my complications, the blood clot and dura mater hardening, the risk of dying. What if I lose my language or mobility like I did? The months of speech and physical therapy, my God, I can't go through that a second time, I don't have the energy. As those fears swooped in, I realized, I'm not really scared of a theoretical surgery, I'm bawling because of the freaking trauma I've endured. It was residual emotional pain that rides the waves of those memories. It's powerful, and traumatic. 

Listening to that Town Hall Meeting was moving. It was catalytic. It was comforting to hear that you can't lose grit, you may not always be in touch with it, but you can't lose it. And if you're gritty, that doesn't mean you don't need encouragement, or guidance, or best of all, coaching. Having grit doesn't mean you're infallible, that you have everything figured out, instead it means that when you get bumped, you don't let it deter you. That you continuously rise up to the challenges placed in your path. 

What I love about grit, is this concept that we can all be great. We can be gritty with our jobs, with our dreams and our daily lives, and for me it's especially true for cancer. It's about being passionate, about educating yourself, learning from your mistakes and evolving. It's connecting and absolutely never giving up - even when you're beaten, and exhausted, sad or scared. 

I like to think I have grit, but lately I had lost touch with Her. I learned tonight that even if you feel lost, grit can not escape you. That we all need coaching, support, and unconditional love, in order to truly be our greatest selves.

I think it's impossible to be your best self without learning from others. I have learned grit from all of you. You've helped support me in all ways, and that is why I am still here, why I've been successful thus far. It's easier to get back up when you have a hundred people reaching their hands down to you.

Today, as I drove to the gym, I started sobbing. I sat in my car for a few minutes, pulled myself together, then went in and worked out. Then I walked back to my car and before my door was even shut, I started sobbing again. I was embassed that it even happened, frustrated that I was still this emotional about everything. Then, tonight, while I was listening to Coach, and Angela, I realized that grit is in the every day. Grit is determination, and heart, along with effort, and perseverance. And, today, although sad, I refused to be defeated. So I guess Grit never left me, I just needed to pay attention to her.

Angela Lee Duckworth has written the book Grit, and also has a fabulous Ted Talk that you can watch here:


  1. fascinating!!!!

  2. Yes... grit, tenacity, mettle, passion, endurance, determination, character, courage, fortitude, resilience, will power, backbone, faith, heart, spiritedness, joy of living, love of learning, the ability to transcend and transform… all qualities you possess and are such a model of.

    Jess, you have so much knowledge in your beautiful brain. You will know what to do when you get more information. You have cleared so many hurdles, this is just one more. As always, thank you for sharing. C.

    1. Hi C! Thank you. I don't really feel that gritty these days, or these past months to be honest. Sometimes life is just freaking exhausting!Thank you for making me feel stronger than I feel. Hugs and kind words have a way of really lifting us up. Thank you for doing that for me! :) xo


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