the importance of grit

2015-09-10

What would you say is the most important character trait? Compassion? Honesty? What about optimism? How can you enjoy life if you're not happy? Contemplating the importance of character gets to the heart of what it means to be an effective human being. I don't claim to have the answer, I'd just like to encourage you to think about it from a different angle.

Is there such thing as a meta-character trait? A character trait that helps you cultivate other character traits? I believe that if there were such a trait that it would be more useful than others. It would be an investment that pays dividends. Such a trait could be worth a possibly infinite amount since there is no theoretical limit to improving yourself. I believe there is such a trait: grit.

What is grit? Sounds like sort of a nasty word. Grit. Not suitable for children or those with a heart condition. It's sort of like perseverance but with a tinge of something else. I think that's the right way to approach the meaning of grit. You keep going when things get difficult but when they get really ridiculously difficult -- well -- that's when you hit it twice as hard. If you've got grit the resistance you feel doesn't slow you down or dissuade you, it actually drives you harder. Instead of a negative feedback loop you've got a positive feedback loop; failing kicks your ass into overdrive.

Grit isn't about being aggressive or arrogant. It's about pushing through the impossible times. It's not about facing difficult challenges and not being afraid. It's about being shared out of your mind but still doing the right thing. That's what courage is, doing the right thing even when you feel like you can't. Grit isn't about being perfect, quite the opposite: it's about accepting your imperfection but diving in head first anyway.

That's why I believe grit is more important than other character traits. It helps keep you on track when you need it most. I think it's what Bruce Lee is talking about in that quote I see pop up every now and then:

Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.

It's doesn't matter how good you are now or how motivated you are. The proverbial excrement will eventually collide with the bladed air cooling machine. When that happens -- not if but when -- you have to choose how you handle it. Will you let it demotivate you? Or will you have the grit to drag yourself through the mud and out the other side?