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  • Writer's pictureVal Agnew

Are You Gritty?

My dad recently sent me the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. She also did a TED Talk on the same subject a few years ago. I've so far only read the preface and the first chapter, but already this concept and this author's story resonated with me immensely.

What I've gathered so far is that Grit = Passion + Perseverance

After only a few pages, Dr. Duckworth has already got me thinking about my own grittiness.

Perseverance is a quality I know I have. The book's preface tells the story of her father constantly reminding her that she was not a genius. As the daughter of an immigrant too, this method of motivation by...candid feedback...felt very familiar. I do believe at least part of my general resilience to being told no or that I'm not good enough comes directly from my experience of being told that exact thing on the regular by one of the people I wanted the most to impress and make proud.

My other parent is a literal genius, easily qualifying for Mensa membership and still working and publishing at 79. As a result, I have never been under the impression that I was the smartest person in the room. That carried over into school, where I would describe myself as "the dumbest person in honors classes." Concepts that came easily to everyone around me came a little slower and with more effort. If I was to get the grades expected of me, I had to have perfect attendance, perfect homework completion, and simply grind harder than my classmates. I did just that and, for the most part, it worked.

Same in sports. I was never going to be the fastest or the best ball handler, but I never gave up on a soccer field. If I was knocked down I popped back up. If I was injured I played through the pain (don't do that, kids). I played defense like my life depended on no one getting near the goal.

I opted to be on JV soccer as a senior in high school because, as I mentioned, I was not going to be making the Olympic team any time soon, and I would rather play every minute than ride the bench for my final season. I also appreciated the JV coaches, who cared less about scoring goals or fancy ball-handling skills than about fostering a team of confident women who played well together. I also had the opportunity to be captain, which I relished immensely. I had these sophomores and juniors who looked to me for guidance and support and to set an example and it made me want to be the best leader I could possibly be.

When we would go on long runs, I always started at the back because I hate long runs. My lungs are sub-par--another reason why I'll never be in the Olympics. One of my coaches would inevitably show up next to me. He would say "Hey, you're the leader, why aren't you leading?" That reminder was all I needed. I'd begin working my way up until I reached the front of the pack. Then my other coach would appear and say "you can get them to go a little faster." So I would speed up and the team would follow. In those moments, I truly felt on top of the world. Seeing my own ability to overcome and then feeling the group keep pace with me when I did. The point of this long story is simply that I needed the right motivation and I could do the thing I felt was near impossible. Also I feel it worth mentioning here that we were conference champs. These coaches led a ragtag group of second-tier players to a championship and I think that's pretty cool. And I was truly honored to be their captain.

Getting back to the Grit Equation, I know I have the resilience part, but what is my passion? I have a lot of things I love. I love taking in a good story. I love traveling. I love meeting new people and trying new things. I love making people laugh or think (or ideally both). I love working with my hands. I love so many things. So what is my passion? Do I have one? I have spent most of my life worrying that I didn't.

When I revisit the soccer story, or any number of other similar experiences, I realize what my passion actually is: I thrive on assisting others to succeed. Facilitating, managing, producing, directing, motivating, coaching, teaching---being of service to others. Even when I'm improvising I always strive to make the other people on stage look good. One of my favorite shows I've ever been a part of, I spent most of the show hidden behind a door, egging on one of my talented friends and assisting him in being his hilarious self.

In short, I am passionate about others' passions. I want you to succeed. It's why I made this website. It's why I write this blog that approximately four people read. I want to know what your passion is so I can help turn it into a career or business or whatever you want it to be. I want to know how I can add my grit to yours to make something great. Here's the new equation:

Your Grit + My Grit = Magic

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