I Knew I Could

i think i can

In the past 5 days two writers who I greatly admire have discussed "grit" as an important part of leadership and professional development. Hey, when I see a trend I act on it. So, let's talk about grit - true or otherwise.

Here's some random grit fun facts:

  • Abraham Lincoln was defeated in eight different elections. He went on to be one of the most respected Presidents of the United States.
  • Walt Disney was told he had no creative talent and fired from a newspaper job. He went on to create one of the world's most beloved cartoon characters.
  • Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected by 23 different publishers. The 24th publisher accepted it and sold 6 million copies.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team in his sophomore year. He went on to become one of the most successful and popular athletes in the world.
  • Elvis Presley was fired after his first performance at the Grand Ole Opry having been told, "you ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck." Elvis became one of the most famous American singers of the 20th century.

Researcher Tammy Duckworth defines grit as "the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals."  Do you remember the story of the "Little Engine That Could?" Faced with unimaginable odds, this little train had the tenacity to do what no larger train could - make it over long, arduous terrain to its destination. "I think I can... I think I can... "

That's grit.

One of the writers I  alluded to above is Seth Godin. I'm a big fan of his. As he would be of me, if he knew I was alive. But I digress. Seth made the observation that grit equals hard work and persistence. And as long as he defines it with both of those qualifiers, I'm good.


Grit is not synonymous with hard work alone. It involves a certain single-mindedness. It's the difference between starting a new project every month and sticking with the same one until its difficult conclusion is reached. Both require hard work. Only one requires grit. 

And as the other writer I alluded to, Bill Hybels, has said, "the enemy of grit is ease." Grit is tough because you don't get the adrenaline rushes that new projects bring. It is slow, inch-by-inch success. It's that very moment when you say to yourself, "I knew I could..."

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