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A mother’s connection with her daughter or son is unmatched by any other relationship. The work required is the most important pursuit in the world. Like organizing, it can be a relentless job, but tremendously rewarding. Mothers push us to persist and pursue our passions in the most loving way. To my mom, my wife, and all the mothers everywhere: thank you for the generous love and encouragement you commit to us. Happy Mother’s Day!

Mothers inspire us to achieve. They help us build grit. What’s grit? Grit is defined as courage and resolve, plus strength of character. Psychologist, and mother, Angela Duckworth, enhanced this definition to include a combination of persistence and passion for long-term goals. Her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is part of the Weir Organized library of essential reading and for good reason. We need to be gritty about something in our lives. Not just have a passion for something, but to persist in the pursuit of that passion. It truly is what makes life fulfilling.

According to Professor Duckworth, there are four stages to being gritty: Passion, Practice, Purpose, and Hope. We can be gritty at one thing and not at all with another. What are you really good at? Reflect on how you got there. Although you may have not been fully aware of it, you passed through each of these stages.

It starts with Passion. As the commencement speech precept goes: “Follow your passion!” Your major achievements in life start with an enthusiastic passion – but you don’t just enjoy it, you fall in love with it! It’s easy to get excited about something, but much harder to stay excited. If you stay excited, that endurance will lead the way to greatness. I found my passion for organizing at an early age. I loved it and that feeling has never changed. Relatively more recently, I experienced it with brewing my own beer.

I picked up home brewing eight years ago. I became obsessed with the art of brewing and the transformation of simple ingredients through a complex process to create one of life’s greatest pleasures. I wanted to get better, so naturally I began to brew two 5-gallon batches a month…and I still do! My focus was on how I could make my beer better. How could I get more home brewing awards and recognition? The answer was the second stage to building grit in your craft of choice: practice. It should be deliberate practice. Make mistakes. Don’t get discouraged. You love what you are doing. Learn from it. Greatness doesn’t just come. You need to do thousands of mundane tasks to to become an expert. If you really are in love, you will endure.

I have coached over 20 of my kids’ youth baseball/softball teams. Mentoring and shaping the character of the next generation gives my passion for coaching purpose. What I am doing really makes a difference in others’ lives. As a teacher, I guide and witness firsthand passions and efforts of kids over the course of a season developing into hard skills – and together, after a lot of tough work, we experience achievement. It takes a group of gritty teammates to win championships, as we experienced last year. Those, who are the best at what they do, do it for others.

To be gritty at anything, you need to have hope. Professor Duckworth states that hope is not the final step, but rather, it’s there all the time. In order to pass from passion to practice to purpose you have to keep your dream alive. You need to be optimistic that you’ll get there, even when odds may be stacked against you. According to IMDB, the best film of all time is The Shawshank Redemption. I believe it is so highly regarded because it is an exceptional story of grit. The main character, Andy Dufresne, progressed through all stages of grit to finally state “Hope is a good thing…and maybe the best thing.”

You can do anything you put your mind to as long as you have grit. What is your calling? Take an evening to sit down and write down your life’s goals. You might be surprised at just how many you have. No wonder you feel overwhelmed! But many of them are likely related. For your sanity, it is best to focus on one ultimate goal, so you should take a hard look at all your goals and realize the common themes. This will help you establish your ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to help people get organized, enabling them to savor life. 

Grit is staying focused on your ultimate goal for a long amount of time, and working through all the incremental goals and building blocks required to get there. Staying focused can be hard, unless you cut out the noise and only pursue work that will make a difference. The key, as I’ve stated before, is to embrace the 80/20 principle. In the next edition we’ll dive further into the 80/20 Principle, which is another book in the Weir Organized library of essential reading.