GRIT: My New Favorite Word

I’m a nerd.  I admit it.  Most people read thrillers, humor, or the new Nicholas Sparks’ novel.  Not me.  After years of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and Stephen King, I’ve moved on to non-fiction.  Only.  To be more specific, I read books about talent versus hard-work.  The way ordinary people become legends.  The reason why circumstances, perfect practice, and 10,000 hours of laser-like focus equals champions.  Along with blogs and videos from my favorite author/speaker, Robin Sharma, these are the books (so far) I’ve read and devoured about that word…Grit:

Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Bounce by Matthew Syed

So what is Grit?  A simple formula might be: grit= perseverance+ time+focus+absolute dedication, which in turn equals greatness.

All 4 books have a few things in common.  Here they are:

1. No one is born with a “talent’ at anything.

-Tiger Woods and Mozart started really young, but they were “pushed” by their parents to excel.

2. Circumstances play a role in virtually every success story.

-If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or John Rockefeller were born even 5 years earlier or later, they might have missed their opportunity (okay, so that was a bit of luck and not grit!).  But also, if you live in Texas, snowboarding won’t be your “thing”.

3. This was drilled into my head in JV baseball (thank you Coach Simon!): Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

-That is why me hitting thousands of golf balls over 30+ years doesn’t mean I’m making the tour any time soon!  Having a purpose for each swing, musical note, or foot placement is more important than you’d think.

4.  10,000 hours or roughly 10 years is the minimum time it takes to “master” a craft.

-Bobby Fisher is a rare exception at 9 years.  Back to Mozart: he wrote music at an early age but his masterpieces weren’t written until he was almost 20 years old.

5.  Failing is not an option, it’s a must!

-If you want to be the best, you have to go out of your comfort zone and fail to get better.  If you’re not falling and failing enough, you’re not reaching high enough.  A gold medal skater was estimated to have fallen over 20,000 times in her career to greatness.  Derek Jeter “failed” 2 out of 3 times hitting in his career.  That’s where the learning happens: in failing.

Maybe I love this topic because I love inspirational heroes and “masters”.  Or maybe I love it because I know that an average guy like me can be great at something if I work really hard.  That is my goal: to become the best PE teacher I can be.  Why else would I keep upping my game by chatting on Voxer with incredible PE teachers all over the world, checking out Twitter constantly for cutting-edge techniques and info, and reading books and blogs with a determination to learn all that I can?

Robin Sharma said that “to reap the benefits that only 5% have you must do the things that only 5% do (paraphrase)”  So while most people are checking out what’s going on with the Kardashins, I’m perfecting my craft.

The big question: how do we instill this in our students?  It’s not easy, given that when I was their age (K-5th graders), I know I thought other kids were either talented at sports and math or they weren’t.  So I discuss this with them as much as I can.  We interview 4th and 5th graders on what it takes to be great at their area of interest.  We have cup-stackers, horseback riders, soccer players, hockey players, swimmers, and a lot of students who work hard at a lot of different things.  Maybe if they see that we have swimmers at our school that get up at 5:30 in the summer to someday possibly compete in the Olympics, it might inspire them!

It’s all about grit.  Even for a nerd like me.


Tim Notke


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