On GRIT: It ain't the pretty part.

"Grit is the disposition to pursue VERY long-term goals with passion and perseverance." - Angela Duckworth, from her TEDtalk.


Angela Duckworth's research found that with students, grit was the factor that influenced success the most, no matter what the student's background or tested IQ. What made the most difference in final grades was stick-to-it-iveness; getting up, putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing to work, eyes on the prize, Every. Freaking. Day, even though the goal is way, way beyond the horizon, nowhere in sight. So how is grit important to this here humble blog?

Grit is the professional Artist's secret ingredient. You have to have Grit in this industry. Grit to get up and go to 'work' every day in the face of a job market that on many days makes Absolutely No Sense. Grit to simply be prepared for The Call when it comes; whatever The Call ends up being. 

All this sounds very highfalutin' - here I am, dispensing advice from the Mountaintop. But here's my truth: I had a huge test come my way a couple weeks ago... and failed it. Biffed. Belly-flopped miserably. So grit goes beyond a simple blue collar, "lunch pail" work ethic; because sometimes, the truth is that grit tastes terrible. Sometimes it grinds in your teeth, sticks to your tongue, makes you want to gag. Weeks ago I reacted to losing out on that great job like the Angry Young Man of 20 years ago, instead of the more mature person I thought I was. So grit also means means accepting that I acted like a total doofus when I got the "Sorry, it went the other way" call; seeing, in the hard light of day, that I really EFF'd that one, I made your case for the Douchebag of the Year Award - and now, it's time to retrench and try to learn (or re-learn) something, for Pete's sake.  Grit also means that in the face of your own failures and foolishness, you extract what you can, then throw those events over your shoulder, leave them behind, and keep moving, doggedly. 

I wouldn't call myself a yogi, but I do attempt a weekly class. And one thing I've noticed from my teachers is that yoga is always referred to as practice; you can never truly be 'finished'. I'm finding that the pursuit of the Artistic Life is the same - it has cyclical units, ups and downs, big tests and small - but within all that you are always, always practicing. Especially in live theatre; the nature of film & captured digital is that at some point you have to go to Final Cut and say that this is your 'product', but I don't know a single Actor or Director that believes that their cut was ever actually done... there was always something more to do. They simply ran out of time before deadline, and it was time to post.

Thus, my response in the Theatre to "Great show!" is usually, "It's coming along." I love being able to say that. A little better every day, never finished: Process, process, process.

So we should engage in this Process whenever possible, right? Here's a lesson: If you always need practice then you should always be practicing. And Self-Production is a huge part of that. What I mean by self-production is that we sometimes have the chance to be a part of Art that is set up by others, but what if every day were a chance to produce...something set up by ourselves? If we're Artistic Beings who are never 'done', we should continue the practice of creation no matter what, yes? We should, of course, make these:

But we should also make these - 

...and these: 

And whatever else gets you excited to get up in the morning.

So what do you do, actually? How to get started on this mileage?

First; give yourself permission. Then, take a step: Grit. Rent a studio and sing. Grit. Work on your novel. Grit. Learn carpentry, one tiny part at a time...Grit. This Artistic Life is a marathon, not a sprint. And guess what? The miles don't have to be pretty or flashy; they just have to be there. Every. Freaking. Day.

Also? Grit may be the only way that we can realize that what's truly important is the Joy in the Journey, not the achievement, the gold star. Think about it: It's not the plaque on the wall, it's the story of how it got there. Damn, even the act of telling someone about your achievement is a journey! A story with a beginning, middle and end. (And if you're a storyteller, you should work on that, too.)

Even on the days when the grit gets between your teeth. Even then.

Listen: The starting gun just went off. 

How much GRIT do you have?