I started listening to a book Monday called Grit by Angela Duckworth. I am literally only 15-20 minutes into it and I already find it to be deeply resonating. It talks about how she was told by her father repeatedly that she wasn’t a genius, his barometer was Albert Einstein. She then goes to discuss the very rigorous process students go through for selection into West Point.
In my own life my father did a few things that have left huge impacts on me. One of the things that was done full of good intentions was the manner in which he tried to push me to be better. Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing. I do not mean this as a negative toward him, I would not be me and I would not be able to help people the way I do had he not done this. I remember getting a 99 in Latin on my report card in high school, yes I took Latin, and he simply said why isn’t it a 100. The next quarter, I kicked butt and I did get a 100. He simply said, do it again.
I was far from perfect and I am not asking for sympathy or disdain toward my father, just setting the stage. I love my father very much. My father is the one person in my life that I would trust with anything and everything. He is my go to for advice, for anything.
I am not sure how many people are aware but I applied to the Naval Academy in high school. It is and has always been a very challenging school to get into. The application process starts in your junior year, not your senior year like many colleges. There are usually 10,000-15,000 applicants a year. Once you applieed there were many cuts. You had to pass their physical fitness test which at the time included a kneeling basketball throw, a shuttle run, push ups, sit-ups, and maybe a couple other items but I cannot remember. You also needed the grades, I went to a great high school that is known for producing high caliber students, my grades were mostly high B’s. I was definitely underachieving, I did what I needed to do not what I should have been doing.
My SAT scores were on their bubble, they wanted a 1300, I settled in at 1280. Then you had to get medical clearance from different doctors, which I did. Next up was letters of recommendation. You needed letters from congressmen and state senators. Someway, somehow I go those too. This process whittles the entrants from that 15,000 to about 1,500. This is where I made it to. I made it to the last round of cuts. Almost there but not quite good enough. I did not make that last cut and if I had this would not exist.
This is where I have been for a long time, almost there but not quite good enough.
Much of that feeling may be what exists in my own brain and how I perceive the world around me. There are plenty of examples that reinforce this idea for me.
Two years in a row I tried to send a team to CrossFit Regionals competition. The first year we missed by 3 or 4 spots. It was so close. The next year we worked harder and trained even better. This was the year that CrossFit decided to make the field of advancing athletes smaller. We missed the cut again by only a couple of spots. Out of the 17 possible qualifying regions we would have advanced in 15 of those regions but not this one.
When I tried out for and did not make the Freshman basketball team in high school, I was not the most talented, not even close. But I would be surprised if there was someone else there outworking me. I always finished high on the suicides we did and I do remember running 1.5 miles for times and I beat all the people trying out.
Why not quit, why not say screw it and go and try other things or just sit back and relax?
I cannot quit, not only for my own personal reasons but now I have a little boy who looks to me for guidance on a daily basis.
Tuesday morning I had encountered one of these situations
I ran into the house to gather baby Dennis to head to work. This is a typical Tuesday morning for me. I leave the house before anyone wakes up and head to an early morning training session, then I run back home and grab him before heading to the gym. I usually have a 5 minute window to get him, grab some snacks and make it with a couple minutes to spare.
I walk in and he is sitting at the kitchen table eating some blueberries and looking at a flashcard.
The flashcard is designed to help people learning to read pronounce increasingly more difficult words that have similar letter groupings and sounds.
This card was focusing on the Ch.
The last word was chipmunk.
He was told that he would not be leaving until he did the last one.
For 9 minutes. There was a multitude of mini tantrums, there was a great deal complaining. He was also just trying to be done. Dennis is very intelligent and gathers a great deal of information from what he sees and hears. When many children will use the pictures in a book to follow along to the story and keep their attention Dennis likes to create the story from what he sees in the picture. He will try to create the words by guessing from the picture.
I was frustrated in the moment, telling him I was going to have to leave, that I would have to leave him there. It got to the point where I did walk out the door to move his car seat into the other car so he could be brought later.
He must of thought I would cave because literally 30 seconds later he was walking out the door with Emily and he had finished.
In the car I was still frustrated, my fears of him not being intelligent or capable were manifesting. I gathered myself and asked him how he felt?
He said he was sad because he was going to make me late for work. I thought about it for a second, I do value very much punctuality but I thought I had an opportunity here to instill a quality that is just as important if not more important than that. Effort.
I told him I wasn’t mad because he was making me late, yes it stressed me but it happens. I was mad because he wasn’t trying, he was guessing and was not actually attempting to put the word together. That is what upset me, it was a lack of effort. Effort counts twice as much as talent.
I am working now to try and establish this idea of hard work and grit in my son but at the same time to not rule him as a tyrant. I do not want to make reading feel like a chore to him or for him to dislike it. I know he loves stories as we are still listening to the Harry Potter series but now I am challenged to not only have grit to keep him going on his path but to also have patience and not an overbearing hand.
I do not want him to be me. I do not want him to be anything other than himself. I want him to be his best self.
Life never gets easier, it just gets different. One day I will no longer be there to help and guide him, I need to make the most of every single one of these moments because there may not be another. One day I will die, one day we all will die. The challenge is making the most of it all before that day arrives. Memento Mori.