Two years ago I found myself diving deep into a book called, Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, written by academic psychologist, Angela Duckworth.
Like most psychology and self-improvement books I read, I take valuable information and apply it to my life or I find concepts in the book, piece them together, and see how they have shown up in my life.
It wasn’t until creating this blog post that I realized how “grit” has become a common thread both in my personal pursuits, and in the work that I do in the nonprofit world with Fleece & Thank You.
When we look at “successful people” or life achievement as a whole, we tend to think that these people have reached that level solely because of how smart, intellectual, talented, or lucky they are. We get caught up in those characteristics so much that we don’t consider anything else that may contribute to that success.
Duckworth took a closer look at the concepts around success and asked the questions, “What does matter? What characteristic or other factors really contribute to someone’s success?”
With the research she conducted with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and amongst national spelling bee contestants, she found that those who graduated from the academy or made it far in the spelling put in the work and effort. They faced obstacles and failures, and learned how to adapt. What they had was grit. Grit “was the combination of passion and perseverance that made [these] high achievers special.”
To break it down, we’ll start with passion.
Passion is consistency over a longer period of time and how steady you hold onto goals. As Duckworth puts it, “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” Anyone can be excited about a goal they’re striving for, but at the end of the day, excitement doesn’t get you to the goal line. Instead, having patience and staying the course will eventually get you there.
We all know that staying the course and working towards anything we want in life doesn’t come without obstacles. That is where perseverance comes in. Perseverance is about the hard work that needs to be put in and how we bounce back from setbacks. When we are faced with failures or setbacks, what matters is how we respond after the failure. What matters is what we do to get back up and keep pushing forward. What matters is trying again and again until we’ve gotten to our final destination.
When I think about F&TY, grit is one characteristic we’ve exemplified to the greatest degree.
It flows within the organization as a whole, but it’s also a trait I’ve seen within the people that have helped shaped F&TY into what it is today. It’s in our leadership team, it’s in the volunteers and blanket-makers that keep our mission alive, and it’s in the children and families we serve who are facing tough battles.
Building, running, and sustaining a NPO is not a small feat, especially when you look at the statistics around small business and their lifespans. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, “roughly 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years.” Some might see that as odds aren’t in our favor, but as a team, our grit will outweigh those odds.
Working alongside this leadership team, it’s clear that this is more than just a ‘job’ for us.
We’re in it for the mission and we’re in it for the long haul. We’ve come this far and there are zero signs of us slowing down. It’s our passion to serve these hospitalized children that will keep us moving forward, day in and day out.
When it comes to our volunteers and blanket-makers, their grit is shown through their commitment to the mission and the support they give us year after year. They have the passion too, but they are there for our setbacks and help us grow from them. Their bird’s eye view of the organization allows them to see things we can’t. Our volunteers give us valuable feedback and advice that allows us to keep reinventing ourselves and working through struggles.
For the children and families we serve, their level of grit is one we may never reach, but it’s one we admire most.
The children have the passion to live life fully and their parents’ passion is about loving their child fiercely through every step of their child’s treatment journey. That passion is met with the same level of perseverance. Every day, they fight and remain hopeful, regardless of the cards they are dealt.
Over the four years, there has been this unwavering common thread of grit that has weaved its way through the F&TY fabric. If our team, our volunteers, and supporters didn’t have the passion and perseverance that we obtain now, I’m not sure where we’d be. What I do know though is that our grit will continue to weave its way through our story, and we’ll allow it to guide us to what’s next!
With grit, passion, and perseverance,
Director of Operations