oceans and cliffs in San Diego

Grit To Greatness

Been to San Diego?

Then you are aware that my hometown is NOT a four-seasons-a-year city.

Sure, we have “May Gray” and “June Gloom”, but for the most part, the weather is a non-starter that works wonders for our mentality. Other parts of the world, as most of you already know, don’t have that luxury. They wake up, look outside their window and their mood goes as the forecast goes.

If it’s cloudy, they’re cloudy. 

If it’s rainy, they’re rainy. 

If it’s sunny, they’re sunny. 

So, for San Diego, taking cloudy and rainy straight out of the equation makes it palpable to start our days as a region with shinier, happier people.

While San Diego IS a paradise for most, I do have a confession:

There are days this paradise is a problem. 

Now, before you serenade me with your “poor me” and the world’s smallest violin, my wife and I are in the thick of raising a 10-year-old boy and 7-year-old daughter in an easy-to-grow-up place. A place where you have to manufacture character-building moments you don’t get in other places where there are Parkas, wind-proof umbrellas, golfball-sized hail, and twisting tornadoes.

Growing up outside of DC, we were gifted with the luxury of snow between December and March. I remember waking up on many snow days when school wasn’t canceled. I’d have to slap on heaps of warm clothes then trudge a quarter mile to the bus stop only to wait in the wind until that yellow bus made its way down our street. When you’re 7 and you feel like a compact 7-layer dip waiting outside in 7-degree weather, that IS a character-building moment.

Those character-building moments have to be manufactured out here in the sunshine.

I have fear. One of them is raising kids who are not prepared for some of the realities that come with a harsh world. I’ve thought to myself, “Am I doing them a disservice by raising them out in the safe confines of San Diego?”

My fear reminds me of the following Angela Duckworth quote on the topic:

“We need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.” 

In Casa de Berman, we don’t have a lot of established rules running rampant in our house. In fact, for the first 7 years of my eldest, we had four:



Try Your Best

Do What’s Right

About 3 years ago, we added a 5th:

Finish What You Start

This new rule takes into consideration the reality of the rocky road that comes with commitment, turmoil, and the fear of not figuring it out.

Now, you don’t have to live in the Berman household (or be a kid) to find the benefits of learning the importance of gritting out hard problems.

Or, to twist Duckworth’s words…

We need to be gritty about getting our teams grittier.

Easy to ink. Hard to achieve.

Imagine trying to break through when your fellow employees are fighting bureaucracy, a toxic “watch your back” (vs “got your back”) culture, or “me first” managers who would rather see you fail so they could rise up before you on the corporate ladder. I’m sure much of this is the reason why some people never get out of the gates to take on greatness.

While I may not be a Psychologist like Duckworth, I have spent 25 years in the “Compensated Observationalist” arena. My job is often to be fluent in subtext. To hear what’s not said underneath the words of what IS said. It is my opinion that the ultimate multiplier of grit is when that tenacity becomes shared across your teammates.

When everyone is moving in a common direction for the same purpose, picking each other up when you hit a wall — when you have a small failure or setback — that is where you “grit” together. 

That first means you have to do your part to grow your grit.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg inspiringly addressed the 2016 graduating seniors at UC Berkeley. “It is the hard days—the times that challenge you to your very core—that will determine who you are,” she told the crowd. “You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process, you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”

My personal life mantra?

I am patiently relentless. 

It took me three years to make my high school varsity soccer team. Four years to scribe, “Return On Courage”. Five years before I earned my first 5-digit paid keynote. Being patiently relentless has been a consistent commitment to the journey, and it sets the expectation of how long that journey may take.

In a few years from now, when my son and daughter are a bit older, maybe they’ll go looking for more information on their Dad. One of my hopes is they run into some of my literature and that perhaps it will inspire them to build those grit muscles. To go for it even when it’s hard. To mistake it ’til they make it. 

grit it out and mistake it 'till you make it

While each has to build their tenacious grit muscles to, as Sandberg suggests, “become the very best version of yourself”, I hope they discover that they don’t have to do whatever they aspire to achieve alone.

Nothing intentionally great has ever been achieved without grit. 

Find what you’re passionate about.

Find raftmates who have conviction for that topic.

Find the courage to grit it out when it gets hard.

And take a true cut at greatness.

Make It To Greatness

Cord struck.

Wheels turned.

Mission set.

Fire burns.

This train will not stop.

No time for stops;

On the tracks to the top.

Most cannot compute.

They can’t relate.

They just refute.

My constant state.

My proactive trait seals my fate. 

Don’t hate.

In my head, I know.

I am public enemy of status quo. 

Armed and dangerous, you bet I am.

I will get there — or I’ll be damned. 

My expectation bar nears the stars.

I welcome the spars.

I accept the scars;

The only way to get near;

Is to first gaze from afar.

And wonder how long could it take?

How colossal are the stakes?

Will I get up from my mistakes? 

Or crumble from the shakes?

Of course not.

I will make it to greatness.

If it’s the last thing I do. 

And the first thing I do.

And it should be the same for you. 

Ryan Berman
Ryan Berman
Ryan is an author, keynote speaker, and the founder of Courageous. His book, Return on Courage, shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it.
Twitter @ryanberman | LinkedIn @ryanberman

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