Josh Irby

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True Grits 1: In which I meet True Grits

[box] This is part one of a seven part story on Grit called True Grits’ Guide to a Grittier and More Successful Life. I hope you enjoy it. Join the discussion in the comments below.[/box]

I didn’t know what to expect standing outside an old saloon on an abandoned movie set. I double-checked the address. This was it—the location of my interview with True Grits.

Photo by Matthew Lee High (Creative Commons)

Photo by Matthew Lee High (Creative Commons)

A month or so earlier I came across a talk by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist working to identify how and why people succeed. She has boiled the success-factor down to one word—Grit. People who succeed in school, in the workplace, in life tend to be those with more grit than others.

Grit, according to Ms. Duckworth, is determination, optimism, courage under pressure. Grit is viewing life like a marathon and not a sprint. It is viewing failures as stepping-stones, not stumbling blocks. And the grittier you are, the greater chance you will succeed at whatever you are doing.

Ms. Duckworth’s idea resonated with me. However, her research is incomplete (as she admits). While she can prove Grit increases the chance of success, she does not know how to help people develop Grit.

That’s why I was in a Western ghost town summoning the courage to enter a bar straight out of Tombstone. I was hoping that True Grits might hold the key to a grittier and more successful life.

The floorboards groaned and hinges wailed as I pushed through the hanging doors. The hall was dark except for one light swaying at the end of the bar. Beneath the glow sat a man whose dark appearance faded into the shadows, except for the gleam of his revolver.

He sat motionless as I cautiously approached him.

“Mr. True Grits?”

His face remained hidden beneath his hat.

“Excuse me, do you know where I can find a man by the name of True Grits?”

Nothing. I reached out to tap him on the shoulder. The moment fingertips touched cloak, my fingers were twisted backwards in his hand.

“Aagh, what you want,” he bellowed.

“Uh, Sorry, sorry. I am supposed to meet someone named True Grits here.” He released my hand and the dull pain subsided.

“Oh.” he muttered motioning towards the stool beside him. “I’m True Grits. Old habit. I was just catchin’ a wink.”

“It’s okay. I am a bit early.”

“So, why you here?” His voice matched his appearance—gruff, ruffled, dirty.

I considered running, but decided against it. My whole life, I knew something was missing, some focus or spark. Behind me lay the ruins of abandoned projects, unfulfilled ideas, and unmet potential. As much as my fear told me to flee, my longing for a more satisfying life forced me to sit.

“Mr. True Grits, I just want to ask you a few questions about grit and how someone can get more of it, if that’s okay.”

He pushed his hat back and his face opened. For the first time since leaving my car, I was not afraid.

“Grit. That’s somethin’ I can talk about. Listen, son, there are only three things in this world worth two cents—grit, grits, and my Ma. I don’t afford a man the right to talk bad ‘bout any of ‘em. Especially not my Ma.” He paused and delivered the last words slowly. “She’s what ties ‘em all together.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Ma made the best grits the sun ever shined upon. With homemade butter on top, there’s no equal.”

“I would love to try her grits sometime.”

True Grits sighed and whispered, “Not possible.”

“What do you mean?”

“My Ma, died last year. A bear killed her.”

“I’m sorry. How? Where? Was she attacked?”

“Attacked?” True Grits looked confused by my question. “No. Ain’t no bear could attack my Ma. She was the grittiest woman I ever knew. She was out walkin’ through the woods when she came across this bear. T’was a grizzly. Big and hungry. But so was my Ma. She killed that bear, skinned it right there and cooked it over a fire.”

True Grits waved his hands about as he spoke.

“She was so hungry from killin’ the bear and all, that she ate half before takin’ a breath. I guess she ate too much. Just fell over dead. The next day we found her. She was still smilin’. At least she died happy.”

“I’m sorry about your mother.”

“She taught me everythin’ I know about grit. That woman never quit. I swear, if that bear would’ve ate her, she would’ve eaten that devil from the inside out. And when she wanted somethin’, she went real slow like—like a coyote stalking its prey. She was not after some easy catch, she waited it out.”

“Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.”

“She was. She was. You know how some people wake up every day scared? Like the day was only goin’ to be worse than the one before. Not my momma. She wasn’t scared of today or tomorrow. I swear, the future was afraid of her. Every day she woke up just knowin’ something good was gonna happen. Then she made it happen. That’s grit.”

I smiled. I was in the right place.

“So Mr. True Grits, what advice do you have for people who want to be grittier? How can they improve their grit?”

“Well, son, there are five ways that gritty people view life. Let’s start there. . .”

[box] Question for Discussion: How is your Grit level?

Read the next chapter here. [/box]

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