Josh Irby

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True Grits 4: In which I learn to wait

[box] This is part four of a seven part story on Grit called True Grits’ Guide to a Grittier and More Successful Life. I suggest you read part onetwo, and three before continuing on. Make sure you join the discussion in the comments below.[/box]

The lamplight highlighted the grizzle on True Grits’ chin as we sat across from each other in a cellar beneath the vacant Western town.

I reached for my notepad and realized it was still in the saloon where our conversation started.

“You don’t need your book. These ideas ain’t meant for your head anyway, they’re meant for your heart.”

“Yea, but if I don’t remember them they will never make it to my heart.”

“Well let’s see what you remember so far.”

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

“What’s the first thing we talked about?”

“Don’t be a mayfly.”


“Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I need to think long-term not short-term.”

“Right. What’s next?”

“That’s easy. Don’t quit.”


“Because it costs too much. It costs me the life I could have.”

“Good. You’re ready for the next point. You ever hunted?”
“Me? No, not really. Well, I went with my Dad when I was younger.”

“What’d ya hunt?”

“Deer once. Dove mostly.”

“Do you know what’s the difference between a good and bad hunter?”

“Equipment? Aim?” I guessed.

“No. Patience. A good hunter knows how to wait. Think about it.  A lousy hunter sets himself up in the woods somewhere. After an hour he’s tired and bored. Maybe he leaves and never sees anythin’ to shoot at. Maybe he stays a bit longer and sees somethin’ in the distance. Because he can’t wait, he lets off a round too early and misses. He never waited for a good shot.”

“I see.”

“Now my Ma was the best hunter I ever knew. She could lie in a bush from dusk till dawn just to get the right shot. She rarely missed, but not because of her aim. She just waited until the target was so close, she could almost kill it with a knife.”

“Ok, so what does this have to do with life?”

“You don’t see it? This has everythin’ to do with life. Why are people in this grand nation more in debt than ever before? They can’t wait. They want the money now. Why do half of job applicants lie on their resumes? Because they can’t wait for the job they want. They want it now. Why are there ovens that can cook a turkey in 30 minutes? Because we can’t wait. We wanna eat it now. Why do people cut corners and skip steps? Because they can’t wait. They wanna finish now.”

“Okay, okay, you’ve made your point.”

“No I haven’t. Not yet. Here’s the real punch in the gut. What these people get now is not as good as what they could get later. The 30-minute turkey tastes like shoe leather compared to a slow-roasted one. And do you know how much people pay for a $200,000 house when they get a loan! Most people sell their future at half price ‘cause they can’t wait for somethin’ better.”

I nodded my head along to the rhythm of his words. “We are an instant-gratification culture. Microwaves, instant rice, drive-through windows. We are bad at waiting.”

“And that is why most people don’t get Grit. Grit is sufferin’ through months of studyin’ just to pass a test. Grit is livin’ on less so you won’t owe nobody nothin’. Grit is pain today for a bigger joy tomorrow.”

I was getting it now. “I heard about these scientists who did an experiment 50 years ago with some kids. They sat each child alone in a room with a marshmallow on the table in front of them. The researcher told the child that if they can wait to eat the marshmallow until he returns, he would give them a second one. Some kids just couldn’t wait. Others got two marshmallows. The most fascinating part, however, was that the researchers interviewed the same children 20 years later. The ones who waited for the double reward did better on standardized tests, made better grades in college, and got better jobs. All because they knew how to wait.”

True Grits smiled. “That’s right. Those scientists figured out what every good hunter already knows—waitin’ brings reward.

“Why is Christmas such a big deal for kids? Is it the food? the presents? Not really. Christmas is special ‘cause you have to wait all year for it. The waitin’ increases the value. We love most the things we wait for the longest.

“If you want to be grittier, you have to think like a hunter. You have to stalk your goals and your dreams, lay real quiet-like, endurin’ hunger and discomfort until it walks right under your barrel. And then BAM!”

True Grits last exclamation startled me and I nearly fell off my barrel. He started laughing.

I recovered my composure. “I get it. Gritty people put up with pain today in order to get more joy later. They trade less for more. They wait.”

“You got it. But it don’t always go the way they want it to. That’s what the next point is about.”

[box] Question for Discussion: What is something you waited for that was worth the wait?

Read the next chapter here.[/box]

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