In a week when we have honored the birth of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and observed the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the concept of perseverance has been on my mind. Recognizing the dedication of these two men, understanding the role that purpose has in our lives, and acknowledging the limitations of grit are ways that I make sense of perseverance.
Perseverance is the act of doing something, despite difficulty, with the intent of achieving success.
Throughout his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actions embodied the definition of perseverance. With decades of commitment, Dr. King is a role model of someone who was determined to improve the lives of all Americans, despite the many obstacles he faced. Because of his resolve, we honor the life and legacy of this civil rights activist with a national day of service. Joe Biden has committed decades of his life to public service. He has endured personal tragedy and political setbacks, yet he has worked steadfastly to advance his views of supporting America. Both of these men are examples of determination, faith and commitment to their ideals.
Whatever one’s purpose is, whatever may motivate each individual, perseverance plays a part in all of our lives. Support from family, teachers and mentors are tied to how children learn the value of perseverance. Whether the goal is achieving academic, athletic or artistic success, commitment is necessary. For the most highly successful individuals, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “Outliers”
that it is necessary to devote years to learning and to practice. He discovered that ten thousand hours was the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become experts at their craft. For others, achieving success requires sufficient preparation so that when opportunity arises, one is ready to take the pathway forward.
It is interesting to note that in response to Angela Duckworth’s best-selling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,”
there has been pushback among educators and psychologists about the concept that perseverance or “grit” alone can be the engine of success for children. Duckworth’s thesis is: “grit is the single trait in our complex and wavering nature which accounts for success” and should be taught to and measured in students. Jal Mehta in Education Week
responds that “in the long run, most people do not persevere at things because they are good at persevering, they persevere because they find things that are worth investing in.” He believes that schools should focus on “how their offerings could help students develop purpose and passion,” which, of course, is a core part of Shorecrest’s Mission.
I would argue that teaching children perseverance is vitally important, and should be combined with identifying goals and a clear definition of success. In addition, rather than grit alone, it is essential also to be resilient, to adapt when necessary, and to realize the importance of working with others to find creative ways forward, as so aptly exemplified by the Shorecrest community this year.
All the best,