[April 1, 2016] Growing up I was a big fan of the movie actor John Wayne. To me, he was a real man … “a man’s man” as my friends would say. He was the epitome of an in-your-face cowboy showing strength, toughness, resilience, and “attitude.” My favorite movie was True Grit (1969) where he starred in the role of U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn. Like John Wayne, authentic leaders show true grit and there is simply no better way to describe them.
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” – John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
A few months ago I stumbled upon a great article on true grit (see link here). Eric Barker writes on the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree and recently asked his good friend James Waters about what it takes to be a Navy Seal. Barker summarizes the “8 secrets” to grit and resilience. Waters tells us how to have grit:
- Purpose and meaning. It’s easier to be persistent when what we’re doing is tied to something personally meaningful.
- Make it a game. It’s the best way to stay in a competitive mindset without stressing yourself out.
- Be confident — but realistic. See the challenges honestly but believe in your own ability to take them on.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Grit comes a lot easier when you’ve done the work to make sure you’re ready.
- Focus on improvement. Every SEAL mission ends with a debrief focusing on what went wrong so they can improve.
- Give help and get help. Support from others helps keep you going, and giving others support does the same.
- Celebrate small wins. You can’t wait to catch the big fish. Take joy where you can find it when good times are scarce.
- Find a way to laugh. Rangers, SEALs, and scientists agree: a chuckle can help you cope with stress and keep you going.
Real grit and dedication pays dividends long after the challenges are over, according to Eric Barker’s friend. And that is true. While writing about the fact that real leaders encourage grit and determination in their people, I noted that they are doing their followers a great favor. Leaders allow people to fail without being failures.1
John Wayne is the classic tough guy, no nonsense type of “man.” Men and women can appreciate a true grit man (or woman) and we all know, it seems intrinsically, that such a person is what we all want to be.
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