We’ve been an Irish dance family for 12 years. Before that, I competed on an adult Irish dance team. And I also did a few classes and competitions years back when I was 7 or 8 years old. It’s woven deep into the fabric of our story.
On the Irish dance journey, we have met amazing friends, travelled around the world to leave it all on the dance floor for international judges, and learned about grit, perseverance, teamwork and winning and losing with grace.
And then, the pandemic happened. The 50th anniversary of the World Irish Dance Championships in Dublin was cancelled. The North American Championships was cancelled. Everything shut down. But our school, and others, quickly pivoted to Zoom classes and our dancers were still able to learn new steps, perfect the ones they had, and burn off some of the uncertainty through a good workout.
Then this past weekend we did something that would have been unthinkable before. We had a virtual Irish dance feis (competition) with our sister school in Britain! Judges from England and Ireland, comments and results within the hour. Breakout rooms, kids running their own music, and wonderful dancing. All highlighting that plywood is the new hardwood since 2020 and it’s not about the space you have, it’s about what you do with it.
It was music to all our ears. This resilient group offered us a new rhythm to go with the beats unveiled by COVID-19 and gave us that feeling back. The feeling of community and dreams and the idea that anything is possible.
Because it is.
We don’t know what will come next. We will follow the rules and do everything we can to work together until we reach the light at the end of the tunnel. But while we’re waiting, we will dance.
I just read a study entitled: Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals by Angela L. Duckworth University of Pennsylvania, Christopher Peterson University of Michigan, Michael D. Matthews and Dennis R. Kelly United States Military Academy, West Point.
In it, they share, “In a qualitative study of the development of world-class pianists, neurologists, swimmers, chess players, mathematicians, and sculptors, Bloom (1985) noted that “only a few of [the 120 talented individuals in the sample] were regarded as prodigies by teachers, parents, or experts” (p. 533). Rather, accomplished individuals worked day after day, for at least 10 or 15 years, to reach the top of their fields. Bloom observed that in every studied field, the general qualities possessed by high achievers included a strong interest in the particular field, a desire to reach “a high level of attainment” in that field, and a “willingness to put in great amounts of time and effort” (p. 544). Similarly, in her study of prodigies who later made significant contributions to their field, Winner (1996) concluded, “Creators must be able to persist in the face of difficulty and overcome the many obstacles in the way of creative discovery… Drive and energy in childhood are more predictive of success, if not creativity, than is IQ or some other more domain-specific ability” (p. 293).
Grit. I saw it in Michael Jordan on the basketball court. In J.K. Rowling as she wheeled her baby stroller into cafes to sit and write because the heat had been turned off in her apartment. In Oprah as she blazed a trail as a talk show host. In Barack Obama as he made history becoming president of the United States. In Edison as he failed 10,000 times while discovering the electric light bulb. In Terry Fox as he ran across Canada. In Malala as she spoke her truth.
It’s the effort. It’s the perseverance. It’s the passion. It’s the getting up when we fall.
We all have it inside. But we must choose to use it. The one thing all success stories have is grit.
What story will we write with ours?
This week I watched a series on Netflix called Cheer about the road to the Nationals for a cheerleading team from a little town in Texas. The team was from a small school, Navarro College, that was put on the map when a home-town gal decided to return to her roots after earning an MBA and coach the sport she competed in as a high school student. Continue reading
I just finished the Positive Psychology course by Martin Seligman at University of Pennsylvania. One of the topics he talks about is optimism and pessimism. A study showed that 8 to 11 year old pessimists were twice as likely to get depressed in puberty. Although we often lean one way or the other on the optimism scale, he wondered if we taught positive interventions to children, would it have an effect? Continue reading
In 1995, Canada got its first NBA team when the Toronto Raptors joined the mix. Their fans have always been behind them and they made the playoffs ten times over the years, but they never made it to the finals. Continue reading
Angela Duckworth mentions in her book Grit that the word competition comes from a Latin word meaning striving together. The definition does not include anything about winners or losers. It’s about growing forward with others. Competing to best oneself. Continue reading
Angela Duckworth shared this story in her book Grit. She said that Tobi Lutke dropped out of high school in Germany at age 16. He had learning disabilities and was failing at school. He got a job as an apprentice at an engineering company and he met an older man who was a programmer in the basement of the building named Jurgen. This mentor corrected all the code Tobi wrote and he reminded Tobi on a daily basis how he could improve. One day he gave Tobi an assignment for General Motors. Tobi wrote the code and thought he would be shadowing Jurgen for the presentation. But Jurgen told him he had another appointment and Tobi would have to go alone. Tobi was scared, but he did it. And it was a success. Continue reading
I am currently reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by author and professor Angela Duckworth. Writer Lisa Quast wrote in Forbes, “Duckworth has spent years studying people, trying to understand what it is that makes high achievers so successful. And what she found surprised even her. It wasn’t SAT scores. It wasn’t IQ scores. It wasn’t even a degree from a top-ranking business school that turned out to be the best predictor of success. ‘It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special,’ Duckworth said. ‘In a word, they had grit.'” Continue reading
This past weekend I travelled to Cleveland, Ohio on a bus trip to an Irish dance competition with my three kids. I know they won’t be dancing forever, so I jump at the chance to see all three of them participating in an extracurricular activity together. I love how all the dancers cheer each other on from the sidelines, congratulate those who reach a goal and support those who didn’t end up where they wanted on a given day. Continue reading
Just back from a whirlwind weekend at the Eastern Canadian Irish Dance Championships. The boys came first and second in their solos and my daughter danced wonderfully in a group of 43 dancers including many from higher levels. They competed in teams as well and all three kids were on first place teams in multiple categories. Continue reading