I grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s. Therefore, Rocky Balboa and “Eye of the Tiger” had a significant impression on my childhood. In case, you weren’t as lucky as me to watch these inspiring movies growing up, I’ll give some background. Balboa is an unsuspecting fighter with little money to call his own. With a total of 7 Rocky Movies, that spans two decades, Balboa continues to beat all odds through hard work, determination, and grit. To this day, the Rocky Saga is credited as the first to show me the meaning and value of Grit.
“But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa
We all love a good comeback story. However, are these stories just for Hollywood? Are there any real-life Rocky Balboas out there? While as adults we understand the world doesn’t always work like the movies. But, if you want a story of resilience, passion, and grit you don’t have to look far. In fact, I see grit in my own children all the time.
Let’s back up. What is grit? Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, and former teacher wanted to understand what it was that made people successful. She conducted research across all contexts and abilities.
She explains in her TedTalk, on Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance that the number one characteristic that was a predictor of success was grit. It wasn’t the characteristics you may assume such as intelligence, good looks, fitness or health.
I had always believed that effort was important. However, Duckworth’s research has deconstructed the way I have come to see ability, talent, and intelligence.
Duckworth continues to define Grit as, “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life-like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Grit means never giving up. Ever.
As you are reading these words, does a person come to mind as being gritty? Someone that has the full combination of passion and perseverance?
Life is full of setbacks. To live is to make mistakes. If you are human, you will experience failure. For those who have a disability including being deaf and hard of hearing, life can feel like there are added challenges in the way. You have been denied a job for the umpteenth time. You are told you can’t do something or to choose another goal that is more appropriate for your ability. Can anybody relate?
When I reflect on my own children who have a moderate to severe hearing loss, I often feel overwhelmed by the harshness of this world. For any fully abled person, life feels challenging. How are my own children with a hearing loss going to navigate the setbacks that come their way?
Then, I think about the research conducted by both Duckworth. The research states that talent is not enough and intelligence is not fixed. Grit, allows anybody to experience success. When I am reminded of these truths, I am filled with endless hope. Furthermore, I am excited, because I know that my children’s hearing loss will not solely be a challenge to overcome, but it will be a piece of what makes them who they are and will be one day.
Comedian D.J. Demers, deaf in both ears, said it best. “My mom told me I could be anything I wanted to be and I believed her.” My hope is that my children will be able to say the exact same statement. Hearing loss is a part of my children’s story. As their parent, encouraging grit – passion and perseverance – in their lives is one of the most powerful gifts I can give them.
Read more: D.J. Demers: “I never wanted to be the hearing aid guy”
I can see countless times that I have witnessed grit in my own children with hearing loss. For example, when I was reading a story to my son with hearing loss, we came across a new word for him. This happens often. He said it out loud and missed the pronunciation. So, he had me repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat until he said it correct. He watched my face, he attempted speaking the word out loud over and over again. He wanted to learn and he wasn’t going to give up until he said that word right. That is grit.
Other examples of gritty people are: Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Mohammad Ali, and Michael Jordan. The list goes on and on. All these people had setbacks, failures, and struggles through their journey. Despite being knocked down, they always got back up.
Living with deafness and hearing loss has unique obstacles. You will hear the word no, that you should try something else, or you simply can’t do something. Those moments do not have to define you but can make you. When we can see those challenges as opportunities to overcome, we are cracking the code for success. Duckworth says, “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.” We might not be able to change our circumstance, but we can be gritty. That is in our control.
As a parent of two children with hearing loss, I want them to grow up knowing and believing that they have no limits. Their path will look different than another person, but that doesn’t mean they cannot achieve their passion. My hope is that all those living with a disability, and those parents of children with a disability, will have that belief in themselves and their children too. This desire is not just for the optimistic, but a truth anybody can believe as it is backed up by years of research.
Living with hearing loss will have unique setbacks. However, success is not achieved by easy roads. Success happens when gritty people use passion and perseverance every single time they get knocked down. Gritty people see challenges as opportunities, mistakes as a way of growing, and put their heart and soul into their goal. In this mindset, there are absolutely no limits for those with hearing loss. Embracing hearing aids, hearing loss, and the obstacles that come we dissolve shame and create space for endless possibilities.