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I had the pleasure of sitting at the DMV here in Texas this past week. Before you ask how long was my wait, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I’ll never get back the five…yes, FIVE…hours of my life back. But, hey, that’s neither here nor there…I’ve got a much better story to tell ya’ll!

At the DMV, I met the most incredible lady. She asked to sit next to me, and we struck up a conversation. I could tell from her accent that she likely wasn’t a native of the United States. So, I asked her where she was born…and she said Ukraine. She was older, and come to find out she was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Her story was captivating.

I’ll spare a lot of the details, but she told me stories about the Nazis coming to take her father away and how she never saw him again…the fear, the trauma…so many things that made my heart skip a beat just listening to her.

Something that really struck me was while she was living with her mom at a Nazi prison camp (she was 7 at the time), she was determined to learn languages and do whatever she could do to get out and save her life. She spent four years at this camp. When the war was over, she and other prisoners were released. She was 11 and had no formal education. Her family fled Germany, and she was finally able to go to school. She told me she had one set of clothes, her family was destitute, but she made it work. I forgot to mention, she had to work to pay for her schooling…and remember, she was 11. 

I sat there thinking to myself about how we complain about not having enough clothes or an older car or whatever. But, this lady had NOTHING except literally the clothes on her back and shoes on her feet.

I’ll fast forward the story. She was able to immigrate to America, graduated high school and then college, married an American soldier and had a family. 

Although this blog post doesn’t give her entire story justice, I hope you can glean the fact that pushing through struggles, grief and dark seasons takes a lot of grit and determination.

I was reading excerpts from Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit. She describes grit as a special blend of passion and persistence. It’s not necessarily someone’s IQ that determines how successful they’ll be in career or life…it’s whether they have the grit to stick with it, even when it seems a lot easier to give up. 

So, the question is…what does it REALLY take to persevere through hard and heavy seasons? What should we be focusing on when it feels impossible to finish? 

I read this great article on Forbes about the five characteristic traits of those who exhibit grit. Take a look….

  1. Courage: the ability to manage your fear of failure. Dang. I struggle with this on a daily basis. I started a consulting business. Yes, I have clients…thank the lord! But, I feel I’m constantly managing my mind so I don’t go down rabbit holes of “am I good enough to keep what I’ve got?” or “am I talented enough to earn this piece of business?”

  2. Conscientiousness: achievement oriented vs. dependable or self-controlled. An achievement-oriented person works tirelessly and meticulously until the job is done, whereas the dependable person exhibits more self-control. I love how the author of this article describes this concept as more of racehorse than the ass. In other words, be in it to win it.

  3. Long-term goals and endurance: follow through. In other words, practice must have purpose. Malcolm Gladwell and Angela Duckworth studied all the business greats, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The one thing these guys had in common – big, audacious goals and lots and lots and lots of practice.

  4. Resilience: optimism, confidence & creativity. I kinda love this one. Failure is inevitable in this life, right? But, in order to be successful, you’ve gotta get back up and try again. More rather, it takes a boatload of creativity and confidence to get up and try again. I think of my friend I met at the DMV. She was up against ALL ODDS. She was in a prison camp for goodness sakes. Her resilience – her optimism and confidence and sheer determination to escape and make a better life was likely something you and I will never experience. 

  5. Excellence versus perfection. The author describes perfection as someone else’s perception of an ideal. Excellence is an attitude, not an endgame. Not much else to add to that one…couldn’t agree more.

I think my new friend at the DMV exhibited ALL five of these characteristics. She got me thinking about my own life and the hard seasons I’ve had and what it took to get through it. I’m not near the kind of woman she is, but dang…I’ll certainly try harder each and every day.

I found a quote that I just love. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

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