In 2013 I was at a crossroads. I knew I had more to give, and I wasn’t willing to wait for something to happen. But this time I found myself in a new predicament.
You see, I recognize patterns. It’s one of my gifts. I see them all around me, and they make me curious.
This time my curiosity was new. To date I had generally followed the rules of life. I was always pushing the border of risk, but I never really permanently crossed the line.
This is where my pattern recognition kicked in. I understood that the risk side fueled me and allowed my true nature to shine, while the risk averse side allowed my Germanic orderliness to kick in and get things done.
So if I loved this feeling so much, why was I just making do on the predictable side of the border? Why was it I spent my days dreaming of a simpler, more aligned life?
I turned my curiosity inward. What were the patterns in my life where I shone with ease and happiness vs. feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders?
I realized I was at my best when things were at the worst. I’m naturally scrappy, and I had been down for the count a number of times. Each time, just when things were at rock bottom, this fire in me would ignite and my inner animal began fighting. Bestial, fierce energy came forth and propelled me through.
(Without the whole back story, I moved out at 17 and have self-financed my education-BA, MBA, PMP, CAPP, etc.- and found my own jobs, homes, and friends in 7 countries and 5+ US states. No financial or emotional support. You have to do what you have to do, and I love what I’ve learned from it.)
How could I describe this primal urge to survive to someone? How could I help others identify, define, and seize their own power?
Thinking about this over a few weeks, one image kept emerging: submerged under water, with the currents pushing and pulling all around, was a grain of sand. This grain of sand went with the current, unaware of it’s bigger purpose, until one day it washed in to an oyster and stuck.
Meanwhile, the oyster knew it had grains of sand wash through it every day. It was rather oblivious of the process until the day this grain of sand arrived. It didn’t notice this grain at first. It was only after a few days that the oyster realized this grain wasn’t leaving. Try as it might, the oyster was helpless. The oyster became annoyed and irritated, trying ever harder to get rid of the grain of sand. In fact, it was so annoyed and irritated, that it began to wrap it’s irritated flesh around this grain of sand. Over time, layers began to build on the grain, eventually creating a pearl.
This oyster-grain story vision was exactly what I was trying to share with others! All of the irritants and hollow, aching periods in life were simply grains of sand. Over time, those grains of sand could become pearls. If I took the time to savor and appreciate the process as well as the outcome, my life was immediately made more joyous and fulfilling.
As a young oyster, I would rebel. There was no such thing as waiting around for a pearl to develop. I would fight to follow the rules even when I knew my intuition and body told me no. Every time I ended up miserable, struggling, and playing the comparison game 24/7. Over time I began to rebel a little, but not enough to cause too big a ruckus. Still, my oyster was irritated and becoming more vocal about it’s discomfort.
I wanted to explore this theory a bit more, and decided to embark on a personal quest to identify, explore, and leverage my grains of sand. First up- naming the quest.
I googled grain of sand and found the synonym ‘grit’. Voila! Grit, baby, Grit!
That research quickly lead me to Angela Duckworth’s definition of Grit – the intersection of passion and perserverence. Yes, that sounded almost right. (This is also when I found out that Grit was becoming a very ‘sexy’ term in modern education. But I digress.)
Even if I dislike the term passion (overused and very often applied too selfishly and narrowmindedly to be of any impact), I generally liked the visual of an intersection of passion and perserverence.
But there was something harsh about the term Grit. Too angular and chiseled. Too masculine and military. So I dug a little deeper in to my Grit. When it was in full force, how did I feel? How did I act?
The answers came easily. I felt graceful and empowered. I felt like a fusion of a modern dancer and a martial artist. I felt like water, easily morping from fluidity to a solid state, both powerful and flexible.
My Grit was grace and beauty, power and vulnerability, hot and cold, focused and flexible. Now that was a definition I could live with.
But it wasn’t enough to say I was Gritty. I wanted to know when I was Gritty. When did it kick in and propel me forward.
The answer was, and still is, simple.
When I’m inspired, I come alive.
When I’m alive and present, things happen.
Things happen because I’m not passive. I actively seek opportunities and experiences where I believe my comfort zone will be tested. I want to find the porous parts of my membrane, for there I discover my raw, unfiltered, un-ego-filled triggers. And once I discover those areas, I begin to play.
And play brings inspiration.
That name summarises my past hopes, present actions, and future plans. I hear it and a spark ignites. It became my personal quest.
And, as with any change, perceptive people notice. Friends and colleagues began commenting on a positive shift in me. A few became curious and asked what was happening.
As I began to describe what I was doing and feeling, I began noticing how many people were hungry for their own quest. These aren’t young college kids filled with ambition and entitlement. These are adults who had been playing the life seeking an answer to the dance of their oyster and sand. They, too, had been beaten down and had dreams dashed, and some were content to just get by while others were simply not.
Inspired Grit, my personal exploration, then went public. In the past few years I’ve invested time, money, and energy in to poking, playing, and practicing ways to identify, define, seize, and apply my grit. This year I emerge to bring my discoveries to the world.
As I work on getting my voice out in to the world, I’d love to hear how your oyster/sand dance is playing out in your life. The ups, the downs, the surprises – they are all part of your beautiful, individual, sacred, and gorgeous life! If you feel called, tell me more below. Or drop me a line and share.
With Grit, Grace and Gumption,
PS – Some have asked me which is more valuable, the oyster or the pearl. It’s up to you to decide. If you’re starving in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I can guess your answer. But since I’m big on patterns and discovering the ecosystems that make them thrive, my preference is the whole system.