Learning something new is never easy. As I’ve stated in a previous blog, The Beginner’s Mindset, we all started from knowing very little and our end goal to is be proficient at solving a problem. We all started with being hand held through different intro challenges to build our confidence before jumping into the deep end. Once we jump in, we either sink or swim depending on how prepared we are for the challenge. Sound familiar?

On personal note, it’s been a year since I started Jiu Jitsu and even though I know more than when I started, I’m still getting tapped by my peer. Over time that has lessened. My coach is able to help me back track and see what went wrong. I’ve noticed patterns in my movement and behaviors which made me re-evaluate what I should be doing when a particular situations happens to me again. I’m still going through this emotional ride because deep in heart I’m willing to do the work and invest the time to understand it until I feel good about what I’m doing. All I can say at this point, I’m making progress and that’s what counts.

In education, we experience similar stories as a novice teacher, a novice leader, a student, and/or a parent. The learning never ends and yet, as in the picture above, we go through the journey of crossing that bridge and sometimes falling off the bridge knowing we that we have to do our best to get back out of it. We develop GRIT in the process. Below is a TED Talk video of Angela Ducksworth describing what grit is.

What do gritty people do to transform their pain to their passion and power?

If success is independent of talent and IQ and if success is dependent on how much a person perseveres then what makes a person persevere through challenges and obstacles. According to a variety of different psychology article, there is a theme that emerges. People who are gritty have condition themselves to do the following:


When someone does something they deeply care about, that intrinsic motivator will drive the person along the journey to accomplishing their goal. Empowerment, according to Octalysis, is a powerful motivator as it has potential to carry the person long term as long as person doesn’t stray away from their intended outcome.


Gritty people understand that in order for them to move forward, they need to know where they need to be in the long term. They set long term goals and backwards plan short terms to define the subsequent step they need to take to get their goal. When they set a goal, they write it and post it, they hear it constantly, they repeat it over and over again. When this happen, actions and a timeline are manifested.


Gritty people understand that they have limits to what they can do. They will have to find extra resources to help them along the way. It may be people, money, books, and other inspirations as these resources will help close the limitation gap. Limitation may include limitation in knowledge base, knowing that certain tasks may need to be delegated, and/or there is not enough money or time in a day. These constraints are also powerful “black hat” motivators as scarcity in either one or more of these limitations can drive the person to figure out ways to close the limit gap.


Gritty people perform actions as it relates to their short term and long term goals on a consistent basis. Consistency develops momentum. When you lose momentum, getting to your goal becomes a drag. When this happens, there is a unlikely chance you will get to your terminal outcome.


We all make mistakes along the way and that is normal. “Can we live with our mistakes and failure?” is our question. Those who can’t, stop in their journey and give up as the feeling failure manifests in self defeated behavior. Gritty people have cultivated the growth mindset and realize that every moment of learning is a growth opportunity. Failed attempts are just feedback and data to inform them what they need to fix or improve on.


Gritty people are able recognize that if something is not working, they have to try on a different lens and solve a problem from that lens. They might have to start from square one with a different plan or they might have to modify a current plan. When this happens to you, you’ll have to evaluate which pathway is worth forming.

How do we cultivate grit in school?


In order to cultivate grit in our schools and in our classrooms, the conditions above need to be met. Before we meet those condition, we have to tackle two major elephants:

Let’s get the elephant out — NOT EVERYONE LIKES SCHOOL. If there is no buy in to learning and if learning is not a passion, we need to figure out what sparks our kids and go from there. You can figure out how integrate your standards and instructions at a later time.

The other elephant in the room is that our students are coming in with baggage that takes precedence over learning in school. According to Maslow, everyone has certain needs that have yet to be met. If they are not met, negative behaviors (the symptom) will manifest in your learning environment until those needs are met (the cure). It takes a caring teacher to realize these needs and to find the resources to get these needs met so that learner doesn’t have to worry about it. Once that need is met, the learner is able to focus on the learning.


Now let’s go through the steps. I will be using an fictional person, Will, who wants to learn how to invest his funds to reach a status of financial freedom before retirement.

TASK 1: Uncover Their Passion

There are a number of activities that will help your students and help you facilitate the discovery of their passion. Remember a passion is something that they care about and it’s so urgent that it needs to be solved. You can start off with the following questions:

  • What are some personal, family, local, or global issues that needs to be solved? Why do you care about this issue being solved?
  • If you had a chance to do something that you wanted to do that you never got a chance to do because of resource or knowledge based limitations, what would that be? Why is this something that you care about?

For example:

Personally for Will (fictional character), he had financial issues in his past. He has 2 kids that he needs to take care, a house that he needs to pay up, and necessary living expenses. He is a single father that works for car company. At the same time, he likes his shoes, this technology, his car collection but realizes this lifestyle is not helping him get to his goal of feeling financial free from debt. In fact, he is digging himself and his family deeper into debt as he continue taking out loans. Will has addressed a personal and family issue he needs to solve.

TASK 2: Set SMART Goals

This is your time to set some some SMART goals as it related to your passion. Refer to the following blog, Courage to Resolve the Unresolved, to guide you through creating SMART Goals. Make sure that your SMART GOALS are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.


Will wants to make a million dollars. Though the goal is quantitatively measure-able and possibly attainable, the goal doesn’t specify a time frame and it doesn’t specify an action that Will will take to get to the million dollar benchmark. This statement addresses the by-product of the action rather than the action that will help him get there. Make sure the goal is attainable through actions. Last of all, it doesn’t tell why this goal is important. What makes that goal relevant to you, your family, your local community, or your global community? If there is NO WHY, there is NO WAY.


For the next 15 years, Will will create a budget so that he can pay up his loans and eventually invest $2000 a month into an investment portfolio that will return on average 6% annually with a 3% divided yield to eventually reach his 1 million dollar benchmark so that he can finally attain a feeling of financial freedom before he reaches his retirement status.

  • The goal is specific. Will wants to attain a feeling of financial freedom.
  • The goal is measurable. Will will be paying off his debt first then invest $2000 a month. He will be checking on that on quarterly basis.
  • The goal is attainable through actions. Will will create a budget, figure out how he can pay up his loans, and stash away $2000 dollars a month.
  • The goal is relevant to Will. The feeling of financial freedom will help Will focus on the things he cares about – the financial health of his family and meeting his pre-retirement goal of financial freedom.
  • The goal is timely as he is giving himself a 15 years timeline to do this.

The following is an excellent sentence starter to help you develop your SMART goals.

In the _______________________(time frame [TIME]), I want to ____________________________(describe an goal [SPECIFIC]) by ___________________________(summarize your actions[ACTIONABLE]) to ___________________ (what are outcomes of your plan) so that _____________________________ (explain how this goal is relevant to you.[RELEVANCE])

TASK 3: Developing an Action Plan

Develop an action plan. Your action plan must include the action steps to get to your terminal objective and the time frame needed to get through each steps of your action plan.

For example for Will:


  • Research about investing in stocks, bond, mutual funds, and ETF’s.
  • Talk to a financial advisor
  • Create a budget


  • Open up an account on eTrade
  • Research stocks, bonds, mutual fund, and/or ETFs he wants to invest in.
  • Place funds in investments

March and Onwards for 15 years

  • Check the status of the investment
  • Reallocate funds if necessary
  • Re -valuate personal budget to see if I can put more funds into investments

TASK 4: Find Resources

We don’t know everything about our passion. How are you going to get to know your passion a bit more?

  • Think about who done that work that you are thinking about and contact that person.
  • Youtube is full of resources of people who are doing similar work that you are doing.
  • Do you need to take some classes (online or on-site)?
  • Have you check out books at your public library or purchased a book at a bookstore about your topic?
  • Do you have an ally who will keep you accountable to your actions?

TASK 5: Self Reflection

Re-evaluate where you are at on a frequent basis. Are you meeting your goals on a timely manner? What challenges are you going through and what do you need to bypass those challenges? What successes can you celebrate? What part of this process do you need to improve or change if necessary? If changes are necessary to your process, modify your action plan. [MEASURABLE]


Guiding your students in this process of action research is not an easy task as it requires work before you take action. It requires that you have a SMART goal in mind so you know what timely actions are need and you know what the end outcome is going to be. It requires your students to have a goal they authentically care about that will help themselves, their families, their local community, and/or their global community improve, grow, and thrive.

Their pains and struggles will guide them to develop an urge to solve a crisis which will become their power and their passion only if they take action.

I will leave you with excerpt from an EdTalk, Defeat Darth Boredom, as I speak about the essence of GRIT. Happy Teaching!

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