We saw the glamour and elegance of 4-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams on the Academy Awards red carpet on Sunday night. She wore a fairytale-inspired, princess ball-gown designed by Oscar de la Renta that was befitting the Disney princess she portrayed in the movie Enchanted.
Her grace, radiance and entourage navigating the long gown of fluffy feathers were all visible. Her enduring grit, the reason she was there, could not be seen. It is the same enduring grit that could be hidden inside a janitor, bellhop, waitress, debt collector, peanut vendor or a man in a chicken suit.
We may be motivated to become a star, lose weight or start a business. Yet it’s the enduring grit of thousands of little choices that can make one big thing happen. We romanticize the dream, big idea or breakthrough innovation without learning the real glamour of how people like Amy make it happen.
Amy could not afford college. She didn’t want a large student loan knowing the debt would make it harder for her to become a performer. She worked as a greeter at the GAP displaying the same enthusiasm for big sales as she did playing nurse Brenda Strong alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch me if You Can. At 18, she had to completely support herself and became a waitress at Hooters to earn money to buy a car.
She was able to land a role dancing at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. The $120 per week was enough to rent what she described as “real sketchy basement apartment. I was literally living in fear, not because it was a bad neighborhood, per say, but I was in downtown Denver at 18.” At 21, she was noticed by the director of a Chanhassen Minnesota dinner theater. She was offered a position dancing and moved to a safer environment in the rural town 20 miles from Minneapolis.
At 25, while taking time off from dancing to nurse a pulled muscle, she auditioned for the casting of the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. She got a part. Kirsty Alley, who starred in the movie, convinced Amy to move to Los Angeles. She described her first year there as a “dark year” and “bleak” longing for the security and schedule at Chanhassen, MN.
The real glamour of the four-time Oscar nominee was not displayed on the red carpet, it is her enduring grit inside. Cleaning toilets may not seem glamorous, yet it is when parents do it to ensure their kids get through college.
It is enduring grit to stay focused when making the thousands of little choices. When there are doubts, do you choose the tangible immediate comfort or the imagined distant potential? When a hug is needed, do you choose to keep on working or get ice cream?
While inspiration and motivation are important, they do not make the little choices. It is the enduring grit inside, an enablement competency that is learned and developed. Perfecting discipline, persistence, self-control, conscientiousness, tenacity requires practice. It requires patience and doing the unglamorous. It can include giving up time, money and comforts. It may require giving up your reputation and even relationships.
There is a lot of research linking intelligence with high achievement. We are beginning to see similar links with enduring grit. The study “Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals” by University of Pennsylvania Professor Angela Duckworth proves the importance of grit in high achievement. While it may seem obvious the importance of discipline, hard work, and the drive to improve, it has only recently begun to get attention. Malcolm Gladwell described it in his book Outliers, how high achievers applied 10,000 hours before they were successful.
Amy Adams, the former Gap Greeter and Hooters Waitress, is very lucky to be one of the few aspiring performers to make a living acting. She was not the first with enduring grit to walk down the red carpet. She was following the footsteps of the former janitor (Jim Carrey), bellhop (Tom Cruise), waitress (Jennifer Aniston), debt collector (Demi Moore), peanut vendor (Tom Hanks) and man in a chicken suit (Brad Pitt).
In a time when knowledge is becoming ubiquitous on the internet and sites like Wikipedia, enduring grit is even more important. It is one of the enablement competencies to make almost anything happen.
Photo from www.redcarpet-fashionawards.com