The Lonely Work

We celebrate the achievements of people when they do great things. People like Stephen Curry (basketball star), Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer), Vanessa May (violin music star), David Blaine (famous magician), and so on, reach worldwide notoriety because of what they accomplish. What we don’t see, and often forget, is the tens of thousands of hours they have worked on their craft alone and by themselves, sometimes early in the morning or late at night when we are all asleep. Someone who has grit is someone who has the self-discipline and personal integrity to do what you might call “the boring work” or “the lonely work”: shooting free throws over and over again when no one is around, swimming laps in solitary silence hour after hour, music scales and practice every day, taking a year to master one card trick that makes everyone believe in magic. All of that happens out of the limelight, away from the crowds when they are alone and on their own.

We need to teach our students/kids that accomplishing big things happens in the little things – the habits they form, the discipline to keep working at something, the grit needed to persevere even when it isn’t fun and may be kind of boring.

Once again there is a great video online that illustrates the points of this blog. It does a great job of showing the lonely or boring side of grit, which takes personal integrity. I would encourage you to share it with your students/kids and talk about the idea of “lonely or boring work.” One of the steps to building grit in our kids is to show them examples of it and talk more about it. As with all the videos I include in my blogs I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch it and don’t skip it.


Michael Phelps – It’s What You Do in the Dark

Karl Steinkamp
Blog # 41
Day 57


3 thoughts on “The Lonely Work

  1. This reminds me a lot of a similar Michael Jordan video that I share with students at the beginning of the year…I’m going to add this Phelps one to my bookmarks because it’s so true! We tend to see the lights and the glory, and not all of the hard work and sacrifice that happens beforehand, which then tends to feed into an instant gratification syndrome 😦


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