Can You Teach an Old Dog a New Trick?

We have been studying the concept of grit and characteristics that are part of someone who exhibits it in their life. We have been using an appropriate acronym: G = growth mindset, R = resilience, I = integrity, T = tenacity.

It’s time to study our last characteristic of GRIT, tenacity — which is not giving up in the face of adversity, and sticking to it until the end. A question someone might ask is what is the difference between tenacity and stubbornness? We generally do not want our children to grow up to be stubborn people, but do want them to be tenacious. How can we make sure that they aspire for one and not the other?

Like the fine line found between insanity and genius, the difference between being stubborn and tenacious is very thin. To be honest, a tenacious person needs a little bit of stubbornness in them. However, a stubborn person is not easy to work with and eventually people will avoid them, which can then lead to them being marginalized in their workplace, team, or community. So what is the key to knowing the difference? It comes down to one word. Humility. Tenacious people are stubborn people with humility. And conversely, stubborn people are tenacious people without humility.

Interestingly enough, this brings us back to the first characteristic of grit we discussed, having a growth mindset. A tenacious person is someone who will ask themselves the question, “Am I being stubborn?” That sense of curiosity and wanting to grow leads the tenacious person to ask themselves, “Why am I facing so much resistance to this idea or plan? Is it because I am being stubborn and not open to learning and growing?” The key principle here is that the person is willing to ask questions and pursue humility. If they are willing to do that, their stubbornness actually is a positive trait and not a negative one. Without humility, however, stubbornness can be a hindrance and destructive personality trait.

So the key to mentoring tenacity in our kids is to teach them to ask some important questions of themselves, have a growth mindset, and be a person of humility.  That said, these are the same things us old people should be aspiring to as well. The good news is that we have learned through our study of grit that an old dog can still learn some new tricks.

Karl Steinkamp
Blog #42
Day 61

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