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Into his late 70’s my grandfather lived in a rural Northern Ontario farming region. It was the kind of quiet, isolated area accessible by dirt road. If you arrived anytime between sunrise and suppertime, you would find my grandfather in coveralls with dirt under his fingernails in the garage, the yard, the garden or in the forest with his chainsaw, tractor and trailer. His younger career days were spent earning a mining laborer’s wage. Simply put, he was a grinder. He was not not afraid of hard work, in fact, he welcomed it. He took pride in slugging his way through a project that others found intimidating. He never let others’ opinions affect his outlook and actually got a kick of hearing people question his make-work projects that would usually be done by machines.
He built his house by hand, with real two inch by four inch oil-stained planks and dug the hole for the sewage tank himself. This hole was twenty-four feet long, twelve feet wide and six feet deep. He joked that he was digging a family plot. The dig took him 6 days and one spade. He used a square shovel to make the edges as clean as a cardboard box. When the engineer brought the empty sewage tank over for insertion, he commented that there were no backhoe tracks leading to the hole. He also asked why there was no nearby mount from the dirt that had been removed. Loving every minute of it, my grandfather told him he had a good wheelbarrow.
Without being able to enunciate it using his grade 3 education, my grandfather possessed an enormous amount of esoteric grit. He could grind away at something that was extremely hard work that offered very little reward… and actually like it. Great leaders are quite the same in their own way.
They are able to show up day in, day out and enjoy the drudge of everyday chores and routines. They find delight in ‘getting it done’ and relish in the task not being what the average person even thinks about. They put up with the tedious tasks of searching for less expensive quotes from vendors, track minute metrics on spreadsheets in search for 1% improvements, they study complex, wordy documents in order to figure out how better to get paid. They are willing to spend one-time, up-front energy in order to benefit from a better system that they can ride long-term.
Grit is coarse sand. It is abrasive and erodes other objects, slowly grinding them down to lesser objects. It is the combative sandpaper-like friction that most people dread unless you are a leader in possession of esoteric grit. Then you enjoy hitting boring base hits instead of looking for a home run.
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