Any business can be looked at as a process with inputs and outputs; it is important to get the right mix depending on whether or not the company manufactures a particular product or provides a catered service.

It’s funny the things you remember from going to University at 9 o’clock at night.

In 2006, in my infinite wisdom, I thought it would be a good idea to undertake a Bachelors’  degree in business and information management. Simple enough task you might think, but the down side of it was that I still held a full time job, and was travelling around Europe in that said job. I had also recently moved in with my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and therefore there were lots of moving parts to what I was about to embark on.

I had enrolled, got the funding from the company I work for, assured everyone that it would be fine and that I would be able to manage my current workload and my new workload that was about to be given to me. I would go to University every Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 o’clock until after 9 o’clock at night, and I did this for 4 years!

I would finish work at 5, jump into my car, head over to University, grab a quick bite to eat which usually consisted of a strong coffee and a mars bar, found my class, sat in a chair and pulled out my textbooks and notebook ready to take in my lecture and start my journey of more further learning. (I did Engineering previously).

This was great, I was working in the Oil & Gas industry during the day, heading off to Shetland, Paris, Barcelona, then at night I would be learning all these new things, making myself better with further learning and trying to progress my career.

However, the reality is much, much different to the pretty picture above.

The reality was, that I constantly had way too much to do, in un-realistic timescales, for people that demanded everything from you, in an industry that expects you to perform. I was working circa 50 hours a week in my day job and then heading to Uni in the evening, and hoped that somehow it would ease up………It didn’t.

My week was spent working, my nights were spent listening and learning, and my weekends were spent undertaking coursework, revising and studying for my lessons the following week. Eat, sleep, work, study, repeat.

4 years is a long time, in fact it felt like an eternity while working, studying and trying to make time for a new partner that I was mad about. We were like passing ships in the night, making a constant joke that we will have a real date again soon.

However, 4 years passed, and eventually I was going for my graduation ceremony. Everyone that started this journey with me, my mum, my dad, my brother and now my wife were with me. I sat down with my class of 2010, eagerly awaiting to have my name read out, and make my way up to meet the Dean and stretch out my hand to accept a piece of paper with my name on it.  That’s it…’s a piece of paper with your name on it, and it took me 4 years to get it.

This piece of paper mentions nothing of late nights, it mentions nothing of sacrifice, it mentions nothing of missed birthdays, or holidays, or nights out, nothing of missed time with your partner or all the times you questioned yourself during the process of earning this piece of paper. But I know…..I know exactly the things the piece of paper has left out. Why?….because I made the decision to do it, feel the highs and lows, and miss all these things during the process and come out the other side, hopefully a better person.

When Angela Duckworth¹ studied people in various challenging situations, including national spelling bee competitions, rookie teachers in tough neighbourhoods, and even West Point Graduates she found one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, physical health and it wasn’t I.Q.

It was Grit

If you can keep grinding it out, whatever that may be, work, fitness, running a marathon etc, then I personally think that it gives you way more mental strength than any physical attribute. For you to be able to carry on despite the pressures, the setbacks, the overwhelming odds against you, then I’m telling you, that is grit right there.

You can’t buy it, you can’t borrow it, you can’t steal it….only you can make it.

It’s by prioritising yourself at times that gets you to the place where you’re used to feeling beaten or down because the end result is you’re a better person for it, and thus, you can then make everyone else a priority because you are in a better place to do so.

Quitting something is easy, hitting that big red panic button is a get out for most people, myself included, but if you keep going and keep charging, it becomes second nature.

I look at life as a prolonged relay race….at this point in time, I have the baton, and I’m running full steam ahead to get to the next person, in this case it’s my son. I’ll run as fast as I can, for as long as I can around the metaphorical track which is life, until I get to a point where I can no longer hold onto the baton, and I have to slow down, and eventually have to pass it on. During which time, he has grown as a person and by the time I get to him, he’s ready to accept the baton with a strong hand and run his own race.

Anything you want to do, I ask that you do it, not out of acceptance, not out of accolades, not out of recognition, but because I know you can do it, and you should know that too. Regardless of the goal, big or small, far or wide, take the step to test yourself on the stage and see what it means to you when others expect you not to get it.

Grit……’s the thing in between your teeth after biting off more than you can chew…..and chewing it anyway.

There’s a million things out there that’s just begging you to take it on. Give yourself permission to put yourself first, even if it’s just for a little while, and test the water you so eagerly want to bathe in. You know you have a “thing” that you want to try, or do and the little voice in your head is either keeping you back, or you are worried about what others may think.

Do it……not just for the self satisfaction, or the rush, or the memories, or to prove a point……or the piece of paper at the end.

…Do it for the smile.


¹Angela Lee Duckworth (born 1970) is an American academic, psychologist and popular science author. She is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies grit and self-control. She is also the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a not-for-profit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development.