Will you pound the stone?

This past weekend I had the amazing privilege of attending a VP retreat in Oklahoma. Yes, I actually intended to go to Oklahoma in February, and it’s actually one of the weekends of my year that I look forward to most.

About 150 of us get together- all leaders in our respective businesses- and we hear from the top income earners in the company and we learn from each other about what is working.

I can’t imagine that it’s very common for a group of individual entrepreneurs to have cause to group together and share their experience and knowledge with each other outside of the industry of Network Marketing… but that’s not what I’m here to talk about, that’s just a happy point I wanted to make.

At the very end of the retreat, our fearless leader and top income earner, Linda Parker, told a story of a stone worker who had grit.

Do you know what grit is? I describe it as ‘stickabiliy,’ which I’m fully aware ins’t an actual word. Grit is one of the most uncommon and valuable traits a person can ever learn to have, and it matters more than talent, than skill level, than experience, than social standing or circle, than education… Grit matters more than anything else. It matters most. More on this in the extensive study of ‘grit’ in the book with the same name by Angela Duckworth.

Did you hear me when I said it is the most uncommon and valuable trait a person can ever LEARN to have? Did you catch that last part- the good news? You can learn it. You can acquire it. But it is the most UNCOMMON trait I’ve come across in my near 10 years in business. If you’ve gone down the road of entrepreneurship or leadership of any kind, you’re likely nodding your head in agreement. And this is not a dig at anyone, it’s just the simple truth.

Most people give up when it gets hard. It’s the easier thing to do, for sure, and no one will blame you!

But here is the kicker… grit is the most valuable trait, although it is uncommon, that any person can acquire. Why do you suppose that is? Because if you are willing to stick it out, stay the course, weather the storm… you have absolutely NO CHOICE but to get better, find a way through, empower, grow and overcome. You have no choice! It’s just part of the dang process of staying. Does it always look like a success story when you’re sticking around in your gritty-ness? Heck no! Thus the gritty-ness being so valuable. It’s the ‘stickability!’ It’s the willingness to stick when it doesn’t seem to be working!

Back to the stone worker who had grit.

As the story goes, this man had a very large, very solid stone that he needed to pound in order to break open so as to begin his project. He pounded once, twice… a few more times. And no matter how hard he pounded… the stone didn’t seem to show much trace of splitting under the pressure. Yet he continued. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty strikes this man sent to the stone. He labored hard and heavy, brow sweaty, heart faltering. And yet, despite his efforts, despite his hard work and diligence to pound the stone… the stone didn’t so much as show even a weakening on the surface.

And yet he persisted.

Seventy, eighty, ninety times…

What do you think he was thinking? As Linda Parker pointed out, perhaps strikes 1-20 weren’t so bad. Maybe he was feeling excited and confident. He was ready to make this piece of rock into something beautiful. We can all pound the stone when our heart is excited about the potential, right? That’s when we all think we have grit… but that’s not when grit is present.

What happens after twenty and thirty and forty strikes… maybe his heart and mind were starting to waver? Surely his arm was getting sore, right? Maybe he was starting to renegotiate with himself… was the project really worth it? Did he care as much as he thought he did? Was there another way to his goal?

“This isn’t what I thought. This is hard! This is too much. Mine’s broken. It’s never going to split.”

And yet her persisted…

After fifty and sixty and seventy and eighty strikes, I’m almost certain that he was ready to give up. If you’ve ever been on your ninetieth strike of the stone, you know that this is where it really starts to feel dang impossible. This is where you discover- if you’ve made it this far, because most surely won’t- what you’re made of. This is where you’re absolutely ready to throw in the towel… and this is where the grit kicks in. Like I said, some of us say we have grit when we’ve struck the stone thirty or even forty times, but grit comes long after you’ve started to wonder if it will ever work, long after the effort has made you overly exhausted. Grit shows up when you’re ready to walk away… and then you don’t.

At one hundred strikes, the stone is unchanged. The stone worker is exhausted, and he’s mostly certain all his effort will have been for naught, until… one hundred and one… just like that, the stone splits in half, as if it were just waiting for him to decided he was really all in.

Now, was it the one hundred and first strike that finally landed just right that broke open the stone, or was it the collective effort of the one hundred strikes before it?

Linda says that the story suggests that it was the collective effort of all the strikes… they each mattered and they each served the greater purpose of getting to that final goal of the stone splitting open. And although I think that’s profound and likely true, consider the alternative. What if it was just that one hundred and first lucky blow that finally concluded the pursuit? Does it change the outcome? Does it make it any less worthy of pursuing towards? I don’t think it does.

The point is… either you pound the stone until your accumulative effort is enough, or you pound the stone until you get what you’re after… but you’ll never split the stone if you don’t continue to strike it. You’re never get to that end result, that one hundred and first strike, if you quite after just ten, or fifty, or ninety.

You’ll never get what you’re after if you’re not willing to go all in on the process.

So the question I have for you today, Readers, is… will you pound the stone?

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