'Tis the Season

Photo:  Kari Shea .

Photo: Kari Shea.

Like so many others, I have been thinking about my favorite reads of the year. One in particular came to mind. It isn’t a brilliant debut novel or a heartbreaking book of metaphysical poetry. It is a book from the social sciences on the importance of sticking to your goals.

As the year ends and another soon begins, I cannot recommend highly enough Angela Duckworth’s Grit. It is a title at once simple and profound, for it encapsulates the book’s thesis in a single word.

Duckworth writes at great length about her life’s work, which is the study of stick-to-it-ness. She wants to know why some people succeed while others come up short. Her conclusion is that talent, while still meaningful, is not the key ingredient to success. One must find their life’s pursuit and practice it daily.

Writers know this well. We have our time and our place for writing. Each and every day we show up and put words onto paper (or, more likely, a screen). Joyce Carol Oates says that the first draft is like pushing a dirty peanut across the floor with your nose. This is the writer’s task. Writers know that the day-in and day-out “dirty peanut push” is their job. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Duckworth echoes the age-old sentiment that anything worth doing is worth doing well and is often hard to accomplish. She does not quote A League of Their Own, but I will. This is from a conversation between the characters of Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.

Jimmy Dugan: I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that. 

Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard. 

Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great. 

What’s true of baseball is also true of writing or playing the piano or, indeed, of any of life’s great pursuits. Whether due to the essential difficulty of an upward climb or the requisite perseverance required, great accomplishment demands hard work.

Duckworth spends the expanse of her wonderful book detailing her research along with illustrative anecdotes. She finds that people willing to stick to their long-term goals are the ones that succeed. Persistence, then, not talent, is what makes a person successful.

This isn’t that surprising, is it? We seem to know it deep down. From a young age, many of us are taught that we can do anything if we simply set our minds to the task and keep plodding ahead. It’s the American Dream after all. (The current tenor of “American Exceptionalism” aside, though, I prefer to call it the Human Dream.)

Looking forward to a bright new year of possibility, I sincerely hope that you will allow us at the Review to be a part of your journey. Whatever your goals may entail, I can only say, stick with it. It might be hard. But, as we know, it’s the hard that makes it great.

Happy Holidays from The Festival Review!

Neal Tucker


Neal Tucker