At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.

~ Angela Duckworth

What’s more important, the direction your heading, or how fast you’re getting there? Why are persistence and determination so important? What exactly is ‘grit’ anyway?

When it comes to designing your ideal life, it makes sense to have a good handle on the direction you’re headed. If you move too fast for too long only to find out that you were on the wrong track, it can be too late.

Experience tends to be a good teacher, especially if you embody the lessons the first time around. How many of your early efforts and big ideas were left by the wayside as you gained more perspective? They don’t call it ‘the school of hard knocks’ for nothing.

The thing is, when you’re careening around trying out new ideas or putting plans in motion, hitting the wall at high speed can be rough. But there is wisdom in the idea of ‘failing fast’ because the quicker you can course-correct the better off you are in the long run.

Like so many elements of life, balance is the key. If you make it a practice to lean into innovation while developing the habit of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off quickly after a misstep, you’ll maintain the forward motion you need to thrive.

The important thing is to not get stuck. Consciousness is like a spiral staircase that can lead either up or down. Sometimes we rise enough to get a breath or two of the rarified air above, only to slip back down. But that whiff from a higher level is like a carrot on a stick.

The trick is learning to know which direction you’re headed and to avoid going around in circles. When you’re faltering and trying to move forward it’s important to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

They say that ‘grit’ is more of an early determinant of success than other factors like raw intelligence or pure physical prowess. Kids that are brought up in a way that bolsters this capacity have a big advantage later on. And it’s never too late to develop.

From Wikipedia: “In psychology, grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state.”

It’s informative to break down what that definition is saying a little further. The trait itself is formed at the intersection of two very important elements. The ‘perseverance’ of effort that comes from patience, determination, and plain stubbornness plus the passion for a vision or a goal.

What exactly does ’non-cognitive’ imply? That’s where we get to the meat of the matter. It means that ‘grit happens’ when you get your brain out of the way. Once you fully embody your goal and build up the many muscles of perseverance, nothing can stop you.

Obviously, you’ll need every ounce of intelligence you can muster to make your dreams come true, but that old adage about having enough ‘fire in your belly’ to succeed is pointing to a deeper level of motivation. Your spirit, your soul, and senses all operate beyond your mind.

There’s nothing like a little regular practice to put a limiting belief to rest. I remember thinking that the DJs who could mix as smooth as butter had some innate talent baked into their DNA. Watching these turntable virtuosos spin records was like witnessing real magic.

Years went by where I collected all sorts of eclectic records and gained some notoriety spinning abstract soundscapes in the “chill rooms” at the big raves. My girlfriend at the time was a “main floor” DJ who had the knack for beat-matching down pat, but it still seemed beyond me.

Then I found myself living in the back rooms behind the small record shop I opened in Santa Rosa, California, and I set up a pair of turntables and a mixer for my own private use, out of earshot of anyone who could critique my skills. “Tennis shoes in the dryer” is a sound no-one wants to hear.

Each day I would devote anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour just playing around, experimenting with the pitch controls, learning how to drop the beat, developing the fingertip sensitivity required to dial in the mix, and more than anything, training my ear.

Before long I began to see some glimmers of hope. With no-one around to impress, (or distress), all the pressure was off and I could take chances. I found double copies of some records to practice with and started to understand the beat structure of ‘four-on-the-floor’ dance music.

Gradually it started to dawn on me that the ability to beat match wasn’t because of genetic good fortune, rather it came with practice, perseverance, and desire. In a word — grit. Some folks had more style or put more of their personality into it, yes, but much like riding a bike, it turned out the ear could be trained.

Developing the confidence to mix in public was the next step, and with my connections to Harbin Hot Springs and the willingness to tote my turntables around I established a multi-year residency spinning records monthly at the Unconditional Dance, a forerunner to the global Ecstatic Dance scene. Decades later I’m still at it, now streaming online twice a week!

Mixing is a metaphor for so many things in life. Whatever you might believe is out of reach might just take some time and practice to make happen. Obviously, if you’re 5’2” and over 50 you probably shouldn’t set your sights on a spot in the NBA, but if your dream seems do-able, give it a shot!

Grit happens in that magical little spot on your soul’s Venn diagram where passion, patience, and perseverance align with your greatest goals and visions. Pick up a piece of your personal puzzle every day and see where it fits. Your dream will become your reality with every forward step you take.

Much love and light in your world till next week!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

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I DJ directly from my stacks of vinyl on Wednesday afternoons and Friday nights! Grab the links on the Dance Jam Patreon Page and check the sets on Mixcloud!
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