Grit is one of those things we just want to snap our fingers and magically be full of. But like any other muscle, it can only be built through repetitions and over time.

When I was in grade school, I started developing a habit of asking the teachers for answers. I was normally a straight-A student, but some problems would just stop me. I would be working on an assignment, find myself stumped, and instead of working through it, I’d go to the teacher’s desk and ask for help.

Many teachers would immediately help me with showing the answer.

But my best teachers would ask me a question, many times giving just enough information to lead me toward the answer – but would force me to solve it. They’d never come right out and give me the solution.

They wanted me to work through the difficulties and find the answer for myself, knowing that if they’d just given me the answer, I’d never develop the skills needed to solve a similar problem in the future.

This past week we learned of a massivecollege admissions scandal where rich parents were paying to get their academically underperforming kids into prestigious school as a “fake” athletes because some schools’ academic standards are lowered for student athletes.

The parents felt the kids were entitled to more than what the kids had deserved, and thus chose to intervene and give them what hadn’t been earned.

  1. Kid earns “x” GPA.
  2. “x” GPA isn’t high enough for ______ University.
  3. Instead of looking at other educational institutions, parent intervenes with a BIG check because kid “deserves” a more prestigious education than what their earned high school GPA says they do.

My biggest question is this: what’s going to happen when that kid graduates college? Or when the parents aren’t around to remove all adversity from the kid’s path? How will they handle it then?

The truth is: they won’t be able to handle it at all.

Which brings me to the capuchin monkeys. ?

Have you ever seen them before? There’s an amazing clip below of one learning to crack open a nut. Give it a watch.

This little guy kept trying…and trying…and trying… until he finally found a method that worked to crack open the nut.

In fact, according to studies, it takes the capuchin monkey EIGHT YEARS to fully master the ability to crack open nuts using stones.


The parents allow the baby monkeys to struggle…and struggle…and struggle learning how to crack open the nut because the parent monkey knows:

  1. You have to learn how to do this because I won’t be around forever
  2. The more ways you try to open the nut, the quicker you’ll find the way that works best for you.
  3. Trial and error (under my watch) is how you learn and grow smarter.

If an animal in the wild is willing to let their child learn something as crucial to life as learning how to eat for eight years, why are we so quick to intervene at the slightest sign of adversity?

Like my grade-school self, if we’re given the answer immediately (adversity removed), we never need to learn how to solve the problem.

And later in life when facing a similar problem, we’re at a disadvantage because we simply expect someone else to solve it for us.

However, if we follow the lead of the capuchin monkeys and allow a child to face the adversity – and work through it – then we provide them the learning experience of developing grit and the value of solving a problem.

It’s these experiences, built over the years, that provide them the grit as adults necessary to…

  • Solve problems at work
  • Overcome an injury
  • Endure a rough season of life

We’d all love big muscles and small waists without working out and eating clean – just like we’d all want to be gritty without having to overcome the trials needed to develop it.

But instead of wishing for what we’d all want, let’s focus on making the choices to grow it.