Greetings from The Grit Institute across the pond!

March 2022

Reflecting back on a terrific Women's History Month-- podcast, an amazing virtual panel and an event in person at the Seattle Museum of Flight... and fantastic news that the 100th woman leader graduated from the elite Army Ranger School!

It's a great reminder that despite the resistance, when you face the wind, you rise-- and what is thought of as impossible, and then as an exception, starts to become the possibility. (ps: keep listening to The Grit Institute podcast for an interview with the first two women Ranger graduates and infantry officers-- talk about leading from the front!)


The Grit Factor:The Podcast, Episodes 3 & 4

The Grit Factor podcast is LIVE! Join grit, resilience, grace and purpose. This is so much fun- talking to leaders for whom I have so much respect and truly enjoy. Episodes 3 & 4 are an Olympian and the most senior woman Navy engineer --

You can help others find the podcast (and ensure a second season) when you download and share!

Last week I turned fifty with a great celebration of family and friends, and a 50k bike ride to celebrate! This decade is going to be amazing, and I'm excited to share it with you!

I am writing this newsletter, then, from the other side of 50, and from the Vercors region of France, where my family and I are exploring opportunities to live for a year. We're fans of winter and mountain sports, and so this very French mountain plateau, a key area for the French resistance, is a wonderful opportunity to spend time overseas...but it's also less than an hour drive from Grenoble, a large technology center and, like everywhere in Europe, just a train ride from other countries and cultures. We'll do some exploring to the south as well and back to Paris before we make it home. We hope to move this summer.

There is so much to learn everywhere we look, about the history, the architecture, the culture. I love the very French tendency to sit in cafes and enjoy your cappuccino and croissant. Meanwhile, we all are putting in our time on Duolingo and have a long way to go. Smiling and doing our best with many "merci"s and "sil vous plait"s has been a big help. And I'm reminded that interested people are interesting people. Being curious is fun-- and it's critical to life-long learning, which in an environment of constant change is critical to your success.

The week I return to the states, I launch into a virtual keynote for a company with the challenge of extremely rapid growth-- at least as much a challenge or many clients as not enough growth-- and the challenge of an international workforce heavily affected by the war in Ukraine.

They will then move into Paths 2 Purpose with a leadership team, and into Mindset and Resilience in Q3 (currently in development thanks to client demand). I'll also run the workshop for the Tuck School at Dartmouth's Next Step program which has run the Paths 2 Purpose program for their current cohort before beginning synchronous instruction. So much happening with The Grit Institute courses in both corporate and educational spaces! (ps: my favorite new testimonial this year below!)

These are clients that know that they cannot afford NOT to act.

The Grit Factor in 8 months:

We're in month 4 of our reflection on The Grit Factor. Being in a different country is the perfect place to add in notes on active listening (Chapter 4 of The Grit Factor)-- one of the most important and surprising revelations from the research into the holistic comment of what constitutes grit and resilience in a life that matters.

You remember from the book that every senior leader I had a chance to interview-- general officers from across the services-- all noted that the most important leadership skill was that of active listening. Working to learn a new language, I have to take every opportunity to listen-- for words, phrases, and intonations.

The same is true for leaders in times of change and challenge-- that's every one of us right now. Leaders meet their people where their people are, where the world is being done-- that's muddy boots leadership. And in doing that, they ask questions, and listen-- but here's the key-- without judgment, without jumping to conclusions or trying to find an immediate answer.

The harder the feedback, the longer time you may ask to take to respond as a leader-- but the response is critical. Studies of leaders who got their boots muddy-- meaning they spent time with their people-- and even asked questions, but did not respond to the concerns that were raised were rates lower than leaders who didn't get out and about.

So whatever challenges you're facing, make sure you're spending time where it matters the most-- your people. Ask questions, and listen (lots more-- a whole chapter!) on this in The Grit Factor. And then be sure you have a mechanism for responding thoughtfully to what you've heard.

Check in with Just One Thing: Every day is a good day to check in on how one thing is going for you...whatever that might be. Meditation? A short yoga practice? A daily walk outdoors? Getting in at least 20 minutes of reading?

Because you are a subscriber, Going for Grit— the program designed to support you and take you deeper into The Grit Factor— is available to you at a 20% discount: Remember to use the code YOURGRIT on check out.

To your grit,


“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.”- Annie Dillard

Giving Back:

I believe we each have the honor, privilege and obligation to give back generously. The organization 80,000 hours suggests if we each gave 10% of what we made back to the world, we would make a material impact (aligning with ancient wisdom traditions). Not only would it make a material impact, but it also trains us in gratitude-- a key trait of resilience, and a component of joy.

For the past five and a half years I've prioritized (along with my family) time, effort, energy and financial contribution on the new library in our community, and we're getting so close to completion! We chose this project carefully, looking at ways to best contribute in a way that benefited our entire community while bringing it together. Check it out here!

And in this time of war, like many of you, we've been inspired to find ways to help. We've donated to the International Red Cross and to Doctors Without Borders, as well as the Episcopal Relief and Development Agency. Please consider giving generously to well-vetted charities making a difference in the Ukraine, Afghanistan and in places the world needs it most.

"Dynamic, riveting, impactful and inspiring fall short in describing Shannon's leadership sessions. She spoke at our company kick off and had me in the cockpit of an Apache right there with her!”

— Turbonomics (IBM), 2022

The Grit Factor Book by Shannon Huffman Polson


Get your copy

The Grit Factor:
Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World