November 2022

November 2022

Two months more for this year. In the northern hemisphere our days are shortening, even dramatically. Given our U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, this is often a month we focus on gratitude, which is the healthiest possible opportunity during darkening days and heightened political anxiety.

So I’d like to announce the first ever #GritandGratitude challenge for 2022. Here’s the idea:

Every Thursday of November, starting today, on LinkedIn and/or Instagram, post something you’re grateful for that requires your all— something at work or out of work. Tag me and hashtag #gritandgratitude. At the end of the month, I’ll choose one person for a free 1:1, 30 minute Zoom session with me, and another for to receive (or direct to someone else) a personal letter of encouragement— snail mail! Ready, ready….GO!

When Michelangelo Buonarroti was still a young sculptor, he was given a commission to sculpt David, the David who slays Goliath, and of whose family Jesus will one day be born. But as a young artist, Michelangelo didn’t have much say in what he was given to work with. At the stone quarry, where sculptors found the blocks of marble they used for their work, Michelangelo was given a tall narrow piece that other sculptors had rejected. It was too thin. A vein ran through it. It couldn’t be worked.

Michelangelo accepted the piece of marble. He likely didn’t have a lot of choice as a young artist.

As he began to work, Michelangelo did not take the approach other sculptors had taken with the same subject, a David triumphant in victory. Instead, according to some interpretations (and specifically Irving Stone in The Agony and the Ecstasy, which I’m just rereading now), he chose the decisive moment when David decides to engage Goliath.

Michelangelo was not supported by his family in his desire to be an artist. His mother had died, and he lived with his father, a stepmother, and four other brothers. His father was obsessed with regaining status and fortune the family had lost. He wanted Michelangelo to work in banking, as he did. But as a young man, just thirteen, Michelangelo went to see one of the best artists in Florence. Typically an apprentice would pay for the opportunity to apprentice, but Michelangelo convinced the artist to pay him instead (or his father did— it’s not entirely clear). Either way, Michelangelo knew his worth from the beginning, and proved it every chance he had.

This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Florence with my family. I had visited thirty years ago, but had not been able to visit the Accademia, where the David stands beneath the cupola. Not even the youngest child was untouched by the arresting power of David. We approached him slowly, brought along with the crowd, and then stood at his feet, slowly, slowly walked around him.

David stands nearly seventeen feet high. His proportions are perfect— perfect for where he was to be placed high above the city streets of Florence. Though he stands in a contraposto pose common in Greek sculpture, his body is in action, ready to meet the impossible. His right hand is curled with potential energy. His gaze is (of course) unwavering, but there is no question that his entire being is an instant short of explosive power. It is utterly astonishing, humbling, and it’s power is in its beauty and in what must go into that beauty— the view of a perfect creative spirit as exemplified by its creation (God to humanity, Michelangelo to David).

The statue that we know today as David took three years to complete; eighteen months to sculpt and another eighteen to finish. Our guide at the museum explained the final polishing was often done with fish scales, which must have been a smelly task! But two things stand out for me in this example of facing the wind, of a mindset supporting success, that every one of us can learn from:

  1. Instead of complaining about insufficient means to accomplish his task, Michelangelo stayed quiet, as far as we know, and went to work.

  2. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, Michelangelo did not simply go to work to get the job done, but went to work with a vision undimmed by any kind of potential disappointment in the material provided— perhaps even sharpened and expanded by the desire to succeed despite the odds.

  3. He worked at the task until it was complete. Until it was better than anyone had ever imagined.

How often do you see yourself or others wilt under the weight of disappointment? How easy is it to allow discouragement to lessen our expectations, even of ourselves?

Michelangelo is reputed to have said that

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Other artists rejected the material that was given. Michelangelo created a masterpiece.

What will you do with what you’ve been given? What is it that you have to reveal for your greatest contributions?

I’m hearing a lot of people struggling with this right now. They feel like they have potential that is unrealized, performance unrecognized, possibilities undiscovered. They want the challenge that comes with the next step, but are discouraged that little is happening to move them in that direction.

In 2023, I’m launching TRANSCEND, a senior women leader’s program. We’ll meet on line once a month for ten months out of twelve (excluding August and December), including two optional but recommended weekend retreats spring and fall. This is about investing in our own growth and development, growing our skills and our understanding, and making deep and meaningful connections to elevate both our personal and professional lives. Programming is based on what I hear you need, while ensuring we go deep into aspects of The Grit Triad as well. Key to this program is deep engagement and support of each other and the work.

If you’re interested in discussing if this might be a good fit for you, send me a note, and let’s set up a time to chat.

Meanwhile: Going for Grit is available at a HUGE discount through November in honor of Veterans Day— self paced training over six-weeks guaranteed to build a foundation for success in the new year. If you decide your team would benefit, I’m happy to Zoom in to kick you off or help bring it all together! Head on over to this LINK to get started!

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