By Guest Blogger Mike Knutz
OSU Associate Professor
and 4-H Educator
Yamhill County, Oregon

During these uncertain times when programming has ceased as we know it, as well as most other aspects of our life being upended, it can be discouraging or even overwhelming. It seemed a perfect time to continue my read and study into the concept of “Grit” by renown researcher and author, Angela Duckworth. In her New York Times best-selling book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”; she lays out her initial studies at the U.S Military Academy at West Point. Duckworth’s quest was to discover a better predictor of why the 20% of cadets dropout or what reliable indicators exist for the 80% who succeed.

Although all the recruits had a stellar record both physically and academically to be admitted, they faced the formidable challenge of doing things they could not yet do. Essentially they were asked to perform tasks that exceeded their current skill level. How did successful men and women continue in this daily exercise of being stretched beyond limits on every front? Duckworth writes, “the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking, Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance – in a word, they had grit.”

I was encouraged by these two indicators. As Extension professionals, it takes hard work and resiliency to engage our community and to have positive program impacts. Although our direction maybe unclear during this time of “Stay at Home Orders”, our passion to make a difference has not waivered. We are being stretched in finding creative and alternative ways to serve our communities and each other.

One small way that I have recognized youth for their achievement during this time of cancelled graduation ceremonies is by highlighting a graduating senior on the 4-H Facebook page. Just a few statements about their accomplishments and engagement in 4-H as well as their future plans. Youth now, more than ever before, need to keep their eyes on the future. A future where their goals can still be achieved. Whatever setbacks or obstacles that COVID-19 may have put in their path, encourage youth with the words of Angela Duckworth, “Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

You can learn more about Grit from Angela Duckworth’s website which includes a quiz to assess your level of passion and perseverance, and her popular TED Talk on the topic at.

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