By Jellisa Westney
I remember learning about the concept of grit at my university convocation. I was so excited for our commencement speech, as I had heard a couple during my friends’ ceremonies. The messages were all so vibrant and uplifting, as the speakers told graduates to follow their hearts and live their dreams with passion. The whole stadium lit up with applause, and I couldn’t wait for my send off message to fill me with the same hope and inspiration to venture into the world.
You can imagine my utter shock when the commencement speaker began at my ceremony. She talked about the hardships ahead, and the importance of mental toughness and perseverance and what she called “The Theory of Grit”. Let’s just say I left that ceremony feeling somewhat short of empowered (I was quite frightened, actually). But I came to understand the value of her message the following year, when I faced one of the most challenging seasons of my track career and personal life.
A few months after my graduation, I had the opportunity to attend RBC’s first ever Training Grounds event, where athletes competed for a chance to partner with RBC through their Future Olympians program. I was in a place of transition and change, and struggled to make sense of it in a post-collegiate world. I was not performing well despite my hard work, and questioned how I would sustain a full-time track-career. But I learned that when we face hardships, we can choose to adapt and become stronger and wiser. Being outside of our comfort zone can be a good thing, because it forces us to do this quickly, in order to keep moving forward. And the support of RBC’s Future Olympians program has helped make that possible for me.
I believe that pushing through our challenges, collaborating with supportive, like-minded people and refusing to give-up on ourselves are at the core of this elusive Theory of Grit. I have concluded that this is a necessity of life. It is a mentality we must use to stay committed to our goals when life demands otherwise. It is failing over and over again, without losing enthusiasm or vision. And it is seeking the support we need to make those dreams a reality. This is the most empowering thing we can offer the world, and it is our responsibility to live a life so purposeful and relentless that we inspire others to do the same.