Holding Back

September 8, 2011

My daughter played in her first volleyball game of the season the other night. This is her senior year, and she a captain on the team, so she wants to have a good year. Her team won a hard fought match, but my daughter was disappointed with her performance. Her serving, passing, and defense was consistent, but she struggled with hitting. Her hitting started strong, but she got blocked a few times in a row early on and from that point on her hitting game changed.

She held back.

I told her the next time she gets a shot blocked she needs to come right back and hit it at the same girl even harder, and to continue to do so until she forces that person to make an error or miss a block. Her opponent needs to learn quickly that she has no intention of quitting or holding back. She needs to transfer the doubt from her head into her opponent’s head. If that tactic does not work and she gets taken out of the game, it won’t be for lack of effort.

The summer before I started my doctoral studies at Oklahoma State University, I was in Oklahoma on business and took the time to travel to Stillwater to try to meet some of the faculty in the program. I met briefly with Raj Basu, the only professor in the office at the time of my visit.

Raj told me he had recommended that I NOT be accepted into the Ph.D. program because he felt my GMAT scores were too low. He did me a huge favor by being brutally honest with me. I left Stillwater that day discouraged, but I returned in the fall determined. In every class I took, I looked around the room on the first day and told myself that every one of the other students were probably smarter than me, but not a single one of them was going to work harder than me. It was grit, not intelligence that got me through the program.

Grit is like a muscle – it can be developed with consistent and focused effort. But if you don’t use it, you can lose it.

Don’t hold back. You can’t win every time, but don’t lose for lack of effort. Learn from your mistakes and get back in the game more determined than ever.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Comments (10)

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  1. John Torres says:

    There is no greater quality in a person than work ethic. It is one of the few qualities that transcends the personal/professional barrier. And, ultimately it will determine the successes and failures of your life.

    Great example with your daughter. I hope she has a great season.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, John. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. With parents like you and Jessica, I predict your daughters will be BIG over achievers. Thanks! Bret

  2. Julio says:

    Any aspect in our life must be a challenging. I mean that when someone puts effort, perseverance, and discipline will be able to achieve desired it. For that, first of all, one should think about an objective and goal, then to fight and fight without fainting until to attain this. Always “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” So that, with your experience has been a suitable example.

    Good luck! for your daughter. She has just started the life battle and anything in her life will be more productive in so far she invests her time rather than spending it because one will be able to lose battles but not the war.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome back, Julio! Thanks for sharing your excellent thoughts on this. Bret

  3. davidburkus says:

    Interesting. (Especially the part about OSU). I sometime wonder how strong the correlation between grit and locus of control are and, if so, what does the flexibility of grit tell us about ways to work around locus.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Hard to imagine an external with as much grit as an internal. Thanks! Bret

  4. Kurt Althof says:


    This post hit home for me as I had a similar philosophy for my boys when I coached high school basketball. At the end of the year I had a shirt made up for them that said “Heart and Desire are the Great Equalizers”. Natural talent or intelligence is one thing but effort and determination can and will help level the field. We had a great season.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Kurt. Your boys were lucky to hear that message from you. It is true in so many areas of life. Bret

  5. Christine C. EMBA class says:

    Way to go! That is the spirit. Teaching your daughter to fight harder for every hit, block and point is so relevant to life. I just had a similar conversation with my daughter about her Math class. Fight for every point I say. Working with first generation, low-income college students taught me to understand that motivation and persistence makes the difference. You can be the smarted kid on the block, but it is the determination to succeed that matters.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Christine. I think girls need to hear this message maybe more than boys. Boys get so many more opportunities to compete, and learning how to compete and succeed is so important. Thanks for sharing. Bret