What Grit Looks Like

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I met Wonder Woman in 2014. When I met her she was in disguise as a student studying at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. She wasn’t wearing the recognizable Wonder Woman outfit with the sword and Amazonian tiara, but it was definitely her. I knew she was Wonder Woman because how many other people could thrive so easily in a new culture upon arriving from Peru at age 16 by herself?

Angela Lee Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, said, “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” Duckworth discussed in her book how kids who studied more and entered more spelling bees were more likely to perform well in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Silvia Li didn’t compete in spelling bees, but she definitely competed in life as a hustler with grit. Grit is a characteristic that I believe some people are naturally born with, but many others can adequately build. Let’s take the case of Silvia.

She was raised by Chinese immigrant parents along with her sister and brother. As a child, Silvia saw extreme poverty in Lima where children were forced to sell food on the street in order to provide their families with money to survive. Silvia’s parents worked multiple jobs and opened a restaurant eventually, but Silvia spent a large chunk of her own childhood as the main caretaker of her younger sister. Silvia’s tri-cultural background is unique. She is a Latina of Chinese descent who is now American. In her struggle to survive and succeed, she organized the first LatinX hackathon focused on the LatinX community. She developed a viral campaign that reached 1.2 million people on Twitter; including a nineteen-year-old who spent time in juvenile hall during high school, Nilton Serva. Serva placed third place in the competition.

Non-coding jobs in the tech field are more difficult to come by. Silvia made it happen anyway. She works as a social media strategist and content producer and is making herself relevant. When I asked Silvia what types of skills a person should have in order to be a successful social media manager, she listed three attributes: being analytical, having curiosity, and perfecting copywriting. Silvia said, “A top social media manager has to understand what types of metrics are necessary to track and know how those tie back to the organization’s overall communications strategy and goals.” Silvia became a main producer of the Startup Grind, which she turned into one of the biggest startup publications in the world at the age of twenty-one. The publication garnered over 200,000 users and two million minutes of digital content read in only three months. She recruited top startup writers including Twitter cofounder, Biz Stone, and Techstars founder, Brad Feld. Using relationship-building skills she developed as a young teen, she produced helpful business-related content for the Startup Grind’s network of one million entrepreneurs.

In order for a person to develop grit, that person must be a life-long learner. As in the case of Silvia--a young girl who moved to the United States by herself to study and conquer the world--she has achieved a level of self-sufficiency that most can only yearn for. Wonder Woman is real. Yours may be sitting across from you. Or maybe you are someone else’s Wonder Woman.