Teaching Grit and Asking What If

Teaching Grit and Asking What If

Stephen Carter
August 19, 2023
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How to Teach Grit

I recently attended a reception where I ended up a few feet from Dave Ramsey. Dave was surrounded by adoring fans who were pitching him on a variety of business ideas, so it seemed like the perfect time to ask about grit.

I stood on my tip toes and shouted over the crowd, “Hey Dave, how would you teach young adults to become grittier?”

Much to the chagrin of the adoring fans, Dave parted the crowd and came over to me.

“Teach grit to young adults? I love the question. And I believe you can,” he said. He then launched into a story about a company in Nashville that used to hire college students to sell encyclopedias door to door. All summer long, in the heat, knocking on doors and getting refusal after refusal after refusal. It’s hard enough to sell something people actually want, much less a set of encyclopedias.

Dave went on to say that he when he would look to hire, if he saw that the potential candidate had worked for this encyclopedia sales company and had lasted an entire summer, he hired them on the spot.

“I knew they would have what it takes,” he said, “I knew they could do hard things.”

Dave was essentially articulating Angela Duckworth’s “Hard Thing Rule” – a concept that we should encourage our students to pick a hard thing that they do simply because it is a hard thing to do. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a cold shower instead of a warm one, opt for the discomfort over the comfort.

There is a truth in this and it applies broadly in our classrooms—we cannot set out to teach students to become grittier. But we can create opportunities and experiences where grit is the byproduct. Where they are, through the nature of completing the tough thing, becoming grittier.

In our Entrepreneurship and Sustainability programming, we have created formulas and systems around long-term goal setting to guide our educational experiences in such a way that students will increase in their grit.

To learn more about how we do this in entrepreneurship, inquire below.


The Value of “What if?”

Imagine the power of the simple question, “What if?” Imagine the impact on the students in a classroom where a teacher constantly probes the boundaries and displays curiosity and lifelong learning.

Some of the greatest learning moments in the ten-year history of the Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Program in Cincinnati have come from the simple asking of “what if?” What if we had class outside today, what if I skipped the quiz and created a different assessment, what if we made this hands-on?

These “what if” questions slowly change our entire mindset toward education and lead in a natural progression to larger and larger ideas. My own question of “what if I had a unit on food in English class” led to “what if I took a group of students to a fancy restaurant” led to “what if we actually grew some of this food on campus” led to “what if we had a place on campus to cook this food” led to “what if this place became a commercial kitchen” led to “what if we had elective courses dedicated to culinary education” led to “what if we joined the nationally recognized Teaching Kitchen Collaborative” led to “what if we worked to revolutionize health and wellness education and actively transform the lives of our students?”

The power of “what if” questions speaks to the heart of our WHY as educators and reminds us that we having a CALLING to directly impact the youth of today who will go out and change the world of tomorrow.

And that is indeed a noble calling.


COMING SOON: Teaching the Entrepreneurial Mindset by Stephen Carter

Teaching the Entrepreneurial Mindset by Stephen Carter


Imagine your culture infused with growth mindset, grit, redefining failure, and opportunity seeking. Imagine your team acting and thinking like entrepreneurs.

Stephen Carter

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