Before writing on the topic of Grit, I thought it wise to look up the definition of the word. As soon as read the definition on google search – grit: noun 1) small, loose particles of stone – I had my story.
While serving in the US Army, I received 14 days extra duty as punishment for being late to work one too many times. In the Army extra duty comes without extra pay but it has unforeseen value.
On the first day of extra duty, the Sergeant tasked me with sweeping the area my platoon was responsible for in the motor pool. The motor pool, where the vehicles are kept, was about a football field sized concrete pad enclosed by a chain link fence. A 3-foot wide patch of gravel and rocks ran along the ground on the interior perimeter of the fence. Vehicle parking stalls were parcelled along the east and west fence line.
To complete the task, I pulled each of the vehicle’s forward and swept the empty stalls. Pushing the loose gravel and dirt into the three-foot wide patch of gravel and rocks at the rear of the stalls. My Sergeant was very pleased with the sweeping but he did not want any small rocks in our area of the motor pool. So, my next extra duty task was to remove all rocks smaller than a silver dollar, from that gravel patch and place those small rocks into the gravel patch behind another platoons row of vehicles. This is certainly not a task I will not forget. By the time it was done, I’d moved a dozen or so wheelbarrows of small rocks to the appointed place. My Sergeant was very pleased with the finished project.
The next day, the Platoon Sergeant responsible for the area I’d placed the small rocks, saw what I’d done and he was very displeased. So unhappy that he complained to my Sergeant, saying; “I want those piss-ant small rocks out of my Area, Immediately!” My next extra duty task was to remove all the small rocks from that area and to pile them at the Northern end of the motor pool, a place where there were no vehicle stalls. Ironically, that area belonged to the company First Sergeant.
The next day I found out, someone had forgotten to inform the Sergeants that the First Sergeant’s area was to be kept free of all rocks smaller than a silver dollar. And in addition, the Company Commander wanted all the small rocks evenly distributed along the fence line in a three-foot wide patch, behind each platoon’s vehicles. So, you probably guessed it, my next extra duty task was to evenly distribute the small rocks accordingly.
For me, fourteen days of extra duty was no pleasure cruise. My hands were sore, blistered, and my back ached like hell. It was hard work, and I felt it was unfair that I received no extra pay. But, since that extra duty experience, I have always strived to arrive 15 minutes before I am scheduled to be somewhere.
As a civilian, years later, I arrived about 20 minutes early for a job interview. Upon arrival, I learned my interview would be conducted immediately. The person scheduled before me was late. By the end of the interview, the job was mine. Very happily I left the office to go home and give my wife the news. As I did, I passed the tardy applicant being informed the position had been filled. One never really, fully knows the lesson presently being learned. I promise you the lesson I learned from that unpaid extra duty has brought value in my life. I don’t know if that equates to grit, by that’s my story.