In the novel The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, Joe’s life was full of obstacles. Joe was able to work through all of his obstacles because of grit. Grit is working hard through adversity. Other characteristics of a person with grit are stamina and never willing to give up when a setback occurs. “Grit is perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining both effort and interest over years and years- despite failure, adversity, and even just stalls in the process.” (Duckworth 32). Grit is something that a person is naturally born with, and cannot be taught or developed. For example, Joe Rantz was born with Grit. Joe’s mom died at a young age and Joe’s father and stepmother abandoned him as a child. Also, Joe did not have the money to go to college and coach Ulbrickson said Joe’s boat was not going to the Olympics. All of the setbacks throughout Joe’s life did not stop him from being successful because of the grit built inside of him telling him to never give up on himself.
Joe’s childhood was filled with obstacles, that only a person with grit would be able to overcome. When Joe was about 4 years old, he witnessed his own mother die. “When Joe was just about to turn four, this dream life shattered. His memories of what happened next were a kaleidoscope of broken images. He remembered his mother standing by his side in an overgrown field, coughing violently indo a handkerchief and the handkerchief turning bright red with blood.” (Brown 12). Although most children’s lives would be ruined from an experience like this, Joe did not give up on his life, and kept a positive attitude. This was just the first of Joe’s many childhood obstacles. Joe’s father, Harry Rantz got remarried to a woman named Thula. Thula hated Joe because she thought that he ate too much food and was immature. This led to Harry and Thula abandoning Joe, who was only 14 at the time. Somehow, Joe managed to support himself without his parents or any other family members to help him. The only possible explanation for how Joe managed to live a normal life despite all of his childhood obstacles is that he was born with pure grit.
Joe did not have enough money to go to college, but the grit built inside of him made it possible for him to work many jobs and stay on the rowing team in order to stay in college. Without the support of anyone, Joe obviously did not have anywhere near enough money to afford to go to college. This problem did not stop him from going to college. “He planned to work for a year to scrape together enough money for a year’s rent and books and tuition.” (Brown 59). Right after graduating high school, Joe worked three jobs. In the mornings during the week Joe laid down asphalt in the beaming sun for the new Olympic Highway, where he only got paid 50 cents an hour. After that job he went straight to cutting down cottonwoods with one of his old friends, Charlie McDonald. His last job was only on weekends, where he would dig irrigation ditches and cut hay for local farmers. Joe worked long hours with little pay. On some days, Joe would go straight from work to rowing practice, which was very painful and tiring. This work ethic by Joe shows that grit cannot be taught. Only some people have the same mindset that Joe has. “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact researchers have settled on what they believe in the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” (Gladwell 40). This quote says that in order to complete a task with excellence, you need a minimum of ten thousand hours. Joe was able to put enough hours of working in to be able to achieve his dream of going to college. Grit was a main factor for Joe getting through college.
When coach Ulbrickson told Joe’s boat that the freshman boat was going to the Olympics instead of theirs, Joe used grit to change the coach’s mind. When Joe and his boat found out that they weren’t going to the Olympics, they were devastated. Instead of doing what most people would do in this situation, which is complain or give up, Joe made sure that they kept their cool and worked ten times harder every single day. Coach Ulbrickson noticed this change in attitude from the boys, and let them face off vs. the freshman boat for the spot in the Olympics. This shows that Joe had grit, which led to the coach changing his mind. Grit is the reason why Joe’s boat was chosen to go to the Olympics.
Although grit is a reality, there are some people that believe grit is a myth. One explanation people that believe that grit is a myth give is that a sports player is naturally good at the given sport. One example of that is the Manning family. The father (Archie) and two sons (Peyton and Eli) all made it to the NFL. Some people can argue that football “is in their jeans”, but that is not the real story. Archie Manning trained Peyton and Eli to become football players when they were 1 years old. Every single day, they would have a catch and do drills. These are characteristics of people with grit, not “natural football talent”. Joe Rantz proves that the Manning theory is not true. No one in Joe’s family every rowed, and he never rowed in his life until college. Grit was the driving force in his mind every day while he was training to make the rowing team. Also, some people believe that grit can be taught, which is not true. Also, some people believe that teachers can teach students grit. “While subtle at first, the difference between rewarding a student for answering correctly and demonstrating the will to plow through a problem is vast.” (Richmond 52). As shown in The Boys in the Boat, this is not true. When Joe found himself in a life problem, there was no one there to teach him how to get out of it. He had natural grit, which got him out of problems. Also, some people believe that you need more than grit to be successful, which is not true. “In their study, Gobet and Campitelli found that chess players who started playing early reached higher levels of skill then players who started later.”(Hambrick, Ferreira, and Henderson 48). This study is incorrect because Joe starting Rowing at a later age then all of the other rowers, but became the best rower by the time of the Olympics. This proves that all you need is grit to be successful. Although there are arguments for both sides, grit is a reality.
Joe Rantz had many setbacks throughout his life. Grit was the only possible explanation of how Joe managed to survive all of the setbacks. He never gave up on himself whenever he reached a new problem. Whether it was his mom dying, being abandoned by his father and stepmother, not being able to afford college, or having to compete to make it to the Olympics, Joe put his mind to his goal and never gave up. Joe Rantz defines grit.
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