This time of year is when lots of folks (me included) who at other times have no problems sleeping at night, suddenly begin to struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Something that was taken for granted earlier in the year now is elusive and highly-sought-after. Tears are shed. Worry lines are etched. Sleep is lost over it, ironically. Many factors–the time change, less light, less activity, colder weather, and whatnot play into this seasonal phenomenon.
🙁 It’s not great.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I read. I always have a big stack of books that I pass by during the day’s activities, wistfully glancing at them. Now and then running a finger longingly across them. So when I experienced a prolonged bout of insomnia recently, I picked up this book and read nearly all of it in one sitting: Grit to Great, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.
I lost a lot of sleep over this book.
Furthermore, if you are a parent of children who are still at home, perhaps you ought to lose sleep over it, too. Or at least maybe you ought to think seriously about some of the content. That’s my bald recommendation. The concept that in order to do big things, we must work hard and possess some real grit, is not a new concept. But it is a concept that is largely forgotten, in our current day and culture, in my opinion.
Our kids are lazy. At least many of them are. And lazy people are not all that successful. You know this. I know this. We provide everything for them, in our all-consuming love for them, and in so doing, we rob them of the inclination and practical knowledge of how important it is to learn how to work.
And that’s why this book kept me up. Actually, for several weeks earlier this autumn, I was waking regularly around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and then lying there in bed for a couple hours, fretting about this or that. The real reason I was fretting was because, hello, I couldn’t sleep! And I was worried about how I would make it through the next day without crashing and burning, if I didn’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours. The worry over not sleeping was causing me to be an insomniac.
I finally decided that if I was going to stay awake half the night, I’d at least get something done. I played mind games with myself, and I’d put my reading glasses and a book next to my bed every night, thinking that if I woke up during the night, I’d do something enjoyable and read a bit. (I don’t have an indoor pool, or else I probably would have promised myself to swim a few laps. I love to swim and rarely have the privilege to do it, at least not when the town pool is closed, from August to May!)
I tried to psych myself out with actually looking forward to my middle-of-the-night wakefulness. Nutty, huh?
Here I was, after all, wasting quiet time when I could have been reading! Sure, it wasn’t ideal in that it was in the middle of the night, but since I didn’t have much choice in the matter* I just decided to make lemonade out of them lemons.
That morning I woke up–wide awake!–at 1:00 (Gaaaaah!) I didn’t waste time fretting over it. I just snapped on the reading light and started to read this book.
I hoped to read for a few minutes and then drift back off to sleep. But this book (at least the first half) was so compelling, and exactly what I needed to read, that I had a hard time putting it down. It woke me up and convicted me to act.
The authors, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval tackle a topic that is close to their own hearts and one that they feel is the real secret to their own success in their careers–and in the careers of so many people they know and have met. That issue is the incredible power of grit, perseverance, sweat, determination, and sheer stick-to-it-tiveness. These two women have started and run wildly successful businesses. The basic thesis of the book is that if you want to succeed in life, you need to have grit, and grit in this case means working harder and smarter than anybody else. They bring out lots of real-life examples of this.
They point to research that shows that we really overvalue talent and intellectual ability in our culture. The fact is, so many people get ahead–even the gifted ones–because they work incredibly hard, put in the thousands of hours of practice and extra sweat equity, and made their own luck. This gives me hope, since I don’t view myself as spectacularly talented, but I know for a fact that I can work really hard.
My parent’s generation got this. My own generation? Not so much. My children’s generation: still learning it (hopefully).
This book is illustrated with lots of stories and the latest research on success, and it is a compelling read, especially if you are discouraged or are stuck in your own goals.
But all that is not why it kept me awake. I’ve kind of figured out by now that working hard is a better determiner of success than talent or “lucky breaks.” I’ve been around the block a time or two. I watch people and observe that the successful people in my own circles are the ones who are not afraid to work hard; the folks who don’t feel sorry for themselves when they find themselves putting in extra hours working to succeed; those who don’t think twice about doing their own work, rather than expecting somebody else to come in and rescue them and do it for them.
What really kept me awake, long after I put the book down and snapped the light off, was thinking about our culture, the disservice we (largely) are doing to our children in not teaching them to work hard, and particularly my own relationship with my youngest. Little Mack, as (I suppose) many youngest children, coasts quite a bit on the laurels of his older (and very capable) sister. He knows that as long as she is around, that he doesn’t have to work very hard. She is always there to pick up the slack. I’m doing him a real disservice in not teaching him that learning to work hard is essential to a successful life.
So we’ve been working on that. 🙂 And I thank the authors of this book for reminding me about this. All is not lost. He has an older brother, after all, who coasted for a time (I won’t mention his name), fortunate for three older siblings who had learned to work hard and did the lion’s share of the chores and extra work for him. Until they left for college, one by one. Then that boy learned satisfaction from working hard. Good thing, too. I would feel like a failure as a mom if he were still living in the basement, expecting me to do his laundry and cook his meals for him. And nothing could be farther from the truth in that young man’s regard.
One more thing, then I’ll let you get to work, yourself. 😉 My friend Jamie shared with me just yesterday, when I mentioned that a good night’s sleep was increasingly elusive to me, that probably I needed to take a Melatonin supplement; that “as we age” (wince) our bodies don’t produce this hormone that is so necessary to good sleep.
I looked at her and thought “duh.” Of course. Why hadn’t I thought of this, instead of working up mind-games with myself? When so many other things in my body are changing because of (cough) getting older, why not my Melatonin levels? Of course.
And guess what. You can buy a Melatonin supplement on Amazon.
In my valid-added-blogging way, 😉 I’ll include this oh-so-brief lesson on Melatonin (which you can skip if you already know this, Jamie, but I did have to look it up, myself!):
Melatonin is a hormone made by your pineal gland, which is a teeny gland in the brain. It helps control your sleep and wake cycles.
Your body clock controls how much melatonin your pineal gland makes. When things are working normally, your melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. And you wake up, hopefully rested and refreshed, and ready to wrangle the chickens and chase the pig. If he got loose. Which I very much doubt, because you are an excellent fence-builder. As am I. 😉
Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of our winter months here in this part of the country anyway, your body may actually produce melatonin earlier or later in the day than usual. This can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. Other things can monkey with our normal melatonin levels, too: sitting in front of a computer or t.v. screen in the late evening hours, for example. Lack of fresh air and exercise, too.
So, who knows, Gentle Reader? Maybe you need to read Grit to Great, and maybe you need to take Melatonin. Or, like me, maybe you need to do both.
I love ya, I do. And I hope today is a frabyous day for you.
“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”He chortled in his joy. –Lewis Carroll
Are you still here? Well then, could you do me the enormous favor of sharing this post with your friends, if you think they may enjoy it? Thanks so much.
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