Friday, January 21, 2011

Whatever happened to Toughness?

Last night I watched a great movie with my wife. It was the Cohen Brothers adaptation of "True Grit". It got me thinking.

The story is about a resolute 14 year old girl who sets out with a grizzled U.S Marshal and a flashy Texas Ranger to bring her father's murderer to justice. The trio braves the elements, classic western-style marauders and the ill company of each other to see the job done.

It was dramatized to be sure, but the rough and tumble lifestyle of the film wasn't altogether different from the one lived by our pioneering forebears. No one seems to remember it now, but there was a time (not so long ago) when "grit" was an admirable trait.

Now it seems like a couple decades of Oprah and her descendants Doctors Phil and Oz have us valuing sensitivity and tolerance. Which is fine, because these are important traits... but they need to be tempered with discipline, firmness, resolute morality and courage.

We have forgotten, it seems, that there is a time to stand your ground. A time to hit back. A time to forget triple A and change our own darn tire. A time to narrow our eyes dangerously and say, "I think you're trying to screw me, buddy," or maybe "You can't talk to me like that." There are situations in life where a bit of grit goes a long way.

Also, let us not forget that it was grit and toughness coupled with a resolute idea of what is right and what is wrong that founded this country.

A very wise man once told me that life was all about finding the balance between being nice and being tough. "People are born with one and need to learn the other," he said. "Most of the time, be nice. Occasionally, you need to know when to get tough." He was right.

Our society does a great job of teaching us to be nice at all costs. We need to do our jobs and teach our children the yin to that yang. For what it's worth - I'm proud to be in an industry that offers people the rare opportunity to grow a little backbone.

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