In Grit: A Practical Guide to Developing Physical and Mental Toughness, I explore the virtue of grit and I examine the value of some kinds of chosen suffering in living a good life. I apply Aristotle’s concept of virtue as learned habit to show how people who do not currently consider themselves disciplined or tough can become genuinely disciplined and tough. Throughout the book, I try to offer practical challenges and applications so that readers can begin taking actions in their own lives.
My book is about dealing with the challenges of life in the modern world. Chiefly, how do we deal with the problems of progress and prosperity, without getting rid of the progress and prosperity? Life is materially easier and more convenient than ever, but that has many downstream effects, some of which are negative.
In Grit, I explore ways in which we can choose to bring the right kinds of discomfort into our lives, at the proper doses, in order to overcome the enervation and stagnation and anomie which can come from an overabundance of ease.
Why Did I Write the Book?
I wrote Grit for a few reasons, among them: to teach other people lessons that I’d found valuable in my own life, to further my own understanding of toughness and discipline, and to address problems I saw others struggling with.
As I wrote it, I realized that I wasn’t simply writing a self-help manual. I was making a case for what I believed constituted a worthwhile life.
Who Should Read it?
I wrote it in the hope that my message would be accessible on multiple levels. Generally, I think people of all ages and stations in life can find some benefit from the book. That said, I did intend it for adults, not for children.
I’m a late Millennial and I wrote it in part to address the coming-of-age crisis that my generation and Generation Z face. Many of my peers are currently struggling to grow up and become full adults. While the coming-of-age crisis is a complex problem with a variety of causes, and the solution will look different for different people, I believe my book may be helpful for some young people who want to become more mature.
I won’t pretend that taking cold showers automatically makes someone an adult, nor that a lack of grit is the only thing standing in the way of young people struggling to feel like adults. But embracing discomfort, and developing self-discipline and mental and physical toughness, can help young people to feel more self-confident and become more self-reliant. And these qualities can make it easier to do the things that a person needs to do to become an adult.
Finally, I think anyone living in a free society can benefit from Grit, because I think grit is necessary for life in a free society, not merely because it is necessary to the preservation of that way of life.
What Do I Want Readers to Learn?
The single thing I most want readers take away from my book is that just because modern life is easy doesn’t mean we can’t develop the same grit that our ancestors had. If anything, we have the luxury of choosing challenges that stimulate and excite us, rather than ones that threaten our lives and livelihoods.
Our ancestors endured famines, weathered severe storms, and traveled everywhere on foot or horseback. Physical activity wasn’t a choice, it was something they did because their lives depended on it.
We don’t face those hardships. We can choose to fast, to bathe in cold water, and to exercise, because we want to – not because we have to. And that is a good thing.
For one thing, it means that we can challenge ourselves in ways that are safer and more interesting than ever before. We can keep the ease and comfort and convenience of modern life, while occasionally foregoing that ease and comfort in order to improve our minds and bodies.
Who am I?
I’m not a smokejumper, nor a special operator, nor even a professional athlete. I’m just a (relatively) young man who – from an early age – believed that it was important to do hard things because they are hard. I’ve run marathons, taken cold showers daily for close to six years, and summitted mountains in freezing rain, among other things.
I didn’t always understand why it was important to do difficult things. Nor why I was drawn to seek out discomfort. But now I do, and that’s why I published Grit.
What is My Goal with the Book?
I’d like to spread my message as far as I can, as I believe it can help people to improve their lives. Grit doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but it can be learned. With practice, everyone can develop comfort with being uncomfortable.
Many of my suggestions are things almost anyone can begin trying right away: ignoring hunger, taking cold showers, exercising, practicing public speaking, etc. If you’re interested and you’d like to learn more, you can find Grit in e-book at every online retailer, and in paperback and hardback on Amazon.
You can follow me on Twitter @benconnelly6712 and you can also check out my Substack, where I published short stories and essays.