Grit And Play-Doh

“Perseverance and audacity generally win.” Dorothée Luzy

When I was in pre-school, I really wanted Play-Doh. No, I take that back, I really, really, really wanted Play-Doh. And of course, Play-Doh meant berry-colored stained clothing and sticky spots in the shag carpet, so my mom emphatically said “no.”

But no did not mean no to me at that point in life. No meant I was not asking the right question or maybe just not in the right way.

Picture me at the dinner table in my little brown and red booster seat.

“Mom, can I have some Play-Doh?”


And then again the next morning on the way to school with my best friend in the back-seat next to me.

“Mom, Celeste has Play-Doh. Do you think I could get some?”


In front of my Nana, in the cart while we were grocery shopping, as my mom tucked me in at night, on our neighbor’s swing set.



It was probably time to lay off the Play-Doh request, but I could smell the sweet-scented putty and feel it molding into a cat-dog right in my very own hands. It was my dream to have Play-Doh and four-year-olds do not let dreams die easily.

In preparation for our Pre-School Graduation, my teacher had someone interview each of us for our own special “Looking Back” tape as a present to the parents. I was asked what my favorite thing about school was. I sang “Where is Rainbow Brite” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” and I even divulged the difference between a girl Easter bunny and a boy Easter bunny. Show stopper, I know.

And as the interview came to a close, I was asked if there was anything else I would like to say. I knew this was a special video for my mom and that meant mom would love anything I said, sang or did for her on this tape. I stopped fidgeting in my chair just long enough to look at the camera, all smiles and I said “My momma’s gonna get me some Play-Doh!”

As an adult, I often envy the pre-school Erin who didn’t take no for an answer and the audacity it took to make a public plea during my recorded graduation interview for the Play-Doh I was already sure would one day be mine. It wasn’t a matter of if  I would achieve my goal, it was a matter of how.

In the grown-up world with goals and dreams on the line much bigger than Play-Doh, why is it so much easier to accept a no? I think we often convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy, credible or smart-enough or that we don’t have the strength to endure what it takes to get us to the goals we dream about before we even start the journey.

Howard Gardner studied some of the most genius minds of all time and in his book, Creating Minds, An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through The Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Elliot, Graham, and Ghandi, one common trait that they all had in common was that they had grit.

“…when they fail, they do not waste much time lamenting; blaming; or, at the extreme, quitting. Instead, regarding the failure as a learning experience, they try to build upon its lessons in their future endeavors.”

Grit is most commonly associated with the concepts of resilience, perseverance, hardiness, ambition and conscientiousness. And while the will and determination to secure some Play-Dough as a little kid might not qualify truly as grit, it’s certainly something that we should consider when we’re told no along the way of the pursuit of our dreams.

French economist and visionary Jean Monnet said, “I regard every defeat as an opportunity.”

Every “no” makes us smarter and every setback pushes us to stretch beyond what we believe we’re capable of, as long as we don’t start out by being the one to tell ourselves no in the first place.

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