Do you remember this scene form Lawrence of Arabia? Peter O’Toole, the titular character, is awaiting assignment with a few other officers. Lawrence lights a cigarette then hold’s the match between his thumb and forefinger and until it burns out.

Impressed, William Potter tries to do the same – until he shouts in pain and throws the match to the ground.

William Potter: Oh, It damn well hurts!

 Other officer: So what’s the trick then?

 Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

There. That’s it. Everything you need to know about grit.

Things are hard. Working full time while completing an MA is hard. Going to the gym every single day is hard. Losing weight is hard. Running a marathon is hard, and it hurts.

Other people, stronger people, deal with things that are much, much harder every single day.

Have you watched Bojack Horseman? It’s pretty funny, but even if you’re not interested in animal puns and depressed, alcoholic equine, this scene makes an important point. It’s the final scene from the second season.

Turning your life around is also hard. Making good decisions is hard, but you gotta do it every day so that it gets easier.

If I’m chatting about my work or fitness, people have occasionally asked me how I “do it.” I would shrug and say, “I don’t know, I just do it.”

I think what they are asking is, “What’s the trick?”

I never really had a good answer before I watched Lawrence of Arabia one Sunday afternoon a few years back. Then it clicked. It’s a great movie, but this is one of my favourite scenes of all time ever filmed.

After Lawrence speaks, William Potter walks off looking confused. As if he doesn’t get it, as if Lawrence was keeping his trick a secret. Of course he’s not, he’s just saying, very simply –

There is no trick.

Sometimes things hurt. Sometimes they’re hard. That’s ok. Suffering through the hardship of burned fingertips is so unimaginable to William Potter that there must be some magic to it. But there’s no magic.

The match burns all fingers equally. The only trick is how you deal with it.


3 thoughts on “What Lawrence of Arabia Taught Me About Grit

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