Show Your Work

In a recent article for Glamour, Mindy Kaling proposed the following formula about confidence:


While most of us will never reach the heights of making out with Dr. Danny Castellano on TV, this is still useful advice. This formula also brought to mind the time when Kobe Bryant was asked what word best described him. He didn’t respond by saying “champion” or “gifted.” Nope, the five-time NBA champion, and arguably one of the top-five players of all time, used the word “grinder.”

I come from a long line of grinders. Not only is my extended family inherently prone to a taxing work ethic, my immediate family’s circumstances practically mandated it. We immigrated to the U.S. in 1969, and there were not a lot of Filipinos in the San Fernando Valley at that time. I attended schools that were almost entirely white and, much like Papa Pope’s famous “twice as good” speech to Olivia in Season 3 of Scandal, my father had a similar heart-to-heart with me when I was the seasoned age of six that went something like this: “Just remember: You will never be white.” Thus, it was instilled in me early on that I would have to work twice as hard as my schoolmates and peers.

Of course, hard work is not a panacea for all failings. My elementary school attempts at being a ballerina saw me with plenty of work ethic, but alas, hips that accomplished little turnout. After a week of classes, my mom pulled me out stating “You have no talent. We’re not wasting our money.” (That Tiger Mom shit is no joke, friends.) During my, ahem, lost high school and college years I suffered the converse of having some talent but little work ethic, and that, well, that got me a “good enough.” But it’s been when my wee bit of natural gift in a particular area combines with some sweat and perseverance that I can actually gain entry into that rarefied space that is usually reserved for the “A” students only.

Moreover, such a pedantic trait as industriousness has had the unexpected effect of making me somewhat adventurous. The confidence that Kaling speaks of, one borne from diligence, has given me the eagerness to take on risks and challenges, because I know from experience that with hard work I can get It — whatever It happens to be. OK, so maybe I will never be a ballerina,* but within reason, I have the fantastical belief that It is possible. I mean, what other reason can there be for a 48-year old hobbit who ran a 5:08 marathon six years ago to hold on to the ridiculous idea that she can run a sub-4:00 hour marathon as she stares down 50?

Let’s look at the record. This foolish belief in myself and the power of hard work has seen me through such daunting endeavors as teaching a fourth-grade class without ever having taken one course in education to oh yeah, breaking a brick for my black belt test even though I’d never even attempted to before. I had put in the time, kept up my enthusiasm, and just figured that I had put myself in a good position to accomplish my goals. As Kaling wrote “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” A lifetime of grinding has proven that it’s a winning formula.

In fact, perhaps the correlation between hard work and confidence is best captured in this tweet by one of my favorite follows.

Thanks, dad!

Grinding helped a chubby dark-skinned woman become the romantic lead on a TV show. It transformed a B+ student into a 4.0 graduate. And hopefully – one day — it can lead to a 48-year-old asthmatic woman running a sub-4:00 marathon.**

Back to it.

*I did attempt ballet lessons in my late 20s, and guess what – my mom was right – I had no talent. Smart move on her part to switch to piano.

**A 49-year-old asthmatic woman ran a 3:52 marathon and qualified for Boston.

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