Mark Webber retired from Formula 1 racing this past weekend. He had a very successful career there, winning notable events such as Monaco, and also surviving the kinds of epic accidents which are unfortunately part and parcel of a life spent running at the edge.
I admire Webber and his achievements on many levels, not the least of which is his openness about what it takes to operate at the highest levels of accomplishment. He makes it very clear that innate talent will only take you so far:
Maybe I did not have the most absolute natural flair and talent, but I knew that if I grafted and worked hard I’d soon get awesome results. But I also smashed a lot of guys who had more talent than me, because they didn’t work as hard as me. I learned that about myself. How important it was to graft and just get my head down. I’ve been doing that for most of my career.
I love this usage of the word “graft”. As a practitioner of American English, I understood “graft” to mean either something you do with stems of plants, or a way of gaining wealth or advantage nefariously.
There’s no career that’s on a rocket ship all the way through. There has to be adversity and testing moments. You don’t learn too much if you’re never challenged. In British and Australian English—Webber is a proud Australian—graft turns out to mean something very different. In an antipodean context, t’s about hard work, not corrupt dealings. Graft: say it out loud a few times. There’s some nice onomatopoeia at play there… conjures up the feeling of going “GRRRRRR!” like a tiger, or getting to the essence of the word “grit”, and the nice tie that word has to the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit, doing the most that you can with whatever you’ve got. In that spirit, how perfect then is Webber’s Twitter handle: @AussiGrit
I couldn’t agree more with Webber says above. Hard work isn’t the only answer, but when everything and everyone around you has similar circumstances, resources, and motivations, what’s going the make the difference? Hard Work. Graft. GRRRRRRR!
So go out and graft, people. Just get your head down and graft.