Can You Teach an Old Dog a New Trick?


As we study our last characteristic of GRIT, tenacity — which is not giving up in the face of adversity, and sticking to it until the end — a question someone might ask is what is the difference between tenacity and stubbornness? We generally do not want our children to grow up to be stubborn people, but do want them to be tenacious. How can we make sure that they aspire for one and not the other?

Like the fine line found between insanity and genius, the difference between being stubborn and tenacious is very thin. To be honest, a tenacious person needs a little bit of stubbornness in them. However, a stubborn person is not easy to work with and eventually people will avoid them, and they can be marginalized in their workplace, team, or community. So what is the key to knowing the difference? It comes down to one word. Humility. Tenacious people are stubborn people with humility. And conversely, stubborn people are tenacious people without humility.

Interestingly enough, this brings us back to first quarter when we discussed having a growth mindset. A tenacious person is someone who will often ask the question, “Am I being tenacious or am I being stubborn?” That sense of curiosity and wanting to grow leads the tenacious person to ask themselves, “Why am I facing so much resistance to this idea or plan? Is it because I am being stubborn and not open to learning and growing?” The key principle here is that the person is willing to ask questions and pursue humility. If they are willing to do that, their stubbornness actually is a positive trait and not a negative one. Without humility, however, stubbornness can be a hindrance and destructive personality trait.

So the key here — like with so many other things we have talked about regarding helping prepare our students for life — is teaching kids the ability to ask questions. These are good questions to be asking ourselves as well. An old dog can still learn some new tricks.

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Dalat Director

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people to make a positive impact on their world, walk with integrity, and follow Christ. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Dalat Director since 2006.

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