Would You Rather Be a Pirate or Join the Navy?

In some of the previous blogs, I’ve written about grit as a trait that can define a family or even a culture. Now, during these times of self-isolating and physical distancing, I’ve started to think about other moments in history where people were forced to face significant changes in their day-to-day routines with little or no notice. How did these people adapt or change? Who came out on top and survived the chaos of the times?

As I thought about what I’d learned from some great history teachers, I came up with MANY instances where people were forced to dig deep and find a part of themselves that they likely didn’t even know existed. However, there is one group of gritty gurus that sticks out in my mind a bit more than the others. These people were able to survive and often thrive in times where each day looked totally different than the day before. More important, if they didn’t find their grit within, they might not have lived to see another day.

If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m talking about Pirates! For this particular group, the time or situation in history wasn’t more daunting than any of the others I considered; it’s just that their ability to beat the odds definitely sounds gritty to me! I’m hoping by the end of this blog you’ll agree how easy it is to “Arrrrrgh”-gue that Pirates totally fit the bill for a group of gritty gurus.

Sam Conniff’s “Be More Pirate” from my list of GRIT Lit celebrates a pirate’s endless ability to adapt and mobilize in the face of obstacles, which sounds a lot like grit to me! The front cover of his book references a classic quote from Steve Jobs to his Development Team in 1983: “I’d rather be a pirate than join the navy.” A thoughtful explanation of this pirate “call-to-action” appears in Fast Company. In it, the writer explains how Steve Jobs built his company by hiring employees who had the pirate mindset; pirates can stay creative and on-task in a challenging or hostile environment and they can operate when rules, as well as safety nets, break down.

Most people will agree that the first half of 2020 has exemplified a hostile and challenging time where the rules and our safety nets change daily, sometimes hourly. So, when met with a hostile environment, stressful situations and uncertain times, what better way to face the day than by being a little more pirate? Sam guides us through five fundamental principles of the pirate code to get us thinking about ways we can facilitate change as individuals and as a community.

Rebel – draw strength by standing up to the status quo.

Rewrite – bend, break, but, most important, rewrite the rules.

Reorganize – collaborate to achieve scale rather than growth.

Redistribute – fight for fairness, share power and make an enemy of exploitation.

Retell – weaponize your story, then tell the hell out of it.

In other words, he is encouraging us to know our grit, grow our grit and show our grit! These days, we need a level of grit unlike any other time we’ve seen in recent history. Relying on our inner pirate could be what gets us through.

As a testament to Apple’s love of pirate culture, a pirate flag has flown over the head office on more than one occasion. So, will you raise your flag, shout “Arrrrrgh” and challenge yourself to join me on a gritty Pirate adventure, unlike anything you’ve seen before?