I’m not a big fan of award culture. As the mother of an 8-year-old, I could probably start a resale business with the number of cheap plastic medals and trophies piling up around my house. But there is one award I do treasure. It’s the “Chin Up” certificate my son got at his first-grade graduation (another cultural absurdity, but we’ll put that aside for now), for “keeping his chin up and never ever giving up.”
Other kids received Most Creative, Best Handwriting and the like, but as far as I was concerned, Chin Up was the award to get. There is a growing body of scientific research pointing to perseverance, or grit, as the key character trait predicting success in life. Studies indicate it’s more important than IQ, more important than socioeconomic status. But I don’t need scientific proof to make me believe in the power of grit. I see it all the time as the editor of At Buffalo. So many success stories come across my desk (as I’ve mentioned in prior letters, what gets published in At Buffalo is a small fraction of the stories we could tell), and so many of them share this characteristic.
In this issue alone, there is MMA fighter Tiffany Teo, who chose to see each loss as a lesson and came back stronger each time. There’s student-athlete Anthony Johnson, who turned a devastating car accident in high school into motivation to work harder and is expected to be one of college football’s top wide receivers this fall. There’s dancer Chanon Judson, who, rather than choose kids over career, or vice versa, gamely fused them together and is excelling at both (as she notes, her sons are learning from her example to live their lives in full). Painter Pam Glick did take a break from her career to raise a family, but fearlessly came back to the hyper-competitive art world in her 50s and blew it away.
Even in the stories that don’t expressly speak to perseverance, it’s there. It’s there in UB anthropologist Douglas Perrelli’s resolve to find new financial support for the Cataract House dig after an unfortunate turn of events cut the funding short. It’s there in economist Reginald Noël’s determination to analyze data sets outside of his regular work duties because the subject of his research matters. And it’s there in the cover story on Jon Gutman, which you could read as a serendipitous series of breaks leading up to a killer job at a young age (lucky him!), but in truth speaks to a guy who didn’t know what he wanted to be but knew what he loved to do, and was determined to keep doing it regardless of where it led. It just so happens that pursuing your passion, believing in yourself and not listening to the noise—in other words, having grit—tends to lead to one place: success.
Laura Silverman, Editorial Director
This is the last issue of At Buffalo in its current format. As we continuously work to bring you the content you want when you want it and how you want it, we will be adjusting the format, frequency and mix of content. We look forward to hearing your reactions to these changes.