2020 is coming to a close, and there’s not a person, I imagine, that isn’t ready to see it gone. A new year is upon us. A new year of possibility, of opportunity, of HOPE. (More on how to set yourself for success with mindset in Chapter 5 of The Grit Factor!)

What are the ways you want to enter the new year? With this year behind us, reminding us of our common humanity in the midst of everything else that has happened — how can we thoughtfully and purposefully enter this new year?

Here’s something to know as you…


Your inner voice is your North Star — if you can hear it

Black woman with eyes closed as subway passes by.
Black woman with eyes closed as subway passes by.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Over three decades of service in the Army, including commanding four companies and a training battalion, the Major General Dee McWilliams was faced with a terrible choice in 2003.

To earn her third star, McWilliams was asked to leave her posting in Germany to return to the Pentagon, as it geared up for a war in Iraq based on what it was later determined were false reports of Saddam Hussain’s cache of weapons of mass destruction.

“I knew I’d be going back to Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, which was gearing up for a war that I felt would be a quagmire,” she…


For Becky Halstead, leadership started out with her being a team player.

Brigadier General Halstead on the Syrian border

Growing up in rural New York, Becky Halstead played on the basketball team, but she only started running because the team needed one more girl to be considered a full team. “I had nine varsity letters, but I came from a little town without a stoplight,” she says, reflecting both the strength and the humility inherent in the leadership she is about to describe. By the end of our conversation, I wish I had been privileged to have served under her command.

She grew up with what she…


They’re bold, they’re bad and they paved the way for you and your daughters.

Captain Katie Higgins, first woman to fly with the Blue Angels. Major General Dawn Dunlop, test pilot in everything in the Air Force inventory. Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Barlette, early A-10 pilot and Fighter Weapons School grad. Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath, first woman to fly the F/A-18 in combat in the Marines. Captain Jeannette Haynie, one of the first women to fly the Cobra in the Marine Corps.

Over the past three years, The Grit Project has interviewed each of these incredible Marvels, and more.


So she did.

It’s not often that the leadership team of commander and senior non-commissioned officer are both women, or that you get a chance to talk to them both. Early in The Grit Project, early Navy woman pilot and commander Karen Baetzel shared her stories and lessons, and one of her pieces of wisdom was finding, working with and trusting your senior non-commissioned officer.

Shinnick as a young sailor preparing for refuel

“‘Master Woman’ Shinnick served as my Command Master Chief,” says Baetzel, “and she forgot more about leadership than most of us ever knew. The role of senior enlisted women in the successful integration of women…


USMC Officer and Pilot Jen Nothelfer

Jen Nothelfer’s journey of leadership and grit began when she joined the Navy to prove she could when a boyfriend after college said she’d never get a flight assignment because she was a woman. After graduating college in her home state of Virginia as a collegiate soccer player and swimmer — with a degree in business and paralegal work — she’d hoped to become a lawyer, but bombed the LSAT. A girlfriend suggested they train as flight attendants, so she flew for two years, taking the jump seat every time she could.

Her boyfriend’s comment changed everything. “He obviously didn’t…


This weekend we lost a great American hero in John McCain, a man if integrity, honor, and courage. In a time where these traits seem in short supply, it is encouraging to look for others still in the prime of their careers both demonstrating and developing those traits in the next generation. One of these people is Lieutenant General Nadja West.

In December 2015, LTG West became the 44th Army Surgeon General, the Army’s first black woman lieutenant general and the highest ranking woman to graduate from West Point. …


When Tammy Barlette flies at 400 knots with her wingtip just three feet away from another plane, she doesn’t pay attention to her own excitement. “I’m good at compartmentalizing, and focusing entirely on the moment at hand,” says this fearless woman. “It’s easier to keep any emotion out of the cockpit.”

Tammy Barlette

Learning to fly in this kind of a tight formation in the T-38, the aircraft used to train Air Force pilots on the fighter/bomber track, might have been overwhelming, and Tammy admits that at first, it was.

“I learned to focus on each step and how I would successfully…


She was born to fly.

A group of WWII Women Air Force Service Pilots after flight

As a little girl growing up in Cedar City, Utah, Alyce Rohrer sat on her grandmother’s porch and watched the butterflies and the birds. It wasn’t their beauty she was drawn to so much though, as it was their flight. “I wanted to spread my wings, head straight to the sky,” she says.


Karen Baetzel

It was lunchtime and circumstance on an innocent fall day that determined Karen Baetzel’s destiny as a thirty-year career as a Naval Aviator. Fate intervened to lead a working-class kid to the cockpit as one of the Navy’s first women pilots to fly and lead a thirty-year career.

“I stood in a hallway surrounded on four sides by doors into each of the four different services recruiters,” she says. “I went to the Air Force first. It was a short conversation, as they wanted me to get a second degree,” she said. “So I went back out in the hall…

Shannon H. Polson

LEADERSHIP. CREATIVITY. GRIT. The Grit Factor AVAILABLE NOW: https://amzn.to/2GJOnJw Founder: thegritinstitute.com

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