The Grit of Erik Sorto
About 10 years ago I had a very unique student in one of my public speaking classes at Los Angels Valley College, named Erik Sorto. Eric was always early, never late. Eric never questioned the demands of class, or any assignment. Eric never failed to submit his work, all of his work, on time! Eric never failed to excel with any of the classroom assignments or demands. Eric Sorto earned one of the highest point total A grades in class. These qualities alone place Eric into a super elite minority within the student body at Los Angeles Valley College. However, when you add to the fact the Erik Sorto is a quadriplegic who can only move his head and fingers, you truly have a student who is amazing! Eric not only set the standard in class for excellent work, but his presentations were stellar. Furthermore, Eric is an extremely humble man. His paralysis is the result of the gang life. A bullet to the spine, and his life was changed forever. Yet, Eric has something that the bullet in his spine could not take, and probably increased – grit! Eric Sorto has grit! Grit is defined as: a determined spirit, indomitable courage, invincible will, resolution. Nothing was going to stop Eric from getting an A grade in my class, and he refused to be treated as “special.” Most students want to be treated as special! And by “special” I mean, they want their challenges to be noticed, and compensated for. Not Erik!
This is why I was not surprised when I opened up The Wall Street Journal on May 21, 2015, and saw a photo of Erik Sorto. The article, was titled “Neural Implants Let Paralyzed Man Take a Drink.” The Journal explained how a group of scientist and doctors had implanted chips in Erik’s brain with the hope of proving that a robot could be controlled with human thought. The article further explained that, after “6700 attempts,” Erik Sorto successfully – with his thoughts – was able to move a robot’s arm and bring a drink to his lips. When I read that Erik had tried six thousand and seven hundred times just to get a drink to his mouth, I smiled to myself and thought – “I know why Erik was chosen to participate in this experiment. Eric has grit! Eric Sorto does not feel sorry for himself. And he refuses to be anything but excellent.” Excellence is a choice! Mediocrity is a choice! Feeling sorry for yourself when faced with life’s challenges, and failing are choices! For Eric Sorto, excellence is the only option.
Public speaking is the number one fear in life. Second, is actually speaking about death (fire fighter, police officer, or doctor who has to deliver sad news). Third is actually dying. Add to this fact that Erik is a quadriplegic. Erik has challenges most of us cannot even accurately contemplate. Yet, Erik stepped up, with the help of his wheel chair and nothing else, and was able to shine on every level in a public speaking class. Unless you are in a more challenging situation than Erik – you have no excuse for not at least trying to do what needs to be done; and not just when given the privilege to speak, but with everything in life.
How much grit do you have?