Moxie Is In Short Supply


It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.
~Babe Ruth

When I was a kid, I wasn’t good at a lot of things. Often I would stumble, fall, and make mistakes. For example, there was the time that I scored a goal for the opposing team in a pee-wee soccer match. Then when I was in junior high school, I was told by the band teacher, “You know, Dave, music isn’t for everyone.” In high school I was dead set on being an auto mechanic — that is, until I set an engine on fire and the school had to be evacuated (in the middle of January).

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. During the time we spent together, I would often bemoan my misfortunes. My grandfather was an interesting guy and was able to give advice with a short saying or quip. One of my favorites was, “Moxie is in short supply. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving.” I never really thought much about this saying, but the second half of it made me feel better because it was a call to action. It gave direction and focus to my situation.

Over the course of this school year, the staff at our schools have been discussing the idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. In a growth mindset,  the belief is  that one learns from mistakes and therefore grows his/her intelligence. A fixed mindset perspective says that you are born with all the talent you’ll ever have, and training and practice won’t make much of a dent in intelligence or performance.

These discussions about the growth mindset got me thinking about the first half of my grandfather’s saying, “Moxie is in short supply.” The word moxie is a uniquely American word, coined in the mid 20’s, and according to, it is a slang word that means vigor, verve, pep, courage, determination, nerve, skill and know-how. Grandpa was talking about growth mindset before growth mindset was the buzz (a man ahead of his time). Resilience, grit, determination, perseverance, fortitude, tenacity, and purpose are all synonymous with moxie.

As we think about instilling a growth mindset in our students, we need to make our schools “moxie factories.” We have a responsibility to give kids opportunities to fail, adjust, try again, and succeed. This is what I am calling the Moxie Factor, and it will help move Pleasantdale from good to great. It is the Moxie Factor that will allow our students to learn the life skills that will benefit them well beyond their time in Pleasantdale.

As parents, it is hard to watch our kids struggle, but it’s these struggles that make them strong and well-adjusted adults. Just imagine if we didn’t experience failure until we were in college or beyond. Late-in-life failure could be crippling and result in seriously negative consequences for our kids. At our elementary and middle schools, we have teachers engaged in a Mindset Professional Learning Community. These teachers are studying the growth mindset and discovering how to implement this concept into their classrooms. I am confident that their work will result in a moxie-rich experience for their students.

While my childhood provided many “opportunities to grow” (AKA failures), I wouldn’t change a thing about any of them. I’ll go so far as to say I cherish every one of the mistakes that I made. Being able to talk to Grandpa helped me to learn to reflect on them, work out plans to remediate them, and move forward.  I like to think these experiences helped make me who I am today: a guy full of moxie.


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