Michael J. Kerrigan


This week our son Jack hosted Donna and me at their ocean front beach house in the Outer Banks (Corolla) of North Carolina. Enjoying their hospitality and watching our grandchildren having fun in the Ocean, still offered me plenty of time to read, Paul Tough’s, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

Given the nature of my web site, my focus was understandly on Chapter 2 … How To Build Character. The next several posts contain my analysis of this chapter. The chapter is built around a discussion of the immersive style of schooling at the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx. KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. Although I was somewhat familiar with KIPP, I was immediately heartened to see the influence of Martin Seligman’s, Learned Optimism being practiced at KIPP Academy. The first takeaway in this respect is that the KIPP “students who… Continue reading

From time to time we share articles consistent with our mission. The following article by Scott Barry Kaufman was published on July 11, 2017.

Innovative Educator’s Summit focuses on the intersection of grit and imagination in the classroom.

Though grit and imagination are two important character traits for success, we often treat them as opposed to each other. However, many of the highest achievers find ways to incorporate both dreaming and doing into their work. Educators that combine the two can be an inspiration for students, setting them up for success in the classroom and beyond.

To help teachers receive the tools they need, the Relay Graduate School of Education (Relay), Imagination Institute, and Character Lab teamed up last summer to host the three-day Grit+Imagination: An Educator Summit in honor of Jack Templeton. Over 150 educators and leading researchers from around the world gathered in Philadelphia to explore the juxtaposition… Continue reading

Whether the original statement that ““The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton (which is attributed by oral tradition to the Duke of Wellington) was meant literally or metaphorically makes little difference to me.

This Irish-American must give the Brits their due, as educators at British boarding schools over the last 200 years, took it for granted that they were teaching character as much as they were teaching math or history.

Ever since the McGuffey Reader was set aside in favor of various educational fads, manifestos and trends, (such as the self esteem movement,) the idea that in America, if you worked hard, and you showed real grit you could be successful, was also set aside.

However, in the last 40 years the question for educators was not whether but how schools should impart good character. In the 1980’s William Bennett made the traditional case… Continue reading

Note: Mike Matthews, Professor at West Point, Author of Headstrong and friend of the character building project has permitted us to share the article below which was just featured in Psychology Today. Mike’s article is very timely in light of our discussion of leadership and character.

“Dr. Matthews enjoying the sights of Mount Everest Base Camp”

Recently, along with two of my West Point colleagues, I was invited to spend two days with one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) most successful franchises. The general manager (GM) and his associates had read about my research on grit and its role in peak performance, and wanted to learn more. My first reaction to this invitation was one of surprise. It seemed to me that, almost by definition, any basketball player that excels enough to be on the roster of an NBA team must be very high indeed in grit. I accepted… Continue reading



After reading scores of books on heroism, most recently Lindberg’s, The Heroic Heart and Allison’s Heroes What They Do and Why We Need Them, I am encouraged to dive deeper into the waters of heroism. There remains a rich diet of more books to read, such as, MacFarquhar’s, strangers drowning and Zimbardo’s, The Lucifer Effect.

I am also excited to learn from several web sites dedicated to the study of heroism. Two sites of particular interest to me are: The Heroes Project and the Heroic Imagination Project.

THE HEROES PROJECT is an organization that works with the veterans, soldiers, marines, and military families and communities on all levels. Its mission is to improve the care and protection of heroes through individual support, community empowerment and systemic change. The core work of The Heroes Project includes three initiatives: Climb for heroes, Hope for heroes, Voices for heroes. http://theheroesproject.org/our-story/… Continue reading


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For many years I have been honored to participate in shooting events with Outdoor Buddies members and supporters. Hunting for pronghorn with them in early October in northern Colorado was a new experience. Outdoor Buddies is a volunteer organization founded by representatives of Craig Hospital, the world-renowned spinal cord and brain injury hospital located in Denver, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Its mission is to provide outdoor adventure experiences to mobility-disabled outdoor enthusiasts.

Volunteers donate what they can so I offered to provide ammunition, a rifle and a scope. I had none of these items but, as the saying goes, I know people. I called some industry colleagues who helped me and described my needs: Jason Morton at CZ-USA, Dave Domin at Leupold and to Jackie Stenton at Fiocchi USA, who has never refused a charitable request. Jason recommended the CZ Model 557 Carbine in 6.5 x… Continue reading

5.0 out of 5 stars
Natural Born Heroes: Skill or Virtue?
June 6, 2015
This review is from: Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance 
In Natural Born Heroes McDougall skillfully addresses two book ideas: a wartime adventurer on Crete and the exercise philosophy called Natural Movement. Surprisingly, the author gives less credit to what, in my opinion, is his best book idea: “The Art of the Hero.”
My SF’s friends will enjoy both the yarn of the daring band of Oxford Dons kidnapping a German General and the lost secrets of strength and endurance. In my view, both the war story and the study of endurance are best understood by McDougall’s treatise on heroism.

The foundation to the “Art of the Hero” is laid in the early chapters when McDougall raises the question: Is heroism… Continue reading


As a “recovering lobbyists”, I maintain an interest in observing how influencers interact in insightful ways, often with these interactions producing exponentially raised success rates.

I was honored to be invited by Team Red White and Blue (teamrwb.org) to speak to cadets at the United States Military Academy. One of the many highlights of this trip was the opportunity to meet with Michael D. Matthews, the Professor of Engineering Psychology at West Point. Soon thereafter Oxford University Press published Matthews’ most recent book, Head Strong, How Psychology is Revolutionizing War. I was so impressed with Head Strong that I chronicled it in five posts on The Character Building Project. (Please see the Head Strong Chronicle #1: Does War Stimulate Science Or Vice Versa?)

Mike is now on sabbatical working for the Army Chief of Staff in the Pentagon. Hoping to put two thought influencers together, I introduced… Continue reading


Full disclosure: Paul Stoltz has been an extraordinary mentor when it comes to my thinking about the role adversity plays in our own lives as well as in society. His lifetime (35 plus years of research, teaching and training) of work has been about how effectively we respond to and deal with adversity.
Now with the publication of GRIT, Paul has outlined a proactive game plan on how to really go after the most important goals and how to make those goals happen. Through Paul’s GRIT “lens” he has taught me to… “…Look where you find pain and suffering and discover what make those growing from adversity to become the most fulfilled people.”Paul’s has personally encouraged me to dig deep and study the “Optimal GRIT” exhibited in our wounded warrior community. Every time I discuss my encounters with so many amazing wounded warriors, Paul asks me, “what did it take… Continue reading


The theme of good habits, that is, the ability to make the right choices under extreme circumstances, runs through Courage in America…7 Warriors with Character. In this book, my focus was on the right choices made by wounded warriors during their rehabilitation from traumatic war injuries. I showed how many warriors, with much to discourage them, chose instead to get off their meds, get out of their hospital beds, and begin the long and difficult road toward recovery. Wounded Warriors –as well as all who successfully overcome trauma–undergo many hardships and suffer severe pain, yet, through it all, they are able to choose “the harder right rather than the easier wrong” when making choices about life in their new normal.

For many Wounded Warriors, the journey from injury to independence, from right choices to good outcomes, begins at the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC). The total focus of MATC’s… Continue reading



During the course of executing the mission** of The Character Building Project, I have been guided by a number of valued “thought leaders.”

For example, Paul Stoltz, the father of the Adversity Quotient and the founder of Peak Learning, Inc. http://www.peaklearning.com has helped me think through what it takes to have our wounded warriors not just cope with their physical and mental scars of combat but how these heroes might “thrive” in their transition to civilian life.

Michael D. Matthews, author of Head Strong http://global.oup.com/academic/product/head-strong-9780199916177;jsessionid=6EA81790D7C0A966EEB5ED19BC04BF84?cc=us&lang=en& now on sabbatical at the Pentagon from his position on the faculty of West Point, some time ago commissioned the study by Angela Duckworth of cadets at West Point as the significance of Grit.


Frank Ochberg, the founder of the Trust for Journalism http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=28780 has me thinking whether and how society should deal with those “without a conscience.” He raises the question… Continue reading

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