One of my favorite shows is Mosquito Coast, starring Harrison Ford, which came out in the mid-eighties. Ford portrays an eccentric inventor fed up with American consumerism. He decides to quit his job, buy a piece of land on the coast of a Latin American country, and move his family there. While deciding whether or not to go through with this, he says something like, "The jungle. Not ordinary gumption, but 4 o'clock in the morning courage."
That line has stuck with me all these years. We often make plans like, "I'm going to get up at 6 a.m. and work in the garden tomorrow before going to work." Then when our alarm goes off, we hit the snooze and get seven more minutes of sleep. Then four snooze-hits later, we realize it's too late to do any gardening, so we just get up and go to work.
I think if we all had a little more 4 a.m. gumption, we'd all get a lot more done. We'd take that trip we've been wanting to take. We'd lose those extra pounds we've been trying to lose. We'd build that dollhouse for our daughter that she's been asking for.
I can't say I've always been a 4 a.m. gumption person. In fact, I've often taken the safer route in life. But many times I have tried to push myself, even when I thought it was pointless to do so. (Like continuing to write even after multiple rejections from agents and editors.)
This morning, my son's high school cross country running team had a workout at 7 a.m. They're all well-trained runners, while I'm a middle-aged dude who got back into the sport just last year. At 6 a.m., I mustered my 4 a.m. gumption, got up and ate granola with soy milk, then joined them on a five mile hilly course. I didn't even finish last! And I certainly have a lot of respect for the young freshman girl who persevered while the older runners were far ahead of her. She finished last, but she finished the run—and that's what matters.