GUMPTION. ITS'S NOT A WORD you hear every day. Not in the modern vernacular, for sure. Sounds outdated, almost—I don’t know—hillbilly. But Webster defines it as: “initiative, aggressiveness, resourcefulness,” and then adds, “courage, spunk, guts.”
In my experience, it takes gumption to execute a project that merits national award consideration, let alone make the judges agree. It has a lot to do with presentation. There is no substitute for great images and a clear, thoughtful narrative. After all, it would be impossible for judges to physically visit dozens of entries that come from all around the country, so you have to be part storyteller in order to make yours stand out from the pack.
But the substance of a great project is unmistakable, so there is no substitute for authenticity. It doesn’t matter if it’s an entry in the local “parade of homes” or “street of dreams,” a statewide or regional design/building excellence program or a national competition like our own annual green home awards—you only have a chance to succeed if your project really has the “right stuff.” And even then, the competition can be so tough that some great projects are inevitably denied even an honorable mention.
At the end of the day, though, gumption is about a certain kind of attitude, a mental toughness that won’t allow a person to deliver results that are less than what they should be. The builders I’ve known and competed with seldom required an outside opinion when it came to whether or not their work measured up. They knew how well they compared to one another. And building being the competitive business it is, plus the nature of the work being something that is out there for everyone to see, few were willing to put their name on something less than their best effort.
One more thing: gumption never seems to be a part-time characteristic, and having it isn’t simply a stage that someone goes through. It is an element that is apparent throughout the entire body of work, the whole career of those who possess it. In every community I’m familiar with, there are homes that are highly valued for generations, based on who they were built by. It means something to own one of them, and they represent a source of pride for the owner and the community.
Lots of people can build houses—that part is relatively easy. But only those with gumption are able to build a legacy.