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VOL. 39 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 4, 2015

True grit: Moving forward despite adversity

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The Memphis Grizzlies have made “Grit and Grind” a common phrase. The concept of grit, however, extends far beyond the court. In applies in business, life and many other areas.

Grit is defined as “mental toughness and courage.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Linda Kaplan Thaler, the chairman of advertising firm Publicis New York. She is responsible for some of America’s most famous advertising campaigns in the industry, including the Aflac duck, and the daring “Yes, Yes, Yes” campaign for Herbal Essences.

Linda co-authored the bestselling book “Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary.”

It’s clear from talking with Linda that her own impressive career was not necessarily built on some single stroke of luck.

Instead, she is someone who lives without fear, and who has the resilience and tenacity to keep going, even in the face of difficulty. Her success was built after many years of hard work.

In her book, Linda says, “The endgame, it turns out, belongs to the truly diligent, not the merely talented. It belongs to those who have grit.”

There are many common misconceptions around success. The first is that there’s some special “it” factor that the truly successful possess, such as an extremely rare level of high intelligence.

Surprisingly, studies have shown that those with Mensa-level IQs only make up a small percentage of those doing big things with their lives and careers.

Instead, those who rise to the top are the people who just don’t give up. Sometimes, they’re individuals who faced adversity early in life.

Whether they grew up poor or with a learning disability, they learned to be creative problem solvers.

As adults, this childhood pain pays off. When they hit a speed bump, they keep going – or they find a way around it.

Another misconception is related to age.

In our society, there are signals all around us indicating that success must be achieved in a certain period of time.

For many millennials, the deadline appears to be 30.

Companies like Facebook that make millions of dollars for its once-college-aged founder create unrealistic expectations for everyone. It’s important to remember that the level of success achieved by Mark Zuckerberg, and the short timeframe in which he earned it, is highly unlikely and rare.

A more common scenario is someone who has worked for years in a particular field and then starts their own business. After many years of working hard in their business, they achieve a satisfying and impressive level of success.

In addition to the fuel the media puts on this issue, we are adding to the problem with our social media. We often present the best, photoshopped version of ourselves to our friends online, creating unrealistic expectations about what’s normal.

Isn’t it a relief to know that the most successful people are often those who are the most normal, and are often older? They’re the ones who have faced adversity, but keep going anyway.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com.

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