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Grit: Guts, Resilience, Initiative and Tenacity

Industry News, News | October 19, 2016 | By:

Wednesday morning’s keynote speaker at IFAI Expo 2016, Linda Kaplan Thaler, spoke with verve and vivacity about the importance of “keeping at it.” Thaler is president of Kaplan Thaler Productions, a member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, and the award—winning author of the best-selling business book “Grit to Great.”

When she started her agency, she says their philosophy was a moral and aesthetic one: “flowers and chocolate, not pitchforks and spears.” A positive professional atmosphere gets good results and makes people work harder.

People that are very impressive in their early years, Kaplan says, often are not successes in later life—because they did not learn how to overcome challenges. People who weren’t impressive as youngsters—such as Dave Thomas, Michael Jordan and Steven Spielberg—didn’t have the “it” factor, but they had the “grit” factor to make it as adults: Guts, Resilience, Initiative and Tenacity.

Over the last 20 years, Thaler adds, we’ve lost some grit, due to factors like the self-esteem movement (“you’re all special!”), instantaneous stardom, the constant bombardment of data that’s already rewiring our brains, and the resulting shortening of our attention spans. The average human attention span is now eight seconds—and goldfish come in at nine seconds.

Some tips to reclaim your grit:

  1. Ditch the dream. Work, don’t dream. What can you do today?
  2. Lose the safety net. Over prepare.
  3. Create your own highwire. Nick Wallenda crossed the Grand Canyon on one—after years of intense preparation.
  4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Things are moving fast—so move faster.
  5. Fail forward. James Dyson had more than 5,000 vacuum cleaner prototypes fail before he hit on the bagless success. (And let kids fail, she advises.)
  6. Solve small problems. If they’re too big, we give up.
  7. Move the spotlight. It’s not all about you—shine the light on others. Listen more.
  8. Make small talk. This is how we connect with people and find commonalities.
  9. Bend like bamboo. There is great strength in flexibility.
  10. Embrace Plan B. Viagra, for example, was developed as a blood pressure drug—but turned out to have an interesting side effect…
  11. Grit has no expiration date. Start anytime, but start. Most of us give up too early.

We need to retire the word “retirement,” says Thaler. “Call it re-wiring—and use your grit for good.” For more information on Linda Kaplan Thaler or the book “Grit to Great,’ visit

Galynn Nordstrom is senior editor of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine.

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