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Life and Business from One of the Toughest Men on Earth

Jun 1, 2016 | JSE Blog

Got grit? No, I don’t mean the southern kind served with cheese and bacon. I mean the Clint-Eastwood-“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it”- pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps- dirt-under-your-fingernails, suck-it-up-buttercup kind of grit: that magical combination of fortitude and self-discipline that is integral to success.

I was fortunate recently to stumble upon an interview with retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine. He had more than a few things to say about the subject of grit and I couldn’t help but notice how applicable his advice was to the business world. So, in no specific order, here are a few highlights:

Embrace the suck. As human beings, we naturally procrastinate (or downright avoid) doing unpleas-ant activities. Anyone who’s ever tried to learn the vagaries of REVIT, or has been faced with bedlam in their deliverables schedule knows what I’m talking about. Does this sound familiar?: Everyone was busy with “actual” work, so you blew off your scheduling meeting. Now you have deadlines flying at you from every direction. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. When you’re busy, having the self-discipline to take time away from the project at hand for a seemingly nonessential task, kind of… well, sucks. But it’s performing that “nonessential” task that helps keep the essentials on track. It’s a good piece of advice to sacrifice what you want in the short term (getting that project off your desk) in the service of the long term (enjoying a bit of sanity in between project deadlines.) In SEAL speak, that’s called embracing the suck.

Yesterday was the only easy day. In life and in business, we’re going to be confronted by challenges: the goal is to embrace them because they keep us moving forward. Whether that means physically growing our company, getting progressively better at what we do, or expanding the services we offer clients, those goals can only be achieved by embracing (instead of dodging) challenges. Once the daily routine gets easy, it’s a sign that we’ve reached a plateau and it’s time to reassess and ratchet up.

A man can only be beaten in one of two ways: if he gives up or if he dies. Once you set your sights on a goal, burn the boats on the shores of commitment, dig in, and don’t ever give up. You want to increase your client base, or your revenue, or expand into a new market? Map out how to get there, break it down into manageable steps, put together a plan, and get movin’. It’s a given that you’ll encounter headwinds and resistance, but you’ll be alright as long as you remember to thrown down the gauntlet in the face of those challenges and not the towel: falling short of a goal is just a lesson in how to perform better on the next time attempt. True failure is the result of only one thing: quitting.

The battle is won before stepping foot onto the battlefield. We are the biggest obstacles to our own success. Seriously. Think about that. Red tape, unresponsive leads, and difficult personalities can be demoralizing, but they’ve got nothing on our inner voice. Clear out the negative thought patterns by diligently replacing “I can’t…” and “I’ll never be able to…” with “I can” and “I will.” As platitudinous as it may sound, maintaining a positive attitude and believing that the goal has already been attained is far more productive than trying to achieve that same goal while simultaneously dragging the deadweight of our own negativity behind us. I’ll leave you with a thought from Henry Ford (who could well have written the byline for this point): “Whether you think you can or think you can’t- you’re right.”


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