GRIT To GREAT How GRIT Helps Women Get Ahead

Writer / Lisa Mitchell
Photography / Provided


More than 1,400 women, and a handful of men, attended the Indiana Conference for Women at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis October 26. Among the featured break-out session speakers were Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of the book “GRIT to Great.”  The authors and marketing powerhouses are behind some of the most well-known and memorable marketing campaigns in recent memory, including the Aflac duck, Herbal Essences provocative “Yes, Yes, Yes!” campaign, and the Toys ‘R’ Us “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m A Toys ‘R’ Us Kid” jingle. The pair has also authored other national bestsellers, including “Bang! Getting Your Message Heard In A Noisy World,” “The Power Of Small,” and “The Power Of Nice.”

Prior to their powerful breakout session, the pair spoke in greater detail about exactly why they felt it was so important for women, specifically, to embrace the concept of GRIT, an acronym that stands for Guts, Resilience, Initiative, and Tenacity. These characteristics, unlike having a genius IQ or being naturally talented, are things we all have and can be developed and utilized to our advantage if we are intentional about doing so.

Kaplan Thaler said she hopes that by encouraging women to develop and deploy their GRIT, they will be more likely to take action, persevere through adversity, and approach risk with greater confidence.

“Everything in the media looks like an instant success,” she explained. “We are never shown the grind and the history of the failure. We believe that other people are born with it. It becomes a cop out to say ‘That’s for them, not for me.’ GRIT is humanity’s greatest equalizer. It doesn’t matter your SAT scores, the wealth you were born into, or any other outside factor. Grit is yours to develop and utilize.”

Koval added, “We are raising our kids as special little flowers. Everyone gets a trophy. We aren’t doing kids any favors by not being tough on them. We’ve only created a generation that was told how great they were but never told how hard they need to work to be successful. We have not equipped our kids to know the importance of GRIT and hard work and how those are necessary components to being successful; and that has been to their detriment.”

Both Koval and Kaplan Thaler are quick to point out that failure is not the opposite of success but a part of success. Koval, who is also the CEO and President of Truth Initiative, a national public health foundation dedicated to keeping youth from using tobacco, cites the many failures a large percentage of  smokers experience when they attempt to quit. She said statistics show it takes the average person 11 attempts to quit smoking before they do so successfully. She doesn’t consider those previous attempts to be failures, but sees them as lessons; each one making the person a little stronger and better prepared for the next attempt. That is the essence of GRIT, she said: to carry on through failures and continue to pursue the goal and push forward a little wiser and better prepared after each try.

A big part of what holds many women back from aggressively pursuing their goals is fear, Kaplan Thaler said.

“We need to mentally put ourselves on the high wire and think through ‘what would happen if…’ and then over prepare for that scenario. You can’t get fear out of your life. Your job is to learn to overcome it, and that happens by over preparing.”

Kaplan Thaler and Koval encourage women to fully develop their GRIT and to move confidently in the direction of their challenges, failures, and fears knowing they are capable and well-equipped to handle whatever comes their way.

To find out how much GRIT you have already, take the free online quiz at You can also purchase the book at your local bookstore or online.

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