Are you aware of why Grit and Grace are considered to be a powerful combination in women in business?
Linda Fisk has shared an incredibly insightful article enlightening us with the usage of the right combination of Grit and Grace in our lives. Linda Fisk is a multi-award-winning leader, keynote speaker, podcast host, author and university professor dedicated to amplifying and extending the success of other high-calibre business leaders. As per Merriam-Webster, grit can be defined as “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”.The grace definition includes ease of bearing and “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” Keeping in mind these definitions when you think of any woman in business, are you able to find these traits in her? The answer is a defintive “yes.”-
I looked around the room and began to panic. My mouth was dry as I tried to find my voice, and my throat was tightening making it hard to breathe. I glanced down and noticed that my hands were trembling so much that I had dropped all my papers onto the floor. I felt like I was drowning, gasping for air as I began to sink further and further under the icy water. I could hear the blood pumping in my ears as I struggled to steady my racing heart. Suddenly, I could feel my knees begin to buckle under me as my vision narrowed and then blacked out completely. When I gained consciousness again, there were a circle of blurry faces around me and a distant voice yelling to get help.
I wanted to slip back into unconsciousness and escape this nightmare. I couldn’t bear having to explain my years of struggle with the simplest form of connection with people – simply making eye contact and holding a friendly conversation. I didn’t seem able to create even the most elementary link to most other people around me because of my inability to look someone directly in the eye and speak intelligibly. Often, the simple act of having a casual exchange with someone simply seemed out of reach for me. That’s why I decided to face my biggest fear and enrol in that first public speaking course in college – I was determined to overcome this seemingly overwhelming disability that had plagued my childhood through my college years.
Now that I reflect on that decision during my Freshman year in college, I am startled at the optimism and the hope that I clung to, convinced that with enough practice and determination, I could overcome a lifetime of debilitating anxiety and speech impediments. Now, many years later, I can see that this kind of grit has been one the most pronounced hallmarks of my life – both in my personal life and my professional pursuits. Since that first public speaking course during my Freshman year, I have become a multi-award-winning leader, keynote speaker, author and university professor dedicated to amplifying and extending the success of other high-calibre business leaders. Currently, I am the Founder and CEO of LeadHERship Global, a community of unstoppable women enhancing their leadership blueprint and embracing their power to be the best version of themselves- in work and life. In LeadHERship Global, I support and guide ambitious, creative women to move in the direction of their purpose, their mission and their dreams with powerful connections, critical support, practical tools and valuable resources to show up, speak up and step up in their careers and personal lives. Looking back now, I can see that the challenges I faced were the launchpad for my biggest successes, teaching me the power of perseverance, tenacity and steadfastness, combined with forgiveness, kindness and grace.
It started when I was a very young child, and I was considered to be clinically shy, unable to hold eye contact with any strangers, even when parents urged me to look at someone in the eye, shake their hand and say hello. Over time, I developed a penchant for whispering my words at an uneven rate of speech and repeating my words with a pronounced stutter. Social settings and high-stress environments made it nearly impossible to speak, as I became more and more self-conscious, and the tension in my voice made it more and more difficult to utter a word. Over time, my frustration with my attempts to communicate led to hesitation or a prolonged pause before starting to speak, and by the time I could utter a word, the conversation had moved on. Over time, it was simply easier to remain quiet, and by the time I was in high school, I had the nickname “Mouse” because I was “quiet as a mouse.”. This hidden type of stuttering developed as I consciously avoided words, sounds or situations that may involve a struggle. I hid my problem from most other people because I developed a behavioural pattern and coping mechanism that kept me vigilant at all times.
I remember in grade school, my father visited all my teachers prior to the start of the new school year, asking them to be sensitive to the fact I was clinically shy, with a pronounced speech impediment, and to never call on me in the classroom. He demanded that the teachers agree to refrain from ever asking me to solve a problem on the chalkboard or face the class for a presentation, or in any other way further damage my already-fragile self-esteem. The emotional injuries from my struggle with stuttering became invisible disabilities that further isolated me and made me feel more and more insignificant. I had tried monitoring my rate of speech, my breath support and laryngeal tension, but to little effect. The words seemed to get stuck, or I was repeating those words over and over – to the exasperation of the listener. Interestingly, I found that my vocal cords tended to lock up due to stress and the speech patterns that followed include repetitions, interruptions and prolongations of words, sounds, or syllables. But, if I was in a safe space, with one or two close friends or family members, and very little stress and anxiety, sometimes my speech was quite normal. As I look back on my father’s instructions to my teachers, I can see that his love for me guided his decision to protect me from further social anxiety and emotional injury, but I also wonder if I would have found a path to overcome my clinical shyness and speech impediments earlier, had I not been spared in my early years.
By the time I was in college, I knew that I needed to find a way to effectively manage my stuttering in order to have the life I envisioned for myself. By then, I knew I wanted to work in advertising and marketing because after years of observing, listening, and studying people, I had an innate sense of how people seemed to be motivated, what seemed to guide decisions, what persuaded people to make certain choices. After years of being quiet and reserved, watching the behaviours of my classmates, I noticed which popular classmates seemed to be most admired, respected, charismatic and well-liked – and why. I began to see how these classmates influenced and inspired others and how they persuaded people to make various choices. I was fascinated by the key motivations that seemed to drive actions and the common needs and desires that these persuasive peers of mine seemed to tap into. I also knew by then that I was a gifted artist and writer, having won several national competitions. I thought that these were necessary skills in advertising that might position me for success.
But, I also knew that a career in advertising and marketing meant being able to be present ideas, be persuasive and convincing – and develop trusting relationships with people. I could see this fictional version of myself, as a successful advertising executive, standing in front of a board room and presenting the brilliant new marketing campaign to the delight of the audience. In my mind’s eye, I was confident, charming and I captivated the audience with my presence and my words. I could see this alternative version of myself as sharp, savvy and yet approachable, with a keen understanding of how to persuade others. I thought that practising and really focusing on overcoming this debilitating speech defect would be the key to becoming this other version of me.
And, although it took four years, dozens of public speaking classes, speech therapy and counselling, I graduated college having competed in several public speaking contests and winning four competitions. From that first public speaking course when I fainted in front of a classroom of 25 fellow students, to graduation when I could present to an auditorium of 500 people, was a case study in both grit and grace. Grit was evident in my resolve and my stamina to reach a seemingly impossible goal based on achieving the life I envisioned for myself. And, grace was needed along the journey to accepting my limitations, my slow progress and my setbacks.
After graduation, I went back to my undergraduate university and visited the professor that picked me off the floor after passing out in her classroom. “I’ll never forget that afternoon. I had never witnessed such a dramatic way of getting out of giving a speech!” she laughed. “But, you came back for the second class, and the third and the fourth. I don’t think it became easier for you that first semester, but you were determined. I have never seen such tenacity,” she said.
Because of my passion to achieve a long-term objective, to create a life that I envisioned for myself, I was absolute in my perseverance of effort – even when that effort led to painful, embarrassing or humbling experiences. I had the kind of mental toughness that is often described as “grit.” Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that grit can be defined as the ability to achieve one’s long-term plans despite significant challenges and obstacles – and it’s a strong predictor of success. She defines grit as the combination of resilience and self-control in the pursuit of goals that may take months, years, or even decades. Duckworth’s studies revealed that contenders in the National Spelling Bee defeat their peers, not because of IQ, but because of their grit – their commitment to more consistent practice. Here are the component parts of grit:
In every area of growth, from your education to your career to athletic training, it’s your level of mental toughness and determination that accurately predicts your level of achievement. Grit is a more reliable and accurate indicator of future success than any other determinant. Having grit is important because it becomes a driver of achievement and success – well beyond what skill and knowledge provide. If you are dedicated to achieving a clear long-term goal, and steadfast in your pursuit, undeterred by the sacrifices required, that is mental toughness and grit.
We may have the talent, abilities, and expertise to achieve greatness, but without the determination, resilience and perseverance, success will be elusive. The good news is that grit can be taught and developed over time – with practice. By adopting a growth mindset, and developing the ability to persevere, you can see dramatic gains in achievement. Having the tenacity to pursue a goal, knowing that you have the ability to improve over time, allows for the kind of stamina needed to achieve a long-term goal. The key is to recognize that your natural talents, intelligence and giftedness is simply unmet potential, but with the application of persistent practice, you can achieve higher and higher levels of achievement and success.
It’s important to develop your own set of values that you will use during your journey to achieving your goals. For instance, a value you might set for yourself is resiliency. If you embrace the idea that setbacks, pitfalls and adversity are part of the journey of growth, you can maintain your efforts, cultivating a sense of resiliency. Adopting resiliency as a value allows you to get back up, course correct and push forward. By developing the characteristics that you need to reach success, such as self-control, resilience, and determination, you can overcome any challenge. In Duckworth’s research, grit is able to predict how many salespeople will most likely sell more products, how many cadets will not drop out, how many students will do well in a spelling bee or how many students will finish college or university. The key is not to let the challenges in life, or the setbacks, define who you are and what your value is to the world.
And, while I am convinced that incorporating the tenants of grit into your approach when tackling any worthy pursuit, is a fundamental key to success – it is equally important to embrace the concept of grace. In this definition of grace, I am referring to your ability to push towards excellence, leaving room for failure. To really unpack this concept of grace, you first have to know and accept, your own shortcomings and failures. You have to deeply understand the consistent themes, embedded in your past and woven throughout your life’s story because they are the keys to your purpose and your future. You have to understand your limitations, your mistakes, your shortcomings and your failures – and really examine those recurring issues in your life. Carefully examining your past, especially your failures, is essential to know your value.
Indeed, failure is often why successful people achieve such remarkable heights of greatness: They learn from their setbacks, failures and mistakes, and then get back up and apply these learnings to their next attempt. Some of the most successful people have encountered disappointing setbacks:
- Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper and was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
- Oprah Winfrey was fired early in her career as a TV reporter because she was told she was “unfit for TV.”
- Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers.
- Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout and started a failed first business called Traf-O-Data.
True grace recognizes that lessons are often learned through experiencing the result of a failure, a bad decision or a mistake – and learning from it. Grace does not remove consequences or attempt to protect you from your bad decisions, but rather allows for the recognition of the mistake, the forgiveness of the failure and the resilience to incorporate the learning into our forward progress. Grace is embodied; it is an attitude, a characteristic and a belief – and as such, it has a contagious effect on others, including your team and your company.
But, grace starts with you. It starts by clearly understanding your life story, including your consistent themes, and then making the conscious decision to push towards excellence, leaving room for failure. You know your value because failure does not define you – in fact, failures are the very building blocks that make you stronger and even more valuable. Through grace, you can begin thinking positively of yourself, even though you will inevitably fall short of your expectations for yourself. When that occurs, make amends to those you hurt and at the same time, forgive yourself. You can and will do better if you allow yourself to. This gives you the ability to push other people towards success, while also allowing them to make mistakes. After all, people allowed us to learn some of our greatest lessons through failure.
When you have been able to see the recurring storylines in your life, and you have been able to forgive your mistakes and accept that you are likely to experience failure many more times in life, you are able to embrace the concept of grace. Grace means composure and quiet confidence in your leadership. Leaders with grace look at any challenge and any opportunity in the spirit of abundance embracing the idea that there is plenty for all of us to share – and relating to those around you with an open mind and open heart. Grace is a force for good, and when times are challenging, it will require courage. For example, when a team fails an objective, a manager may be tempted to denigrate and assign blame. A boss acting in the spirit of grace will take responsibility and seek remedies by finding solutions.
Grit determines that life challenges will neither define us nor defeat us. It is the toughness, the courage, the bravery, the resiliency and the spirit that drives us forward. It is the backbone, the inspiration, the steel nerve and the vision that you cling to. Your grit is where your perseverance meets your passion. They collide to create your purpose, your mission and your meaning. Grace is freely given favour and mercy, a sense of generosity and kindness, moral strength, a favour even when it is not deserved. It is understanding and forgiveness borne out of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It is an undeserved, unmerited, unearned embrace of acceptance. It always turns heads, opens minds, softens hearts and leaves people in awe.
My career has been a series of lessons learned, and opportunities to grow and develop, as a person and as a professional. Because hiring managers took a chance on me, and my supervisors were able to show an abundance of grace, I was able to forge a career as an entrepreneurial and forward-thinking marketing executive on the cutting edge of brand marketing. I received impactful advice and guidance along the way from supervisors and mentors that helped to shape and mould me, allowing me to accelerate my self-awareness and growth. And, of course, some of my most spectacular mistakes and failures were also some of my most important lessons – when my supervisors, peers and mentors often offered me a stunning level of grace and forgiveness.
Along the way, I learned the transformative power of bringing inspiring leaders together to create opportunities, discover possibilities and solve problems. No one grows as a leader alone. You need a supportive, confidential and uplifting community of people that are dedicated to helping you along the way. In LeadHERship Global, I now have the privilege of supporting and guiding ambitious, creative women to move in the direction of their purpose, their mission and their dreams with powerful connections, critical support, practical tools and valuable resources to show up, speak up and step up in their careers and personal lives. And, sharing my lessons of grit and grace.
Linda Fisk is a multi-award-winning leader, keynote speaker, podcast host, author and university professor dedicated to amplifying and extending the success of other high-calibre business leaders. She is the Founder and CEO of LeadHERship Global, a community of unstoppable women enhancing their leadership blueprint and embracing their power to be the best version of themselves- in work and life.
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