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Go From Grit to Great

April 11, 2016

Do you remember the Herbal Essences commercial where the woman in the shower is going “Yes! Yes!”? Well, I don’t have the woman in the shower (she’s a model) but I have with me the woman who wrote that ad campaign and made it famous. My guest today is Linda Kaplan Thaler and she is responsible for some of America’s most famous advertising campaigns including the Aflac duck quack and the yes, yes, yes Herbal Essences campaign. She has won 13 Clio awards (which is like the Oscar for advertising) and two were for best original music and lyrics. If you’ve ever heard “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid” and Kodak moments that is her. She runs a billion dollar advertising agency in New York City called Publicis Kaplan Thaler. Her latest book Grit to Great (co-written with Robin Koval, who is also the co-founder of the company the Kaplan Thaler Group) is a national best seller that teaches us how to be a better story (other books include The Power of Nice, Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World, and The Power of Small) If there was ever somebody who could boil down a brand’s story and tell it in 30 seconds in a way that turns it into a cultural piece of shorthand this is the person who really gets how to do it.

The Grit Factor: You don’t have to be born with unbelievable talent. 98% of really great people have, not the It factor, but the Grit factor. Anybody can develop grit; you don’t have to be born with it. That is what the book Grit to Great is about.

Most important factor: Linda and Robin couldn’t figure out why they were so successful and winning almost everything they were pitching. They knew it wasn’t because they were geniuses. Then they realized when they started doing post interviews with clients such as Wendy’s or Proctor and Gamble and would ask “why did you award this to us?” they would always get the same answer which was “Your work was great, everybody else’s work was great too but we didn’t think anybody could work harder than you did.”

Famous examples: They started looking at famous people who have done extraordinary things but were completely ordinary growing up. Colin Powell was a C- student in college until he discovered the ROTC and decided he wanted to devote his life to service in our country. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times. Michael Jordan couldn’t even make his high school varsity basketball team. Walt Disney got fired from his first job because he lacked imagination. What did these people have? They weren’t brilliant, they weren’t particularly talented. They had the Grit factor.

G.R.I.T: Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity

Your 90 year old self: Jeff Bezos of Amazon tells a great story about how everybody told him he should stay at his comfortable Wall Street job instead of starting amazon.com. He had a conversation with his 90 year old self who said “Of course you’ve got to do this. Do you want to turn out being this age and never even tried something that you really really want to do? “Have a conversation with your 90 year old self (in the privacy of your own home of course) and you will know exactly what you should be doing.

Advice that took Linda out of the baby pool and into the ocean: Every time you do something for somebody you are throwing out a positive imprint or a seed. That seed will blossom and grow in ways you can’t even imagine. Do not expect anything when you do something nice for somebody. In some way, shape or form the universe is going to pay you back and it’s going to be unbelievable.

  • Grit Quiz: On Linda’s website grittogreat.com, you can take the Grit Quiz to access your Grit level and to see where you have potential to develop it even more.
  • Grit to Great: You can buy the book on grittogreat.com or on Amazon or anywhere else there are books. An audio version is also available.
  • Linda is on Twitter @lindathaler2 and Facebook as Linda K Thaler.
  • Share with Linda a habit you’ve developed that’s moving you forward towards your goals. She often posts people’s stories of where their grit took them. Or if you have any tips to share they send them out almost daily.

If you’re curious about what it’s like to pivot a young business when the front man (or front woman) is pregnant and is changing the business model you can follow the babygotabump column I write for Entrepreneur.com. Just look for hashtag #babygotabump

I love hearing from you. I’m @lifewithgeeta on Twitter. If you want a peek into my personal life follow me on Instagram where my handle is Baby Got Booked. You can reach out to me via email or via my website contact form at geetanadkarni.com.

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