Writing this “1 Bold Update” article was on my task list and I had all kinds of great ideas. And then… Coronavirus. Now my husband and I are both working from home, he’s completely taken over the kitchen as his office, and my teenage children are lounging (with cell phones in hand) everywhere else.
The temptation to check the news, check facebook, make a martini, check in with friends, and run out of the house screaming is real and it is a constant source of distraction. I love to be productive, yet I keep ending each day wondering what it was I actually accomplished and if it really mattered.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, please read on. If not, I’d recommend the Hubspot blog for great articles actually about marketing!1
I’ve summed up my focus and plan for the next 30 days in three words and it’s my hope that you mind find a little something in here that helps you too:
Life has thrown us all a curve-ball. There is no certainty nor control anymore. Will our clients continue to work with us? Will we run out of money? Will marketing budgets be the first thing that’s cut? We simply do not know. But here’s something to consider: There never was certainty and none of us are in control… of anything.
“Life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.” - Helen Keller
In order to stay somewhat on a productive track, I ask myself each morning “What are the three things I’m going to accomplish today?” I then put a post it note for each one on the wall behind my laptop so they are visible every time I look up. I pull the first one down and I stay on it, as much as possible, and if I’m having a good day, I get to crumple it up and shoot for the trash can because I did it. And then I celebrate with a good stretch. On to priority number 2.
Sounds simple? It is and that’s part of the reason it works so well. It’s a lesson we’ve learned from child psychology. You need to break things down into small parts, both for yourself and for your team, making sure each part is something you’re actually able to do, with the least amount of support to do it. Because next to getting stuff done, feeling like YOU accomplished it on your own is the icing on the cake!
The best part about thinking short term and only having three things to do is that you can simply move the post it notes up or down tomorrow, based on what did or did not happen today. And let’s face it. With crisis communication needs and clients trying to get solutions marketed ASAP, some days are just reacting. Stop beating yourself up over it. Tomorrow is another day to work on that list.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “grit” in the context of behaviour as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Angela Duckworth, Author of the book “Grit” and an amazing TED Talk, tweaked this definition to be “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”.
But I like to think of GRIT like this:
John Wayne style!!
Duckworth herself is the first to say that the essence of grit is elusive, but I feel like you can get that essence watching just about any movie starring “The Duke”. If you don’t have time for a movie marathon, here are five characteristics you need to be gritty2:
- Courage – Really gritty people are not afraid to totally tank! You have to accept that each failure is a lesson. That’s how you keep that perseverance you need to keep pushing. I am failing = I am learning. And note this friends; courage is like a muscle; it has to be exercised daily or it will atrophy.
- Achievement-Oriented Conscientiousness – What? Basically you need to work tirelessly, always try to do your best, and complete the work. You have to always go for the gold, not just show up to practice!
- Long-Term Goals and Endurance – You have to have a purpose and you have to follow through. Or in the wise words of Dory the Pacific Blue Tang fish who helped find Nemo: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” There was a purpose to all that swimming!
- Resilience – Some define this as a combination of optimism, confidence, and creativity or even “the ability of people, communities, and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity among unforeseen shocks and surprises3.” I just like (Grandma) Jane Steenstra’s definition best. She would call it “Stick-to-it-ness”.
- Excellence vs Perfection – Gritty people don’t seek perfection, they strive for excellence.
- I know there’s only supposed to be five characteristics of grit, but you can really assess someone’s grittiness based on how they react when you tell them there’s no way they can do something. My response (for better and for worse) is typically “Oh yeah. Watch me.” How about you?
We don’t know what’s going to happen so we need to get comfortable with not knowing, with simply taking each day as it comes. As a cancer survivor, I am very aware of my mortality and my lack of control. I think that drives my perspective when it comes to sheltering-at-home and fears of getting really sick. The following is an excerpt from my blog in 2010:
“...Never forget that everything could change in an instant. The things that are important to me right now; work deadlines, getting in beach-shape, dates (or lack thereof) could mean nothing to me by 2 PM today. I have an appointment at 1:30 for an ultrasound on the lump that’s been formerly diagnosed as an “angry lymph node” and therefore nothing to worry about. They just want to take another look at it and make sure it hasn’t changed in any suspicious way. I’m sure it’s fine. But what if it has changed? Suddenly everything that was important wouldn’t be anymore.”
Once you become comfortable with your lack of control, your perspective changes. Things are different today than they were yesterday and you can probably bet that they’ll be different again tomorrow. Try saying this out loud: “SO WHAT”. Each day is an opportunity to achieve, solve, and do more… or not. And you just have to take it all one day at a time.
“If you hold on to the handle, she said, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you.” – Story People
If none of this made you feel any better nor inspired you to do something amazing today, there’s always Laverne & Shirley singing “The Ant Song” (but only if you’re over the age of 45). I dare you to watch it and not have hope!
1We hope to return to our regular marketing updates soon so don’t please don’t unsubscribe if this outlier just isn’t your cup of tea.
2Additional reading and analysis on the characteristics of GRIT can be found in the Forbes October, 2013 article “5 Characteristics Of Grit -- How Many Do You Have?” by Margaret Perlis
3Resilience: Why things bounce back by Andrew Zolli & Ann Marie Healy