Grit: 3 Ways to Develop Your Mental Toughness

"The common denominator to success is
forming the habit of doing things that others don't like to do."
- Albert Gray

One of the most beneficial qualities a person can possess is a healthy self-confidence. There is a direct relationship between grit and self-confidence. 

Grit can be defined as firmness of character; internal toughness; the ability to persevere toward a goal despite being confronted by obstacles, failures and distractions.

Grit is not something that you either have or don’t have, it is developed over time. We all have the power to increase our grit. Here are 3 ways you can increase yours.

1. Keep Commitments to Yourself and Others.

When we fail to follow through on commitments we make to our self, our self-respect takes a hit. When we fail to follow through on commitments made to others, our credibility takes a hit.

When it comes to goals, it’s good to make them ambitious. When it comes to keeping commitments, it is best to start small. It is better to make a small commitment and keep it, than to make a big commitment and break it.

Here are some practical things you can do to increase your grit:

  • Plan your day by making a reasonable to-do list. Accomplish all planned tasks by the end of the day.
  • Decide to forgo an unhealthy food for a day. Be specific. (Example: no french fries)
  • When you are in the middle of a task, quit when you are finished, not when you are tired.
  • Unplug from social media for a day.

In relation to others, determine that you will be a person of your word. Be careful with your promises. But when you make a commitment, do whatever it takes to follow through.

2. Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.

There are two kinds of stress, distress and eustress. Eustress is healthy, beneficial stress. When you go to the gym and lift weights to the point of discomfort, you are intentionally putting yourself in a state of eustress - for the purpose of getting stronger.

Intentionally put yourself in periods of eustress. Your grit will grow.
Here are some ways to get out of your comfort zone:

  • Volunteer to make a presentation
  • Step into a difficult, but necessary conversation
  • Develop a new skill
  • Apply for a different job 

In other words, do hard things. Make fear your friend. Understand that fear and growth go together. As Pastor Mark Patterson says, “You have to go through awkward to get to awesome.” Get to the point that when you feel fear, you say to yourself, “This is cool, this is how I grow.”

3. Bounce Back from Adversity. 

We all make mistakes and experience failure. Begin to look at failures as temporary, learning experiences. Whenever you experience a setback or obstacle, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this and how can I move forward in a constructive way?

Decide to be resilient. Let your past refine you, not define you. Evander Holyfield once said, “A setback only paves the way for a comeback.”
Research has revealed that grit is one of the most important predictors of success. The Apostle Paul listed self-control (a form of grit) among other qualities such as love and kindness.

People with grit are better off in almost every way. Take small steps to develop your grit today. Get a series of small wins. Soon you will gain momentum and your grit muscle will grow.

Get your grit on!

“Don’t pray for an easy life, pray to be a strong person.” 
– Phillip Brooks


Winning the Day - 6 Ways to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Day

"How we live our days is how we live our lives"
– Annie Dillard

Every day counts. With just a few minutes of thoughtful planning every day, you can set yourself up for success.


Towards the end of your work day, take time to recalibrate. Follow up on email, capture commitments and tasks accumulated throughout the day. Then play the next day. You will leave work with a clearer mind. Also, planning the day before ‘jump starts’ the following day--in the morning, you can hit the ground running. Finally, planning the day before enables your subconscious mind to absorb your list and, perhaps, create new ideas for the following day.


I created my own ‘Win the Day’ template. On it, I keep two lists--one for deep work and one for routine work. Deep work is creative or analytical. Routine work is more administrative and less taxing on the brain. I recommend a 3/7 rule. No more than 3 deep work tasks (approximately 30-minute periods of concentrated focus) and 7 routine tasks. Meetings and daily operational issues will usually take up the rest of the day.


Keeping an open list is a working throughout the day to see how far down a long list you can get. That is overwhelming and discouraging. Instead, make your list realistic but somewhat ambitious-- then do your best to accomplish everything on your list. This creates a healthy tension by trying to reach a goal.


You know the nature of your job and the frequency of emergencies and interruptions. Leave the appropriate amount of white space in your calendar to account for them. Planning every minute or over-scheduling sets you up for failure.


You schedule meetings and appointments with others. Begin to schedule appointments with yourself to complete deep work. Deep work is important work that has positive consequences, When you perform deep work, do your best to free yourself from devices and interruptions.  No multi-tasking during deep work.


We all have our own biological ‘prime time’ and periods of low energy. Schedule your deep work at the height of your energy cycle. Complete more routine, administrative work during your off-peak times.

Taking 10-15 minutes to plan each day saves time, gives you a feeling of control and leads to higher productivity.

“Make each day a masterpiece.”
– John Wooden


There was no magic formula. We just focused on being brilliant at the basics.
— John Wooden, UCLA Coach, 10 National Championships


The first thing a customer will notice about you is your attitude. They immediately ask themselves, “Is this person for me?” First impressions are like wet cement; you have a small window of opportunity to make a favorable impression. Once the impression is set, it is difficult to change.


Every business is a relationship business. Whether you are buying a car or seeing a doctor, you want to do business with people you like. The same is true for your customers. Take time to make a connection before getting down to business.


Always speak well of your co-workers, other departments and your company. This gives the customer confidence and let’s them know everyone is working together to provide a positive experience.


Emphasize what you can do for your customer, not what you can’t do. “Our first opening is Friday at 10 am.” sounds much better than “We can’t see you until Friday at 10am.”


Think of yourself as a teacher rather than a salesperson. Be clear and concise in your communication. Be a good listener and have the customer’s best interest in mind.


Think of something beyond the ordinary that you can do for your customer. It could be waiving a fee, charging less than the estimate or adding in a little something extra.


Avoid the phrase “no problem.” Neither of those two words are positive. If a customer makes a request, “absolutely” or “I would be happy to,” works well. If a customer thanks you, “you are very welcome” or “it is my pleasure” conveys your desire to delight.


When things don’t go as planned, follow a simple three step process. First, let the customer vent so they feel heard, apologize for the inconvenience, ask how to make it right. If you handle service recovery well, you could leave a more favorable impression than if nothing bad happened.


Always remember that you are in business to acquire and retain customers. The customer is the reason your company exists. Make sure that attitude is conveyed to them.


Tie a nice bow around the whole experience. Let them know that it is a pleasure and a privilege to do business with them.

The Best of Both Worlds

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time." – F. Scott Fitzgerald

We live in an environment today where we are supposed to make a choice between two options. Democrat or Republican. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. PC or Mac. We limit are choices to either/or. However, not everything is binary.

With many things in life, the choice is not either/or but both/and.

Two things can be true at once. One choice does not have to be wrong for the other choice to be right. 

Here are some everyday examples of both/and.


Having specific, written down long term goals is one of the keys to a successful and prosperous life. On the other hand, you should also strive to ‘make each day a masterpiece.’ If you live every day well, your days will add up to a successful life.

It’s not one or the other. It’s both/and.


Going into each day with a well-thought-out game plan will increase your probability of effectiveness and success. But you need be flexible for urgent and unforeseen opportunities. You need to maintain both structure and flexibility.


In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about great leaders having a unique combination of personal humility and professional resolve. Once again, these qualities are not mutually exclusive. Make it a goal to enter each day with humility, knowing that you are an imperfect, ‘work in progress.’ But also carry a healthy dose of confidence knowing what your strengths are and leveraging them for the good of others.


Successful people possess a combination of warmth and strength. They have great relational skills and can easily connect with others. At the same time, they are also candid and straightforward in their speech.

Finally, as a Christian, there are also two approaches to faith. One extreme is ‘let go and let God.’ Surrender everything and let God take over. The other extreme is practicing self-discipline and diligence. Again, both are true.

I think the popular phrase

“Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you,”

is another great example of both/and.

So don’t get caught up into forced, false choices. Remember, two things can be true at once. Limiting your choices is often 'stinking thinking'.

7 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright in Public Speaking

All greatness is achieved while performing outside our comfort zone.
— Greg Arnold

It is common knowledge that the #1 human fear is public speaking. When someone needs to make a presentation, often they just want to ‘get it over with.’

But if you are in business, becoming proficient at public speaking can accelerate your career and increase your influence. Instead of trying to ‘get it over with’ think ‘get good.’

Here are a few strategies that can help you reduce your anxiety. Be assured that nervousness in public speaking is normal and even healthy.

1. Master your material.

There is no substitute for knowing your material. The more prepared you are, the more confident and spontaneous you will be. Thorough knowledge of the material will also help you speak in a conversational tone.

2. Arrive early.

Make sure you are not dealing with last minute room set-up or technological issues. This will compound your stress. Get there well ahead of time and make sure everything is in order. Greet participants as they arrive. This takes the edge off and gives the audience a positive first impression. 

3. Start strong and Finish strong.

The first few minutes are usually the hardest. If you have your introduction down cold and it has a good hook, you gain early momentum. Once you get going, the anxiety is often reduced or even eliminated. Additionally, don't end with a whimper. 'Does anyone have any questions?' isn't exactly a great lasting impression. Summarize what you have said and then paint a picture of a bright future with the material you presented. Help them 'imagine' how life will be better from what you have shared.

4. Make nervousness work for, rather than against you.

If I am nervous before a speech, I simply tell myself that it is positive energy waiting to be channeled into a great presentation.

“Everyone has butterflies in their stomach. The only difference between the pro and an amateur is the pro has the butterflies flying in formation.”
— Zig Ziglar


5. Use positive visualization.

This technique is used by some of the world’s greatest performers. Jack Nicklaus used to imagine the golf ball landing softly on the green right next to the hole before he ever took a swing. Picture yourself confident and effective during your presentation.

6. Focus on the MESSAGe, not yourself.

I used to give monthly Employee of the Month presentations at an organization. I would tell myself that my job is to honor person being recognized, not to make myself look good. This actually helped take the edge off my nervousness. In a similar way, your job is not to impress the audience but impact them. Focus on helping them.

7. Think thrive, not survive.

Being a Christian, I think of what the Apostle Paul said, 'God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.' Go up with confidence and seize the day. Make the most of your opportunity. Play offense, not defense.

Your presentation will never be perfect but life is an adventure not a test. It's about success, not perfection. 

There are no shortcuts to becoming proficient at presentations. But with practice, your anxiety can be dramatically reduced.

When I started my career in education, I volunteered to teach topics like infection control, fire safety and HIPAA about 6 times a month in front of an average size audience of 40 people. I did this for the sole purpose of gaining ‘face time’ in front of an audience.

So start small. Volunteer to make a presentation at a department meeting or for a committee. You will doing something most people are unwilling to do.

You have to go through awkward to get to awesome.
— Mark Batterson