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We Can All Use a Little Grit

August 29th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been glued over the past couple of weeks (at least for short periods) to the televised coverage of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Those athletes were amazing. Such focus. Such dedication. Such grit.

Speaking of grit, I recently read Angela Duckworth’s best-selling book, Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and I was thinking about it a lot as I heard different athletes share their journey to Olympic competition.  “Sacrifices,” “hard work,” “perseverance,” “goals.”  Those words were common threads in the conversation. Along the way…they fell down, they got up. They lost a competition, they worked harder for the next one.  They got injured, they healed, and got right back in the game. So much of what I heard and observed resonated with what Duckworth describes as “grit.”  She says:

“It is not just about luck, opportunity, and talent – it is about the quality and quantity of engagement.”  There are a lot of talented athletes, but they don’t all make it to the Olympics.

“You have to have stamina and stick to it for years.”  “Grit is a marathon not a sprint.”  Most Olympians have been working toward their Olympic dream since childhood.

“We need to have a Deliberate Practice – engage in one small thing at a time and give it 100% full concentration. Get feedback – what went well and what do you need to do better? Make adjustments by refining and reflecting accordingly.” Sacrifice, hard work, perseverance, goals. And coaching!

So what does this mean for us non-Olympians – in our jobs, in our businesses, in our lives? Few of us can afford to be quite so single-minded, and within a business organization the drive to compete does not always sit well. As Daniel Goleman said in his blog, The Trouble with Grit, “People who are driven toward high achievement can be fantastic individual contributors in an organization, to be sure. But if that’s their only strength, they will be miserable team members and atrocious leaders.”  He also points out the importance of balancing grit with people skills. “Cultivate relationship skills, starting with empathy. Lacking empathy, a high-grit go-getter cares not at all about how his or her driving ambition impacts those around them…There’s nothing wrong with grit per se, just balance it with some emotional intelligence.”

Still, I think that taking some of the concepts from Grit can help us all no matter what we are doing or where we are in our lives – student, worker, athlete. When I think about grit, I think about my parents and what they taught me – you work hard and do your absolute best. You will fall down. Grit is about getting up time and time again and forging ahead. It’s about not allowing other people or circumstances to stop your progress.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Till next time,


Development, Learning, Life


If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now

August 15th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve been following my advice about taking some “ME” time this summer, you may have had an opportunity to reflect on your life so far. What have you learned that you wish you’d known 20 years ago? What did you NOT do that you wish you’d done (there’s still time!) And what advice would you give your younger self if you could? We posed this last question to our followers and networks a while back and got some really insightful answers. In case you missed it (or would like a second look) I’m sharing it again. I’d love to hear from you if you have something to add; please comment.

The majority of the responses fell into three major categories. All good advice!


-It’s all about attitude. Have a great attitude, show up with it and leave with it every day.

-Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Be yourself and believe in your gut!

-Always take a calculated risk – it will pay off in the long run.

-Every challenge in life builds strength and character.

-Never let fear hold you back from life.

-Be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak your truth!

-Be more assertive and confident. Be more direct, and STOP apologizing!


-Listen, observe and learn – be like a sponge and absorb everything you can. Wisdom is precious.

-Be patient. You WILL get everything you aspire to. Calm down!

-Don’t take the easy road, and dare to follow your dreams.

-Have enough faith and confidence in yourself to seize opportunities.

-Don’t worry what other people think about you.

-Carpe diem –seize the day.

-Plan ahead, but still enjoy the moment.

-Live the life that YOU were meant to live.


-Follow your heart. Have as much fun as possible!

-Treat yourself with kindness and respect and don’t allow yourself to be abused by anyone.

-Take your time. Life goes faster than you could possibly imagine.

-Enjoy the body that you have, it will change quicker than you think.

-Don’t be compelled to accommodate the needs of others.

-Pick a career that you love and not one that your parents think is good for you.

-Turn off that negative recording in your head. See that you truly are beautiful just the way you are.

-Always have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

-Everything is better after a good bottle of wine with a friend. (I second that!)

Of course, all of this wisdom comes from having learned these things through a variety of ups and downs on the roller coaster of life. And for that, one final piece of wisdom submitted…

Don’t regret decisions you have made. Live with them and get on with life. It is way too short.”

Till next time,


Learning, Life, wellness

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