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Why tenacity always wins.

Why tenacity always wins.

The real secret to success is not about talent, ability, intelligence or any of those other things we are often lead to believe. While they are all desired traits the real secret lies in something that is not generally taught in the classroom or required on a resume. It’s not something we are born with but rather something we acquire along the way through struggle, hardship, and determination. That secret is tenacity. I have worked with many teams and coached many professionals throughout my career and the common denominator in 90% of those success stories is tenacity. Those with grit and determination will surpass those who rely on raw talent alone any day of the week. The story plays out again and again when we see small teams with the tenacity out-think and outperform bigger more bloated companies.

A few years ago I was invited to pitch an account. I was competing with several agencies with deeper pockets and much larger staffs. There were several rounds of elimination and it eventually came down to myself and one other large agency. The client was having a difficult time making a decision and asked for one more final submission to help cinch the deal. By a strange coincidence, I happened to be reading the book by Seth Godin at the time called The Dip. In that book, Seth talks about the difference between high performance and average performance. The basic idea is that most people are only willing to put in just the amount of required effort to complete a task and little more. Higher performers, however, understand that if they are willing to push past that mark where the rest drop off, the competition thins dramatically and the rewards are far greater. The bulk of competition therefor lies somewhere in that soft zone of just kind of getting by and the minimum effort it takes to get things done.

I decided to test Seth’s theory, so I assembled a small team and laid out the plan. We were going to take on this giant and if we won we would all share in the rewards. I knew that I was just a small studio competing against a massive team but I had also spent time working in big agencies so I understood the mindset. Most of the members on that team were probably overworked, tired and would benefit very little, if at all, whether they won the account or not. They had little to gain and therefore were simply not as invested. Their only incentive was to put in just enough effort to satisfy their managers and nothing more. Me and my team, on the other hand, were much more invested with something to gain and something to lose. This was the turning point Seth talked about in the book where he advocates either making the maximum push or quitting because phoning it in at this point, just for appearances, is pretty much a waste of everyone’s time and effort. We decided to make the push. We would go the extra mile banking on the hunch that the competition would prove Seth right. 

We worked like dogs to prepare and on Monday morning when it came time to present, the hunch paid off. Exactly as we had suspected the other team merely added a little spit and polish to what they had already presented and no more. They had not gone the extra mile and had instead turned in a lackluster presentation that all but handed us the account. We were on top of the world. It had been a David and Goliath story where the benefits and rewards shared with my team allowed them to feel as if their efforts actually counted for something. That feeling allowed us to topple our competition and find the tenacity necessary to accomplish our goal. How is your team performing? Are they at their best or merely turning in a lackluster performance to get by? What are some things you can do to help them discover their own tenacity?