Linda Kaplan Thaler, a past NYWICI president, and Robin Koval co-founded the Kaplan Thaler Group, a 700-person advertising agency. They have also co-authored three bestselling books, with a fourth to be released in September — Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary.
Linda and Robin — both recipients of NYWICI Matrix Awards — have always felt that beyond the talent they have or intelligence they possess, the real reason for their success was the work they put in to be successful.
We caught up with them and asked how employing the “grit factor” can help you on your way to the top.
How does your book Grit to Great tap into the secret of your success?
Robin: We had a tremendous desire to do the work and focus on the work. The real success of many people; regardless of the talent they had or money they possessed or access, is this quality they call grit, the ability to focus. You decide how great you want to be. There are all sorts of easy to do things that help you grow your grit and that is incredibly empowering.
Linda: It’s not talent that makes you great; it’s the grit factor. Ninety-eight percent of successful people possess the grit factor. In the book, there is a quiz that that measures how upward you are and where you have potential to grow your grit. The quiz helps determine your grit level.
What is the “grit factor" and how do you achieve it?
Robin: As marketers, we want to make grit understandable and easy to remember. Grit is: (1) Guts – the ability to get out of your safety zone. (2) Initiative – be willing to be proactive when it comes to your own success. (3) Resilience – have the ability to bounce back from defeat, and (4) Tenacity – being able to stay focused on a project. The acronym helps people remember and a nice little framework for building your grit.
Linda: Our company was successful because we outworked everybody and so did our people. We were always the underdog, so we knew we had to be great. The book is a working idea that goes beyond the pages and celebrating people doing extraordinary things. Our Facebook page will launch any day. On our page we will share grit-builders and useful tips to get people started. And we would love for people to learn more on our website.
What made you decide to collaborate on writing this book?
Robin: This is our fourth collaboration together. One book has become an outgrowth of the other. As partners, we hold each other accountable. The way we’ve written our books and the way we’ve run the agency is this thing of west wing/right wing. Linda is the creative person and I’m the account strategy person. We balance each other out and our talents often overlap. We both bring a lot to the table and understand that talent is not fixed. Sometimes people get fixed in a role but talents aren’t fixed.
Linda: Robin and I have always worked the idea of writing towards what we’re targeted to. We want to demystify the belief in this culture that people are born to succeed. People are not born to succeed. Grit level explains why someone can be successful. In the book, we share small things you can start doing every single day to increase your grit level.
Do “IQ” and “Talent” determine a person’s level of success?
Robin: Smart is wonderful but it doesn’t determine your success: If you’re smart or if you’re talented, good for you. But what will actually determine your level of success is your ability to put your guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity to work. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school twice. There were a lot of people who thought he wasn’t special. Work, work, work and many failed tests got him to where he is today. The vast majority of people who are successful in this world do not have successful gifts; they have inner success – their grit.
Linda: What we love most with talking about the book is the light bulb going off in people’s faces. ‘Oh my goodness, I can do this. I can actually do this.’ If you look at a map of all the amazing successful people in the world, if you look back at their IQ tests, and SAT scores, you will be really shocked. So many people tell us; ‘I’m going to try this.’ We want to share this message. The last chapter in this book focuses on amazing stories of people with no special talent and doing incredible things to help people and make the world a better place. Robin and I both have our other careers, we have our day job and we love being able to help people realize the potential they possess.
What is the most important piece of advice you want your readers to take away from your book?
Robin: Anyone regardless of your starting point: you don’t have to be a prodigy. Grit is available to anyone and everyone. It is in your control to develop your grit. For Linda and me, it was this great agency. Harness your grit. When people harness their grit, they not only do great for themselves, but they do good for others in the world.
Linda: Look at what you do and say before presenting something – an email or PowerPoint presentation. Spend a little time going over your work. There are little exercises you can do everyday that will help increase your grit level.
Robin shared a great quote from Estee Lauder, “I never dreamed about success, I worked at it.” A successful day begins with a successful week and a successful week begins with a successful mind. Celebrate your successful day. Identify what you can learn from that failure and how that same failure can help you tomorrow.