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by Becca Colbaugh


True Grit: Spoonful by Spoonful, Inch by Inch

We only have a few choices in life, and they’re really not that complicated:

1. You can either live or die.
2. You can either win or lose.

Guess what? The same is true for business.

In my fourth year at JESS3, and now as head of production and client service, moments of inspiration intermixed with experience that is so deep-seeded I now consider it part of my DNA, are becoming the beginnings of my tips for success in the agency world.

Tips for how you live and how you die; how you win and how you lose.

As Executive Producer for many of JESS3’s videos, I thought it only appropriate to couch the foundation of these tips with cinematic references.

[DISCLOSURE] As a preface, I must admit that I have overly charged emotions when it comes to movies (I may or may not leave the mystique world of the theater and re-emerge into reality thinking I can conquer anything: love, war, you name it).

But there are some movies that leave their mark on all of us.

There are some cinematic moments choreographed so beautifully that they produce that feeling of indescribable patriotic warmth. The same one that falls over us when the national anthem is played against a summer’s evening canvas illuminated by the vivid display of fireworks celebrating our country’s independence. You know what I’m talking about.

So here are two movie-related moments that for me, underscore the life-business choices we are up against.

1. True Grit: Spoonful by Spoonful

Thanks to Fast Company, I was recently inspired during my in-flight reading of why true grit matters in the business world, and I couldn’t agree more.

“Grit is not synonymous with hard work. It involves a certain single-mindedness. An ungritty prison inmate will formulate a new plan of escape every month, but a gritty prison inmate will tunnel his way out one spoonful of concrete at a time.

Grit is often undervalued in business, because businesspeople like breakthroughs, which are good ideas that you’ll have next week. (“I’ll tunnel out one spoonful of concrete at a time until I can innovate the spoon into a jackhammer.”) But even when it’s looked upon as a last resort, it works.”

It’s not about miracles and magical potions. You can’t waive a wand over a challenge you’re up against with a client and expect a solution. You can’t walk away every time you’re frustrated or challenged.

It’s about time-tested learnings and practices that point us toward success. And you can’t give up in that process; you have to keep chipping away, project by project and client by client.

It’s the story of the tortoise and the hare; it’s a marathon not a sprint. Strength, character and resolve are the qualities in my fellow team members. It’s all about passing the torch as a part of one big relay.

Sure and steady wins the race; empires aren’t built overnight.

2. Any Given Sunday: Inch by Inch

You have two choices when things are tough in business — whether it’s a shortage of resources or budget: “you can either stay in the hell of a moment and get the shit kicked out of you” — two days before a project launch when things feel so off track you think you’d rather fall onto the third rail and cut your losses — “or you can fight your way back to the light.” Buy more time, cut features, find compromises, just don’t give up.

You can assign blame and assume no responsibility when a project does go wrong, or you can meet up with your team and white board and post-mortem until you’re blue in the face. “You only learn that when you start losing stuff.” Don’t fear failure, embrace it as an opportunity.

When you’ve put in months and years into improving processes, quality and service, you can either turn the other way when it’s still not perfect and start from scratch on something new, or “you can continue what you started,” project by project, year by year, “inch by inch, until you’re finished.” Being finished doesn’t mean quitting; it means attaining your goal.

“The inches we need are everywhere around us.” People are hungry for work, they are craving to be part of the next big answer. They want the opportunity to be empowered. If you find yourself facing the same problems, change your approach! Go beyond your comfort zone. If your employees are unhappy, ask them what they need, and — brace yourself — actually give it to them. You’ll be surprised what kind of change you’ll likely see.

And when you stick it out, moment after moment, year after year and inch by inch, to keep creeping toward your goal, and when you identify and accept that everything you really need is around you, then you realize that “when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.” It’s not about one inch forward and two back. It’s about stuffing your entrepreneurial belt with as many tools as possible; seeking advice from every mentor you’ve had. It’s a multi-pronged approach that gets you closer to the finish line, alive and well.

And you can’t go at it alone. Look to your team, and don’t be afraid to hold people accountable or to doubt what they can do. “Look into his eyes.” If you’ve hired the right people, “now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.” We almost (and in some cases certainly do) spend more time with our co-workers than we do our friends and family. So, why not make your own business family? Rely on each other, support each other, cheer each other on.

Because, in the end, a successful business is not build upon the shoulders of one, but of many.

“That’s a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.”


Any Given Sunday – Transcript

I don’t know what to say really.
Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today.
Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch, play by play till we’re finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.
Now I can’t do it for you.
I’m too old.
I look around and I see these young faces and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh…. I pissed away all my money believe it or not.
I chased off anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.
That’s, that’s part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small.
I mean one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.
I’ll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.
And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.
Now I can’t make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him.
That’s a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.
That’s football guys.
That’s all it is.
Now, what do you gonna do?

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