Monday, March 9, 2015


Tough: adjective; tougher, toughest, toughness
 1) Strong and durable, not easily cut
 2) Not brittle or tender
 3) Difficult to masticate, such as food
 4) Of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter
 5) capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy
 6) not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn, 
 7) hardened, incorrigible 

I've spent a good deal of time thinking on this descriptor in the last few days. To me it is one of the utmost compliments one can give another. Toughness is more than just lifting a big number on the weight bench. Toughness is more than overcoming a tough obstacle. Toughness is using what you have to not only better yourself, but to empower those around you to be the best they can be as well.

Jay Bilas wrote a wonderful piece on toughness a while back. I wish I had permission to reprint it, but I did include the link here (JayBilas on Toughness) for you. It's one of my favorite written works. Yes, it is clearly referencing basketball, however it so clearly refers to life situations as well. I find myself referring to ever so often, especially when I feel defeated and in need of encouragement. I reread this over the weekend after a particularly draining week.  It becomes so easy to feel sorry for oneself; to become overwhelmed by all of the things in life that don't go the way we planned.

What does it mean to be tough? At what point do our burdens become hinderances instead of empowerments? At what point do we stand up and say enough is enough and make changes to be better; to be stronger; to be more than we are? At some point we have to swallow pride and accept that things we are doing are not helping ourselves or those around us. If we truly want to be better we must change. Change is tough. Toughness makes us stronger. It makes us better. It makes us successful. Is there anything more sought after than success? Isn't it the pinnacle of our careers, be it athletically, academically, or in our work careers? A championship; a 4.0 GPA and letters after our name; a promotion and a big paycheck.

There's actually been quite a bit of academic study done on toughness, known as "grit" in academia circles. Some of the world's most successful people exhibit a good deal of grit. Some of them attribute this toughness to rough childhoods, parent's lost jobs, abusive situations, or any number of things that caused them to never give up despite circumstances and obstacles. As I've studied these people and others who possess similar personality traits, I'm struck by a fairly consistent set of rules that come with finding success.

1) High Expectations: Tough, gritty people set goals and follow through to the end. There may be smaller goals on the way to the larger goal, but the big picture is always in sight. They don't let the actions or attitudes of others lower their personal expectations.

2) The Past Doesn't Dictate Future Performance: Even when something doesn't go as planned, it does not mean future endeavors will fail as well. Persistence is key. They don't dwell on failures but learn from them and move on.

3) Successful People Are Constantly Learning: Personal and professional development is critical to keeping up with things around you and exercising your brain. Learning can also be a way to recharge.

4) Celebrate The Successes of Others:  Surrounding yourself with other successful hard working people improves everything. Positivity often breeds productivity. Resentment harbors anger and mistrust.

5) Tough=Confident: Grittiness brings with it a belief in oneself and of the vision in mind. Don't take no for an answer when confident in the final outcome being accomplished.

6) Rest & Recharge: Successful people know how to work hard and don't quit until a job is done; however they also recognize when they need to take a break. As Stephen Covey says in Habit 7 of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Sharpening the Saw is one of the most critical pieces of success. Whether that's meditation, a workout, a vacation or weekend away every now and then, that brief bit of solitude is what gets us through difficult situations.

7) Saying "Yes" When They Really Mean "NO": If it doesn't help get to the end result, benefit you or your family in some way, say no. Most importantly, not getting involved in situations that are outside of control or you have no ability to impact. Just say no.

8) Count The Blessings In Life Every Day: Not all successful people are spiritual, but most believe in a higher power in our universe. Be thankful for those Blessings in life. Successful and tough people know those blessings may not always be there.

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