The Attachment Point – Slackchat #7: The Importance of Sticking to Your Guns

Welcome to The Attachment Point. This is our SlackChat content where volunteers on The Insurance Nerds Slack Channel (join here) discuss various topics. We do very little editing (so excuse the typos) and we try to keep it as conversational as possible. Enjoy!

Tony Canas: Welcome to our 7th slackchat. This week we are discussing the importance of sticking to your guns to achieve success. The question of the week is: What effect has grit (perseverance) had in your career?  This last weekend a good friend presented a great session on “Grit” at the CPCU Society Leadership Conference in Baltimore, MD. I’ve read Angela Duckworth’s book by the same name and LOVED it! (Review coming.) And that made me wonder how has it affected careers of insurance all over the insurance industry.

Nick Lamparelli: Tony Canas I think grit is the single most important factor in success. More important than intelligence, More important than charm or charisma. Life is hard. You will fail much more often than you will succeed, no matter how good you are. You will hear no much more often than you will hear yes, no matter how charming you are. It’s what you do after you fail or after you hear no that counts.

Tony Canas: That’s funny because you wrote an article that management and sales are the two most important factors! What do you have to say for yourself? So is it those, or is it grit? ?

Nick Lamparelli: Sales and management are the two most important business skills. And we can’t develop those skills without grit. You are in sales…how many “no’s” must you overcome to get to a “yes!”

Tony Canas: Makes sense  

Nick Lamparelli: @Tony Canas When I think of myself and grit, I’d like to think that I have it (or some). But I can honestly say, that what I lack in my business life, is likely due to lack of grit. How many times did I deviate or take the easy way out. Probably too many. So while I have some, I could have used more and been stronger emotionally to ride things out better when things got tough in my career.  But I do think I have gotten to where I have gotten with some grit.

Jen Overhulse: Going to spin this a bit differently (and likely get myself in trouble in the process)…Throughout my career I have had to persevere against establishment and against prejudices. Coming from a WASP that may seem counterintuitive, but I have typically worked in male-dominated industries (journalism/newsrooms and insurance/anything). I have had people assume I’m the secretary or receptionist, to dismiss me as “media girl” who has no substantive knowledge about any subject at all, or to even talk to my boobs instead of my face.  With a little less “grit,” I would have quit all this years ago and found a career typically thought of as more suited to women. Instead, every encounter made me more determined to establish myself as a thought leader, to be known for development of quality content, and I pushed myself to overcome a fear of speaking in front of people to become a fairly common presenter at industry conferences these days. I’m not saying I’m being singled out in any way. I think this experience is common to most women in traditionally male-dominated industries.  And, I don’t want to sound like some kind of man-hater either…men are actually better to work with than most women. In spite of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” women still don’t mentor other women, but instead see other women as competition. Let’s face it, no matter who you are today succeeding takes some measure of “grit.” How much just depends on who you are and where you are trying to go.

Nick Lamparelli: @Jen Overhulse,I can attest to your grit…and thought leadership!

Jen Overhulse: @Nick Lamparelli,Thank you!

Bob Frady: When you decide to start a company that nobody has ever heard of, grit is everything. The “Indomitable Spirit” is what gets you through. Everyone gets knocked down (or – worse – knock themselves down.) Grit is what gets you back up and moving again.

Nick Lamparelli: @Bob Frady, A startup has almost nothing going for it. In some ways, a startup founder needs to ignore almost everything that is not within the spirit of the mission/vision. NPR has this podcast called “How I Built This”. Listen to those stories. Each one could have, perhaps should have failed except for the “Indomitable Spirit” of the founders.

By chance, I just read this quote from the most recent Tim Ferris email:

“Everything you want is on the far side of hard work.”

– Tim Kennedy

AKA – Grit

Carl T. Moulton: Here’s my favorite quote about the subject: Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent.   CALVIN COOLIDGE

Always looking back to this one for inspiration.

Nick Lamparelli: I like that a lot @Carl T. Moulton!

Wesley Griffiths: I’m not much of a social media guy. I’m more a creeper and serial liker.  But this topic spoke to me and I started by looking up grit. Here is what I found….

courage and resolve; strength of character.

Synonyms: courage, bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fiber, steel, nerve, fortitude, toughness, hardiness, resolve, resolution, determination, tenacity, perseverance, endurance.  

My windy journey to become an actuary is my best example of grit.   I had to pass 9 exams to achieve my designation with the Casualty Actuarial Society.  I started taking exams in college and finished 9 years later. I sat for total of 18 exams to pass 9 which means I batted .500 on exams. Which is great in MLB but not so great in actuarial land when the average travel time is 5 – 7 years to finish.

Failing wasn’t something I experienced until I started down the actuarial path.  It was new for me and incredibly challenging, humbling, and frustrating. Friends and family didn’t understand how you could study 400 hours for an exam and not pass. And I got in my head a lot about my abilities relative to peers who flew through the exams.  But I wanted it bad enough and kept getting back up each time I failed until I made it happen. One specific exam (my last one) took me 4 times to pass (and they are only offered once a year so it was a long four years!) Mentors came into play and sometimes believed in me more than I believed in myself! And one manager in particular went to bat for me by challenging the ‘three strikes and no more actuarial exam support’ rule at my company on my behalf. Those experiences helped shape my ‘pay it forward’ mentality.

I’m proud that I kept with it and finished something that was important to me.  A coworker dubbed failing a few times before passing an exam ‘Pulling a Wes’ which is a badge I proudly wear! To quote a German philosopher from the 1800’s and the OG Americal Idol Kelly Clarkson…. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

Nick Lamparelli: Great story @Wesley Griffiths. Insurance Nerds should adopt the “Pulling a Wes” line to denote grit. I love it

David Yeng: Yup….grit and peseverance

Lisa H. Harrington: I love the quote from Calvin Coolidge as well. I have used it many times when teaching classes. Sometimes the hardest part of success is to simply “keep going.” I passed all 10 CPCU exams in 2 1/2 years because I worked two hours every night and half a day each Saturday that whole time. I was determined to break from personal lines and commercial lines and it worked. There’s something about having a goal well out in front that keeps me moving… even when times get rough, keeping yourself pointed towards the target can get you through some really difficult times.

Nick Lamparelli: @Lisa H. Harrington, that is certainly grit. Would’ve been easy to have excuses or quit. Good for you!

Wesley Griffiths: Thanks for sharing  and totally agree, @Lisa H. Harrington. Important to Always remind yourself of the goal along the way and also make sure it’s still what you want, as things change over time.  Congrats on your CPCU! Hope your conference was somewhere warm and posh:)

Lisa H. Harrington: @Nick Lamparelli, @Wesley Griffiths, Thanks.  Totally worth it!

Tony Canas: Thank you everyone for your participation!

About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

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