By Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams

Holly: “Everyone has a story.” This was an observation a dear friend of mine made several years ago, and it helped me realize that we all have a seed of grit within us. Recognizing and acknowledging that seed in ourselves and others can be inspiring.

My friend Dee and I were attending an event where speakers shared dark periods of their lives. We listened to stories about surviving physical abuse and achieving sobriety after years of alcohol and drug abuse, among others. The stories were powerful and presented excellent examples of grit.

One speaker stood out to us. Her story was shocking in many ways but also incredibly inspiring. At the end of it, Dee commented that we all have stories, some of which might also inspire others if only they knew about them. She was right.

Over the years, I have often thought of Dee’s observation. She helped me recognize the importance of the stories we carry around, and now, with Jennifer, I think it’s time we celebrate them.

More and more often, I notice individuals and organizations that exemplify strategic grit, which lifts my spirits. I believe it’s essential to celebrate strategic grit in others and recognize how often those who inspire us the most are our friends and family members, not celebrities or social media influencers.

So, let’s take some time during February, the month of love, to honor those who inspire us with their strategic grit.

During sessions with clients, I often ask them to talk about someone they know who exemplifies strategic grit. When I think about people I know with strategic grit, I think about:

  • A full-time HR professional and mom who coordinated (mostly remotely) the care her sister needed to make a complete mental and physical recovery after an accident
  • A dear friend who gracefully orchestrated her family’s international move during the pandemic
  • Military spouses who work, manage households and maintain a “normal” life for themselves and their kids during a spouse’s deployment

These people have very diverse personal stories, but they acted similarly when they needed to get through a difficult time. They:

  • Identified the goal or purpose
  • Understood the gap between their current and ideal state
  • Acknowledged emotional components but didn’t let them prevent action

The actions they took to create a better future is what I admire and draw inspiration from.

Jennifer: I agree, Holly, that stories can be powerful vehicles for learning. We are all writing our own story, and in many ways, organizations write their own stories, too. Any writer will tell you that you don’t have a story if you don’t have conflict. That conflict can take many forms, whether within the self or with another person, nature, or society. But without some conflict or challenge, the character can’t evolve, and if there’s no evolution, there’s no story.

When a challenge presents itself, it is, of course, possible to fail. Countless businesses no longer exist because they did not respond to challenges in a way that allowed them to survive or thrive. Sometimes, the emotional element of a challenge is so overwhelming that it’s hard to see what response would be helpful, or it makes giving up the most appealing response.

However, a hallmark of strategic grit is keeping the desired future in mind and taking steps, no matter how small, in the general direction of that future. Learning from each step helps illuminate where the next step should lead, all in the direction of the desired future state. This is how the people Holly listed wrote their stories of strategic grit. It’s also how organizations I’ve had the good fortune to work with have written their stories.

Some examples:

  • A college testing company that, in the face of a dramatically changing landscape of higher education and workforce development, evolved to support learning and training for elementary school-aged children to mature professionals.
  • A food pantry that responded to the changing needs of its community by evolving into a hub of many resources, not only food.
  • Two social services agencies that stopped competing and merged to amplify their impact on individuals with disabilities.

In each of these examples, the organizations made what could, on the surface, be seen as radical changes. But after stepping back, it becomes apparent that the core purpose of each organization remained the same. The actions taken in response to the changing world around them were altered. They kept their focus on the desired future state while making incremental steps in that direction. And the world is better for it.

Putting it together: They say that necessity is the mother of invention. We believe that strategic grit is the midwife.

Innovation without follow-through does little good. Likewise, persistence simply for the sake of persisting is wasteful. Compelling stories are written when challenge spurs mindfully guided innovation—when the power of strategic grit is applied.

Whose story do you take inspiration from? Let them know!

About Holly: Holly works with individuals and teams to help them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration as they navigate planned routes and unexpected detours. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer. Learn more at

About Jennifer: Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, community coalitions, and governmental entities with strategic evolution: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and developing a discipline of action to create a new future. She is a Fellow of the Strategic Doing Institute. Learn more at

About Strategic Grit™: Strategic Grit was born of the lessons (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) we learned thanks to pandemic times. We learned some of these lessons on our own through research, study, and personal experience; others we learned through our work with clients. But the theme that stands out is this: Those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are agile, persistent, and forward-thinking. These are people and organizations with Strategic Grit, a resilience that is not random but planned, effective, and durable.

Photo credit: hush-naidoo-jade-photography