Having Grit & Achieving the Future of Work You Want - Nicola Wealth

How to Achieve the Future of Work You Want by John Nicola


By Chairman and CEO, John Nicola

… there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine…. you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people… Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.

– Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

… (The man or woman) who spends him/herself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he/she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

– Teddy Roosevelt

Image of worker having grit, uses laptop in black & white.

Having Grit, and Its Impact on The Future of Work

More than 100 years ago, shortly after finishing his term as President of The United States, Teddy Roosevelt gave what arguably could be called his greatest speech. A key part of that speech is now known as “The man in the Arena”. I have taken the liberty of editing it in a way he may have said those words today in a more diverse and inclusive way. In the end, Roosevelt is talking about grit. Grit was also the title of the best seller written by Angela Duckworth in 2016. A brilliant insight into what truly determines how well or poorly we all are likely to do.

Simply put, Duckworth explains grit is the passion and perseverance applied to long-term achievement. Just like it is impossible to predict the future, it is nearly impossible to successfully achieve your goals without grit.

Despite our lack of ability to predict or control the future, it seems to me that most of us have a strong interest in the future of many things; markets, weather, the economy, our families and of course ourselves. Occasionally we are interested in the future of elections. That is until they turn into the Canadian version of Ground Hog Day. In Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he wrote that the future for many things falls into our circle of concern. We worry about these things, but we cannot change them. We can only control how we respond to them. On the other hand, there are a smaller number of future outcomes that we can impact. Covey describes these things as our Circle of Influence. It is here where we can make a significant difference, it is here where we can use grit. I believe that when it comes to the future of work (as far as Nicola Wealth is concerned), our people and leadership can create the environment we want.

It was Socrates who first wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living. Well, the examination begins with questions, and for us they include:

  • Why are we here? (Our purpose)
  • What are our core values?
  • What do we do and how do we do it?
  • What is our current reality?
  • What does good look like?

Our Future of Work will depend on how we answer these questions and are very much shaped by our core values. Chief amongst those core values for us is Sharing the Pie. I am convinced that the Future of Work is very much tied to the Future of Ownership and how our people participate in that ownership. It has been a cornerstone of our values since before we opened our doors 27 years ago. I believe that much of our success is because our people work not for me but with me.

Simon Sinek expressed this far better than I can in his 2019 book The Infinite Game. He explains that shareholders need to focus on the three Cs: their clients, their colleagues, and their community. When all three are prioritized by the company, then the results for the shareholders will take care of themselves. This is how the future of ownership can help create the Future of Work.

Sharing the Pie is a value that is part of our DNA and arguably the most critical part of our culture. To make it work well requires we trust our people and trust that they have the grit to achieve their career goals and aspirations. That trust also requires us as an organization to commit to developing and mentoring all of our people to self-actualize and reach their potential. Do we fail? Of course. But we succeed much more often.

It is important to remember that our position today was our future just a few short years ago. Sharing the Pie has driven our future results to levels we would not have achieved without this model of ownership.

There is an apocryphal quote perhaps by Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, “it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” What I know for sure is that I could never have predicted our future in 1994, 2004 or pre-COVID. Am I concerned about how the Future of Work will be in a post-COVID world? Not really. If we focus on our model, values, and grit, then the environment we find ourselves in does not matter. Post-COVID is within our circle of concern and so we focus on what we can influence and control. In this case, our model. Share the Pie has created the future for us, and I believe it would do the same for other firms that embrace this principle. My recommendation to all of you is to use the future of ownership to determine how to best achieve the future of work that you want.