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Until you find it, success can look like failure: The Behaviorist

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Sarah Colantonio and Kedren Crosby
Sarah Colantonio and Kedren Crosby - (Photo / )

In a sold-out auditorium last Wednesday night, Millersville University's Ware Center hosted the On Screen/In Person film series.

The documentary, “Little Stones,” profiled the work of women all over the world who, despite economic, cultural and social oppression, are empowering other women.

One woman created a social enterprise in Kenya to sew and market clothing, bags and jewelry so Kenyan women can become financially independent. A woman in India teaches dance to girls who were sex trafficked to help them heal. Another woman in Brazil uses modern public art to speak out against domestic violence.

The movie chronicles the work and the obstacles they encounter. Through tears, we watched how, in the face of unbelievable hardship, these women continue to make positive change.

It might be hard to relate directly to their severe adversity, but each of us faces daily obstacles in our professional lives. The ability to continue to get up every morning and get back into the fray is a major predictor of our success.

In her brilliant book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Angela Duckworth persuasively refutes the commonly held misperception that natural talent is the most important indicator of success. She proves instead that repeated, relentless effort, not talent, determines success.

Much of our ability to keep at it in the face of adversity has to do with our mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck’s seminal work around growth mindsets reveals the ability to reframe pain and struggle as the source of learning, growing and strengthening.

People with grit and a growth mindset have the courage to be wrong, take chances and ultimately have success.

How hard we try and how constructively we respond to setbacks is predictive of achievement. Duckworth describes four necessary “psychological assets” to this superpower of resilience we call grit. What better way to explain these four key traits than to pay tribute to some of Lancaster’s grittiest leaders.

  1. Love what you do. In 2015, Jennie Groff’s business idea won first place in Assets’ Social Enterprise Pitch. Lancaster is renowned for treats like whoopie pies, soft pretzels and shoofly pie, and Stroopies are quickly climbing to the top of the list. A certified B Corporation, Stroopie Co. not only makes a unique companion for hot beverages, but also makes a positive difference for the refugee population in Lancaster. Jennie loves what she does. Creating opportunities for refugee women — and providing access to free English classes as they acclimate to America while making something delicious — is a joy.
  2. A desire to always be better. Already serving the world by being mindful therapists and yogis, Sarah Salluzzo and Jonina Turzi decided to become even better by starting the Lancaster County Farm Sanctuary last year. It wasn’t enough for Sarah and Jonina to have primary professions that help other humans, but they also decided to make their home life a sanctuary for helping animals as well.
  3. Having a purpose and knowing your work is meaningful. The purposeful work of Heather Sharpe, the director of the Lancaster Public Library, is awe-inspiring. Despite fewer and fewer dollars designated for library operations (the library receives only 37 percent of its operating budget from state and local funding and must raise the remaining 63 percent on its own), Sharpe delivers high-quality services, tireless commitment, creative programming and impressive community reach. Her resilience comes from knowing in her heart that the families and individuals who use the library in person or virtually benefit beyond measure.
  4. Hope. Hope helps the gritty to move through the inevitable setbacks. Lancaster Food Co. has hope in bushels. This company’s goal is to pay a livable wage to employees who might have a hard time finding a job elsewhere. While the company recently had to close its doors and suspend production, founder Charlie Crystle didn’t give up hope for a minute. He continued to pursue investors and his tenacity paid off. Once again, Lancaster Food Co. bread (and now cookies, too!) are on shelves in local grocery stores.

Duckworth’s grit scale helps you learn whether you exhibit traits associated with success. If you aren’t as gritty as you hoped, she reminds us these traits — loving what you do, always wanting to be better, having a meaningful purpose and hope — are not “you have it or you don’t commodities. You can grow your grit from the inside out.”

Plus, don’t forget Kanter’s Law: “Everything looks like a failure in the middle.”

Kedren Crosby is president of Work Wisdom LLC, a Lancaster-based firm specializing in organizational culture, communication, collaboration, conflict and coaching. She can be reached at kedren@workwisdomllc.com.

Sarah Colantonio, who also works at Work Wisdom LLC, focuses on communication and mindfulness. She can be reached at sarah@workwisdomllc.com and is a board member for Lancaster Public Library.

Crosby and Colantonio are co-authors of a new book, “Authentic Communication: 20 Concrete Practices to Enhance Your Communication and Joy.”

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