Pre-Conference Keynote: Linda Kaplan Thaler — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

1:25 —'s Andy Sernovitz introduces Advertising Hall of Famer Linda Kaplan Thaler .

1:26 — Linda: Newest study from Microsoft: he attention span for people has gone from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today. It's a imlestone because we now have the attention span shorter than a goldfish. The amount of tim you can listen to something before you get distracted

1:27 — What's happening is an evolutionary thing. The brain is getting a high, it's loving all of this data and different things that are coming in. Except that we've become a nation of attention deficit trait (something we've given to ourselves)

1:28 — How do we tune out what we don't need and get stuff done. I'm talking about the big life changing career changing ideas. To do those you need to be bored. Believe it or not.

1:29 — Boredom is one of the most important things we need to get a job done.

1:30 — Einstein said that when we worked at the patent office, he was incredibly bored. He said if it wasn't for being so bored he would not have come up with the theory of relativity. But we don't allow ourselves to be bored or to daydream. Worse than that, we won't allow our kids to be bored. It's hard to get meaningful things done because they don't take days or weeks, they take decades.

1:31 — This is one of the problems we face. Except, we see successful people as brilliant people, talented people, and those with virtuouso talent. But in fact, 90 percent of them are so completely ordinary that no one thought they would have that kind of success.

1:32 — Colon Powell was a C student. Steven Speilberg was rejected from film school 3 times. Michael Jordan was considered so mediocre that he didn't make the cut for his high school basketball team. Jack Ma of Alibaba couldn't get a job at KFC out of college. And Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he was “lacking imagination.”

1:33 — These people didn't have the IT factor, they had the Grit Factor

  • Guts
  • Resilience
  • Initiative
  • Tenacity

Grit is not only important for success, but by far the biggest predictor of success. You don't have to be born with it.

1:34Guts: If there's something exciting you want to do, don't ask your loved ones, they want you to be safe. Jeff Bezos asked his 90 year old self.

We interviewed Nick Molina, of the Flying Molinas. I asked why he would do something so nuts. He said “I've been practicing for five years in my backyard in every weather. I wasn't just prepared, I was over prepared.”

Even if you spend 30 minutes more on a presentation that you thought that was good.

Create your own high wire: If I was going to be fired tomorrow, how would I be better prepared. How would I think smarter?

You've got to throw a lot of darts on the wall. And everyone's so scared that it's going to fail. But failure is such a necessity.

1:35 — We're so afraid to fail. But I love this notion of someone being a serial failure. James Dyson, the bagless vacuum cleaner inventor: It took him 15 years and he had over 5,000 prototypes that totally sucked — or perhaps I should say didn't suck.

1:36 — Do something every day that you know will get rejected. Especially as advertisers, we have to have thick skins.

Grit is not about being an oak tree or doing a “my way or the highway” rule. Oak has nothing on bamboo because it can adapt, bend with the wind, and be resilient.

1:37 — Plan As are totally overrated because they almost never work. For example: When they built the mechanical shark for Jaws, it didn't work. Plan B: They had the crew there, he says “If they can't see it, maybe they should hear it.” And that's why the movie became a smash, the famous music that made it so much more terrifying.

1:38 — For example: Viagra was supposed to be a blood pressure medicine, but after they did a lot of focus groups… they found that it had this really.. big side effect.

1:39 — Tenacity: The ability to hold on. George Lucas said once that the one thing that he did differenlty from every body else is that when he decides to do something he actually does it.

When you have a dream, you have to stick to it.

1:40 — The other thing I love about GRIT is GRIT for good. With Dawn, we noticed that when there was an oil spill, they use Dawn to help wildlife. Then, we all realized that as sales grew, people don't just buy brands, they buy into what a brand is about.

1:41 — The biggest reason to use GRIT for good personally is that when you do good things for people, it makes you happy.

1:42 — Linda tells the story of Brian Bob from Covenant House for youth that are between 18-22 and homeless will get taken in to earn their GEDs or get jobs. One young man names Reese was in and out of Covenant House and seemed like he wasn't going to recover. Brian told Reese that this time he was going to take him to his “permanent home.” And took him to Skid Row. In eight seconds, that changed Reese's mind and decided to stop taking drugs. At 30 years old, Reese became a success story who owned a construction company and later donated $10,000 back to the organization.

1:43 — “The thing I love the most about GRIT is that it's humanity's great equalizer.”

Q & A

Q: What was your best failure?

A: When I worked on a presidential campaign, I was shot down for reasons that turned out to be stupid. I can't say what it was, but it was those times that I look back and think “Why didn't I just put my foot down and say, ‘No.'?” I shows the power people have to affect elections. You don't think you have a voice, but you really do, and a lot of us are just too quiet.

Q: How do you inspire GRIT in a team of people?

A: We're developing a work study book on that. There are so many exercises that can be done. It has exercises for how to do it. They're simple ones that everyone can do together. For example, attempt every day to do something that's not habitual. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, learn to tango, get dressed in the dark.

Celebrate small victories. We tend to always look to those big milestones to celebrate, but that can result in depression in between.

Q: How do you encourage a team of people to get bored?

A: One thing we encouraged was email diet day. The notion is that will power does not work. You have to create environments where you are forced (“The Power of Habit”) to be bored. Turn the phone off, put it in a different room. One of the best things is for someone to forget about will power, but to reframe things. For example, imagining a chocolate cake is a roach when you're dieting.

Q: It seems like Good to GRIT is different but connected to Flow. Do you have thoughts about that.

A: Yes, like Flow, it's about getting into that stream of consciousness and getting into the moment. For example, chewing gum is good for concentrating. In flow, there's no time element — the book is not about how it's important to work hard, but how you get yourself to work hard and how you focus.