upleveling Oct 09, 2018

One lazy afternoon a couple of years ago I was flipping through channels when I came across the 2010 version of Alice In Wonderland. Alice who had forgotten she’d been in wonderland before, was having a discussion with the Mad Hatter when he made an observation, “You used to be much more..."muchier." You've lost your muchness.” I love this quote and it has always stuck with me.

Why Grit is a Crucial Quality for Assistants

What I believe the Mad Hatter was referring to was Alice’s loss of grit, or her unique combination of resilience, courage, and perseverance. As assistants, possessing grit is important because new problems and challenges are constantly being pushed our way. Without “muchness” we won’t get very far in providing creative solutions... 

What is grit?

Often the most successful people are those who never give up. My parents, who started an advertising agency when I was in high school had no formal training. What they did have was a lot of on the job training and a passion for small business. In the office, my dad posted this graphic that epitomizes who my parents are, both in their work and personal lives.

Never give up Grit.jpg

Grit has nothing to do with how talented you are, your educational background, or your IQ, and yet it plays a huge role in success. Have you ever known someone who has tremendous talent in an area but has no drive or desire to pursue it? How about the person who works really hard at mastering a task even though he doesn’t have a lot of natural talent? I would hang my hat on the success of the later any day!

Grit is all about persistence and consistency coupled with passion. When it comes to being an assistant, I’m a lifer. I love the diversity of my job description and the many ways I add value and relief to my executive. I also cherish my relationship with my boss and his entire family (I help with personal items… what can I say, I like being all up in my boss’s world). I would say I’m definitely passionate about what I do!

While I now have a great position, it took a lot of persistence to get where I am today. Believe it or not, my job hasn’t always been so fulfilling. I would see this great synergy between other EAs and their executives and wonder when I was going to have the same dynamic. This time in my career was extremely valuable, however, because it helped me gain clarity around the type of assistant I wanted to be.

Consistency is key. No truer words have ever been said about what we do as assistants. Show up on time consistently. Complete tasks within deadlines consistently. Produce high quality work consistently. We must consistently show up ready to crush it and strive for excellence (not perfection). Constantly seek ways to improve. As assistants, we should never be bored. If we have a “less crazy” season (mine is during the summer when my boss and his family tend to take a vacation), look at the holes in your systems or your skillset and take steps to fill them. If you are unsure how to manage your time or would like to know more about my own personal method for maximizing productivity, please click the photo below to download my Peak Productivity Roadmap:

Grit includes an unflinching willingness to fail, coupled with the determination to pick yourself up. This one is hard for us assistants. We are detail-oriented and 99.9% of us have perfectionist tendencies. If we never make mistakes, chances are we are playing it too safe. A large portion of our job requires us to think outside the box and solve problems the average worker never bumps up against. We are going to make mistakes, it’s inevitable. Some will be big, most will be small.

To actively try new things and fail at them takes courage. Courage not to care what our coworkers think of us. Courage to swallow our pride and not react defensively. Courage to resist the downward spiral of negative self-talk. Courage to never give up! This is the heart of grit, to pick yourself back up and keep going.


A word on resourcefulness

While resourcefulness is often not included in discussions about grit, it’s an easy inclusion for the purposes of this post. As assistants we must be resourceful, meaning we must think outside the box when it comes to troubleshooting solutions. We need to ask ourselves, “Who do I know who has expertise in dealing with X, Y, or Z?” and “What new information is there on the subject?” Look at the problem from every viewpoint and ask yourself what you’re missing.

Nobody gets the nuance of what we do as assistants like other assistants. There are several amazing groups of EAs, PAs, and AAs on Facebook that are ready and willing to help with everything from questions around what to wear, to an interview to sticky interpersonal office dynamics. This group has proven tremendously helpful due to its large number of active participants. If it’s a more intimate setting you desire, please feel free to check out the Whole Assistant Heroes Facebook Group. I may be biased but I think we have the coolest, most amazing assistants in our group.

If you would like to read more about what qualities make an amazing assistant please download my free guide on the subject:


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