Grit: Who Says We All Need To Be Equal?

    In 1835 there was a significant development in the firearms industry. This was the year a gentleman named Sam Colt received a patent on a handgun called the “Revolver.” Although there were previous versions of the revolver, they were rare. Sam Colt’s design would be the first one to get mass-produced.  This innovation was groundbreaking, as now one could fire five shots (later to become six shots) just as fast as one could pull the hammer back then subsequently pull the trigger. This was in great contrast to the “single-shot” designs that were widely available prior to this creation. By the mid, to late 19th century, this handgun was the standard for good guys and bad guys alike. And it is still the same today. Many people are now drawn to the idea of becoming a responsible gun owner, and nearly all of these people will have been required to oversee concealed carry gun laws – if they want to keep their gun out of the sight of others. So, with this innovation came the old west adage that “God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal.” In other words, it didn’t matter how big or tough you were. If somebody else had a Colt you were inferior to them, or if you both had a Colt you were equal-they called the Colt Revolver “The Great Equalizer.”

    Fast forward to today, even though we are no longer slapping leather in the streets, I believe we have a new “equalizer” and it is the 8:00 to 5:00 work schedule. Let me discuss my “belief” by using a very hypothetical example. Today, two people graduate from college at age 22 and enter financial services as insurance agents. These two individuals will each go through their careers and, like clockwork, will start work every day at 8:00 a.m. and end the day at 5:00 p.m. for the next 43 years until they both retire. My belief is that their career trajectories would not diverge a significant amount. I will concede that one may be smarter than the other and one may be naturally more efficient than the other during that nine-hour workday, but I don’t believe you would see a situation where one of those people would be making huge amounts of money by age 65 and the other would be destitute. Why? Because if we are all in the same profession, like being an insurance agent, we all are doing basically the same thing between those hours. It is the treadmill of phone calls, prospecting, client meetings, putting out fires, etc.

    Again, one may say, “But what if one person was just a pure genius and the other was not the sharpest tool in the shed?” I would argue, as Angela Duckworth does in her bestselling book Grit, that IQ is secondary. I do not believe that our Maker can create one person that is so far superior to another that the difference cannot be offset by hard work. As a matter of fact, in some of Duckworth’s studies she found that in some cases she has seen a negative correlation between how smart people are based on IQ and how successful they turn out to be in certain functions like national spelling bees, college graduation, etc. This is because the “smart people” may rest on their laurels while those that do not have natural talent work to offset their shortcomings through hard work and perseverance, i.e. grit!  And in the end the person with the grit usually wins. Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

    I travel the country a lot and conduct a presentation called, The Seven-Figure Mindset.  It explores the top 10 traits or habits that agents at the top echelon of our business have. None of the top 10 traits or habits that seven-figure agents possess has anything to do with a high IQ! As a matter of fact, the number one habit that I cite that seven-figure level agents have is exactly about “grit.” It is exactly how those agents address what I call the “great equalizer” of the 8:00 to 5:00 work schedule. What do they do that ensures that their paths “diverge” from their peers? Here is what top agents do: They wake up early. They don’t follow the 8:00 to 5:00 work schedule-they cheat the great equalizer. They make their days have more hours in them so they are not “equalized” with their competitors.

     My challenge to you would be the same challenge that I have given to hundreds of people over the last year to whom I have spoken on this topic. I will tell you as I told them-if I am wrong, call me up six months from now and tell me that I was way off and am full of it! I have not received any calls yet other than calls confirming my belief. My challenge would be to set your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier in the morning. If you do this I can promise you that you will feel as though those 30 minutes were much more meaningful than just 30 minutes. During this period of time this is your time. I wake up at 4:30 every morning, and for 3 hours or so I have uninterrupted time to read and catch up on emails that the “treadmill” of the 8:00 to 5:00 workday will not allow me to do. I believe that if you are going to “cheat” the 8:00 to 5:00 work schedule it is best to do it in the morning-because the morning hours are your hours!

    In discussing the power of long work hours and grit, I would like to share a personal story. I grew up in a small town in Southwest Iowa. I was always a head taller than the other kids in my grade but yet I didn’t even touch a basketball prior to the seventh grade, as my family was not much of a “sports family.” Therefore I never had much of an interest in basketball even though many of my friends loved it. Plus, I never had natural athletic talent like many of my friends. I was very uncoordinated and could barely walk and chew gum without tripping when I was young and growing fast. My lack of desire changed one day, however, when I was in seventh grade. It took one person, Coach Hook, who was our varsity basketball coach, to light a fire of “grit” under me. By the way, Coach Hook was known in Southwest Iowa as a coach that had a long history of building some of the best basketball teams in the state by investing time in his kids year after year. Well, that day, he ran into me while I was outside the middle school waiting for the bus. He took an immediate interest in how tall I was relative to the other kids. He then started speaking with me about how I could be a great basketball player and he wanted to see me work to be a star by the time I came into high school. He continued these conversations with me every time he saw me and eventually convinced me that I could be a good player if I wanted to be.

    As I worked to get better at basketball I remember looking up to some of the “stars” that were juniors and seniors on the varsity team of that time. I remember thinking about them and wondering how much practice it took them to get to the skill level they achieved. Did it take 50,000 practice shots? Did it take 100,000 practice shots? Did it take a million practice shots? Then I remember thinking that whatever that number was, it didn’t matter because I would pass that immediately. In other words, I would “accelerate” the development process by relentlessly practicing every chance I got so that I would not be “as good” as those people by my senior year, I would be better than them by my sophomore year. This was a cool thing because the number of “practice shots” I took every day was 100 percent in my control. Day after day it was my choice how much I practiced and thus how quickly I would surpass the number of hours that those “stars” had ever practiced.

    At our house we had a very primitive basketball hoop where the pole that held the backboard was basically just “buried” in the gravel driveway. That was my basketball court, a gravel driveway. Many nights under the flood light that hung from our garage I would stay up until the morning hours practicing as my hands became coated in dirt and gravel dust. Sure enough, by my sophomore year in high school I was starting Varsity and was all conference for three of my four years in high school and ultimately went on to play in college.

    To me those years are confirmation that, although I was an uncoordinated seventh grader relative to my peers, there were no shortcomings that could not be offset by hard work. In other words, we are all humans and therefore we cannot be created that much different than one another. The difference is grit, practice and perseverance.  

    To wrap up this month’s column:  We work in a great business that deserves effort beyond what the “average” business requires. In 2016 the national median income for an entire household was $55,775. I would argue that in our business we have the ability to make much more than what the “median” household makes, but do you do what the “median” person does? Do you fall victim to “the great equalizer” and go to work at eight and come home at five? Or, do you accelerate the process of developing your talents, developing your book of business, developing your team, etc., by getting up early and leveraging “Grit”?

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  – Calvin Coolidge

    For financial professional use only. Not for use with consumers.

    Charlie Gipple, CLU, ChFC, CFP, is the owner of CG Financial Group, an innovative and full-service independent marketing organization (IMO) that serves independent agents that sell life insurance, annuities and asset-based long term care. He also owns “The Retirement Academy” (, which is a subscription based online training platform for agents, reps, and company wholesalers.

    Gipple is recognized throughout the industry as one of the foremost thought leaders and subject matter experts on annuities, life insurance, long term care, leadership, storyselling and behavioral finance. He is also an industry keynote speaker conducting 100-150 speeches per year. He has spoken at the MDRT Top of the Table as well as other large forums and has also appeared on and AM Best TV.

    Gipple has vast leadership experience in the insurance industry as he has been an executive of various insurance companies and large independent marketing organizations. He is unique in his broad knowledge across the life insurance, annuities and securities businesses. Additionally, within these businesses, he has a deep understanding of the distribution aspects of these products along with the actuarial and hedging aspects. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Northern Iowa, is FINRA Series 7 and Series 66 licensed and also holds the CLU, ChFC, and CFP designations.

    Gipple can be reached by phone at 515-986-3065. Email: